June 30, 2014

little(ish) laura hits the bank

Blogger's Note: Little Laura is back, and this time she's doing college AND writing scripts. Grown-up Laura is also on hand to offer LL a little constructive criticism as needed.


THE BANK

Written by
Laura Chapman

FADE IN:

INT. SECURITY CAMERA ROOM - DAY

CU OF SIDE OF SECURITY GUARD'S FACE AS HE LIGHTS A CIGARETTE

WE HEAR the SOUND of a MATCH STRIKE. SECURITY GUARD lights cigarette, highlighting his face.

SHOT FROM BEHIND SECURITY GUARD

SECURITY GUARD sits in an office chair in the middle of an empty, dark room with no windows, and no way of telling what time of day it is.

SECURITY GUARD smokes his cigarette and stares at a wall of television screens rolling security camera footage.

The only sound is the clock on the wall ticking.

CU OF CLOCK
Time is 3:55 p.m.

BACK TO SHOT BEHIND SECURITY GUARD

SECURITY GUARD looks at screens and continues to smoke.

CU OF SCREEN WITH MAN 1

INT. BANK LOBBY - DAY

AERIAL SHOT OF MAN 1
MAN 1 slouches in a chair in the bank lobby full of people.

CU OF MAN 1's FEET
MAN 1 is nervously tapping his foot on the floor, the only SOUND is TAPPING on the floor.

BACK TO AERIAL SHOT OF MAN 1
MAN 1 appears nervous and straightens his posture, anxiously checks the watch on his wrist.

CU OF WATCH
Only sound is of the watch ticking in a similar rhythm to his tapping.

The time is 3:56 p.m.

BACK TO AERIAL SHOT OF MAN 1
He slouches and TAPS his foot again.

MAN 1 stops tapping his foot and pulls out his wallet.

SHOT FROM MAN 1'S POV
Inside the wallet there is a picture of MAN 1 and a little girl smiling. The girl has crutches with her and looks to be sickly.

CU OF MAN 1'S FACE
MAN 1 smiles softly and looks upward.

INT. SECURITY CAMERA ROOM - DAY

CU OF MAN 1'S SCREEN
MAN 1 is looking at the camera.

SHOT FROM BEHIND SECURITY GUARD
SECURITY GUARD continues to smoke his cigarette and look at the wall of videos. Again, only sound is clock ticking.

CU OF CLOCK
Time is 3:57 p.m.

BACK TO SHOT FROM BEHIND SECURITY GUARD

CU OF MAN 2'S SCREEN

INT. BANK LOBBY - DAY

AERIAL SHOT OF MAN 2 SITTING IN LOBBY.
MAN 2 sits in a chair in a different part of the lobby. He also looks nervous and is rolling, tapping his fingers on the armrest of his wooden chair. The only SOUND is that of his TAPPING.

CU OF MAN 2'S HAND
MAN 2 taps his fingers on the chair.

BACK TO AERIAL SHOT OF MAN 2
MAN 2 continue tapping his fingers for a moment but stops to pull a small jewelry box out of his suit pocket.

SHOT FROM MAN 2's POV
He opens the box and inside of it is a small diamond ring.

CU OF MAN 2'S FACE
MAN 2 smiles a little and looks upward.

INT. SECURITY CAMERA ROOM - DAY

CU OF MAN 2's SCREEN
MAN 2 is looking at the camera.

SHOT FROM BEHIND SECURITY GUARD
SECURITY GUARD has a new cigarette and looks at the wall of videos. Again, only sound is clock ticking.

CU OF CLOCK
Time is 3:59 p.m.

BACK TO SHOT FROM BEHIND SECURITY GUARD

CU OF MAN 3'S SCREEN

INT. BANK LOBBY - DAY

AERIAL SHOT OF MAN 3
MAN 3 sits calmly in the BANK LOBBY. There is no sound until the SOUND of a water cooler bubbling happens and MAN looks up toward it.

CU OF WATER COOLER
Water cooler bubbles and goes back to resting water.

BACK TO AERIAL SHOT OF MAN 3
MAN 3 sits in the lobby, and again there is no sound. Then a cell phone buzzes.

SHOT FROM MAN 3'S POV
MAN 3 opens his suit jacket and reveals the handle of a hand gun. He pulls out his cell phone and flips it open.

Cell phone message readers: "Ready."

MAN 3 looks at the time.

CU OF CELL PHONE CLOCK
It is 4:00 p.m.

BACK TO AERIAL SHOT OF MAN 3
MAN 3 smiles and looks upward.

INT. SECURITY CAMERA ROOM - DAY

CU OF SIDE OF SECURITY GUARD 2'S FACE AS HE LIGHTS A CIGARETTE
SECURITY GUARD 2 lights cigarette, lighter highlights face. The face clearly belongs to a different man.

SHOT FROM BEHIND SECURITY GUARD 2
SECURITY GUARD 2 sits in the same office chair staring at the wall. In the corner of the room, we see SECURITY GUARD tied up and lying on the floor, unmoving.

SECURITY GUARD 2 closes his cell phone and looks at the wall as all of the security scenes go blank.

The only sound is the clock on the wall ticking.

INT. BANK LOBBY - DAY

CAMERA ANGLE SHOWS ALL THREE MEN SITTING IN A TRIANGULAR FORMATION IN THE BANK LOBBY FROM THE ANGLE OF THE MEN.

None of the people in the bank pay any of the the men notice. MAN 1 and MAN 2 look at MAN 3. MAN 3 makes eye contact with each of the men and nods.

The three men pull black ski masks over their heads and stand at the same time, pulling out hand guns.

All around them, people hit the floor for cover.

FADE OUT.

For fun, let's cast this short before we analyze it.

In order of appearance:
Security Guard 1: Michael Keaton
Man 1: Andy Garcia
Security Guard 2: Samuel L. Jackson

And let's make Nikki Hahn the little girl pictured with Man 1. We'll also need to book some extras to wander around the bank lobby.


LL's Analysis Circa 2007
This script is about the five minutes preceding a bank robbery and the characters involved with the would-be heist.

The tone of this piece is very serious. The viewer should be left with the sense that the robbery was well-planned. Hopefully the viewer will see the different aspects that drive people to commit crime, which doesn't always mean a person is entirely evil. I hope this shows the dual nature of humanity and that people can be good and bad at the same time.

I like how there is no dialogue in this piece, but the use of sound adds suspense, and the visual components tell the story. I also like this piece because it was my first attempt every at writing a screenplay, and I feel I effectively used camera angles and visuals to tell the story. I am really proud of this piece.

I dislike the fact that this piece could be perceived as a cliche, although I do not believe I have ever seen anything exactly like this. I also put a lot of direction into this work, which could hypothetically piss off a director.

I love this script as it is. Even two weeks after it was originally written, I feel there are few changes and all were for the good.

I have done the following revisions: I opened with a sound (the sound of a match being struck). I cut out unnecessary language in the opening scene. I capitalized some words adding emphasis to sound and visuals. I checked the document for spelling and grammar errors.


Professor Notes
This one works really well--it movies along lightning fast.


My Analysis Today
OK, before we get into the full analysis of this piece, can we just celebrate the fact that I, as a 20-year-old (this was a few weeks before my 21st birthday) felt confident enough to use the term "piss off" in a portfolio I turned in for an actual grade? I'm sorry, but I love that. I mean, this was an awesome professor who encouraged us to use profanity if it was important to the story, but still, I'm pretty sure this little sassy language as a first.

Another quick note about the style of the initial self-evaluation, you'll notice the first words are bolded, which you'll see again with each of the future scripts. It was part of the assignment, so yeah...

Overall, I still kind of like this piece. We were supposed to write a short film (five to seven pages) that didn't have any dialogue to hone our skills setting a scene without anyone narrating. It was a fun challenge, and one I should probably focus on more with my novel writing. You can tell a lot with gestures and setting. You don't always need words. (That said, in contemporary commercial fiction you don't want to get bogged down with describing a rose bush. This isn't The Scarlet Letter, and we aren't Nathaniel Hawthorne.)

It isn't particularly revolutionary, but I'm proud of my first attempt at writing a script. Will this ever see the light of day? Not beyond this blog post. Will it win any major awards? No. But it was a decent start.

We'll be back next week with another Little(ish) Laura Goes Hollywood post.
Until then, let's take five (or more like seven days).


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June 27, 2014

willst thou take this blog post?

Always a bridesmaid... always a total baller.

These days my mind is a little preoccupied by visions of lace and tulle, flowers and candles, and brides and grooms. Yes, I have weddings on my brain. And for good reason. Weddings play an important role in Book No. 2.

But because I can't tell you too much about Book 2 yet, I figured I'd do the next best thing. Post a list of wedding scenes from the movies.

***Quick disclaimer: There may be some spoilers ahead if you haven't seen any of the movies. Read at your own discretion. 

Here's a list of five of my favorite* movie wedding scenes:

1. Surprise serenade for Peter and Juliet in Love Actually


An excellent start to one of my favorite movies, I can't think of anything more lovely at a wedding than a surprise serenade about love.

And the best part about this surprise? No, it's not a friend selflessly giving his groom buddy a surprise (even though he's in love with the bride), it's the fact that now their wedding is super memorable for all of those guests, and they didn't have to go through any stress organizing the moment.

I've never been a bride, but I can imagine how nice it would be to have someone handle a big detail like this.


2. The groom's toast in When Harry Met Sally


The live band (which is mentioned in the title of this clip) is wonderful, the decorations tasteful and all-in-all it appears to be a great wedding.

And while this part of the movie gets a little tense, the speech Jess gives definitely lightens the mood. It's also a not-so-subtle jab that maybe Harry and Sally need to get over themselves and just get together already!

Future toast-givers take note from Jess. It's good protocol to include a light joke in your speech. According to my freshman speech class, it's a must.


3. Buttercup challenges the prince in The Princess Bride


So you lose a bit of the scene in this clip, but in general I love this wedding. It's rushed. It doesn't really happen. And you see Buttercup having faith in her true love even though he's probably mostly dead.

I have nothing but love for this movie. Little Laura watched it on repeat, so it's hard for me to make a movie list without including it.

Plus, "mawidge."


4. Lonestar gets the bride in Spaceballs


Yes this scene is funny, because of the bickering, the sleeping groom and the annoyed priest. It's also lovely, because the not-so-perfect, but totally perfect-for-her guy comes back to get the girl.

But the real reason this clip makes the list: Lonestar's prince garb. I mean... LOVE!


5. Ariel gets her prince in The Little Mermaid


In a slight deviation (OK, a major one) from the original story, the little mermaid and her prince tie the knot and sail off into the sunset. Though I'm usually a stickler for sticking to the original story, I have to give Disney super big props for this change. After everything both Ariel and Eric endure to find true love, and to find it in each other, this is a big payoff.

And as I've mentioned it before, just hearing the closing music from this scene (which is still on my random songs playlist, no apologies offered) makes me tear up a little.

Consequently, "wedding on a boat" has been on my short list of ideal future wedding scenarios since 1989. Even my 3-year-old self could appreciate the pretty picture painted by a wedding celebration on a yacht out at sea. Especially if we're dealing with pretty blue waters, rather than the muddy kind we have around here.

Eric looks HOT in his princely uniform (blue pants are a bold, but unique choice), and the pink icing on that wedding cake is adorable. My only real qualm: Ariel's sleeves are maybe a bit puffy. I'm willing to let that slide because this was made in the 80s before people realized big sleeves were maybe, well, a bit much. And now that I look back at my list of favorite wedding sleeves... there are a lot of puffed sleeves involved, so I shouldn't probably let myself get hung up on that detail.


Now I'd like to hear your thoughts--what are your favorite movie wedding scenes?

* I have to say "five of my favorite" rather than "five favorite," because quite frankly I put this list together on the fly and didn't do weeks of soul-searching to create a definitive list.


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June 25, 2014

sing, sing a song

Let's hope we have even more fun than my first time going out to sing karaoke back in 2009.
Let's hope my face never gets that chubby again.
And while we're at it, let's hope no overly amorous Bachelor Party guys try to steal the stage.

In Hard Hats and Doormats, Lexi Burke's favorite way to unwind involves hitting up a local dive bar to belt out a few songs during karaoke night.

She has a song for every occasion. She sings Shania Twain's "No One Needs to Know," when she's feeling a bit angsty about her relationship status. She dreams about one day channeling her inner Ol Blue Eyes and singing "My Way" if she ever finds a way out of her job at Gulf America. She's even completely smitten when her crush sings "Amarillo by Morning" by George Strait.

Grab a mic and balloon.
It's going to be
that kind of party.
It's been far too long since I went out with my friends for a night of karaoke. It's been ages since I sang "Like a Prayer" or any of my other favorites. And I figured it was high time to do something about that.

Unfortunately, organizing an impromptu night of karaoke isn't as easy as it was when I was a carefree twenty-two-year-old.

Fortunately, I have an amazing bunch of talented writer friends willing to have a virtual karaoke party with me. The best part: we can sing like no one is listening from the comfort of our own homes.

And guess what? You're all invited!

Now I need you to use your imaginations and pretend that Change the Word isn't a blog, but a dive bar. (For some of you, this might not be much of a stretch.) Can you picture it the sticky floors, dim lights and cheap pitchers of beer? Keep that in your mind, and imagine this post is a stage, or even just a patch of floor next to a DJ, probably named "Breezy Bud" or "Harmonious Harry."

Can you see it?

First Song
Because this was my crazy idea, I'll go first. I'm going to step out of my comfort zone of 80s classics and into this century. I'm singing a contemporary classic: "Telephone" by Lady Gaga, featuring Queen Bey. I even brought some sweet dance moves (and my rapping). Don't worry, my actual performance is only half as long as this video. I also kept my pants on.



Second Song
Next, please welcome my hilariously talented buddy Brea Brown. She's the author of Daydreamer, Let's Be Frank and a million other awesome books. She's keeping this party hopping with "Somebody to Love" by Queen.


Third Song
For our next number, I'd like to introduce SK Wills, author of Starting From Lost, which will be published this fall. She's also tackling "Here for the Party" by Gretchen Wilson, and she's up next.



Fourth Song
Put your hands together for my dear friend Cat Lavoie, author of Breaking the Rules and Zoey & the Moment of Zen. She's paying homage to Jersey Boys with "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.



Fifth Song
Put your hands together for Nikki Mahood, who's work appears in Merry Chick Lit and A Kind of Mad Courage. She's performing her signature karaoke tune: "Torn" by Natalie Imbruglia.



Sixth Song
Let's bring Martha Reynolds to the stage. The author of Bits of Broken Glass and the Chocolate series is singing Barry Manilow's "Copacabana." Feel free to dance along at home.



Seventh Song
Make some noise for Samantha Stroh Bailey, the author of Finding Lucas and co-editor/contributor of A Kind of Mad Courage. She's doing a little "Got Me Wrong" by Alice in Chains. Woo wooooh.



Encore
We have just enough time for one more song before last call. Brea and I sneak back up on stage to duet "Under Pressure" by Queen and David Bowie.



(In case you're curious, Brea is taking the Freddie Mercury part, and I've discovered my inner bassist to be Bowie. And we're amazing.)

Thanks for being such an awesome audience for us. You really were quite lovely. But, even though we're done with our set, the party isn't necessarily over. You're more than welcome to join us for another round.  

What song are you singing?

Oh, and before you leave, you can listen to the full playlist of songs mentioned in this Virtual Karaoke Party on Spotify!



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June 23, 2014

little(ish) laura goes hollywood


I needed to take a couple of classes the summer before my senior year of college. Back then, I was determined to stick to my four-year graduation plan, and after transferring colleges and changing majors, I needed to make up for a few lost credit hours that didn't make the cut. (I could rant about how schools that are part of the same parent university network should be easier to transfer between, but that's a whole rant of its own.)

As luck or fate or simply timing would have it, I'd been named the editor-in-chief of the summer Daily Nebraskan, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's student-run newspaper, which meant I was already going to be around for the summer. I enrolled for three classes:
  • Beat Reporting, a requirement for all CoJMC students in the news-editorial program
  • Special Topics - Depth Report, another journalism class that required me to write in-depth articles about the international scope of quiltmaking (I'm not even joking a little)
  • Writing for Short Film and TV

The last one fulfilled a requirement for my secondary English minor (I basically double-minored in English, but that's a little too complicated to explain in this post, and I'm not entirely sure how it worked out).

Naturally, I had some concerns going into the class. I hadn't taken any theater or screenwriting classes. I'd dreamed about writing books, but hadn't made any progress. Still, I saw this as my opportunity to become a better fiction writer, something I already wanted to do.But, I really got to the heart of the issue at the end of my self-analysis for the class:
I hope to continue writing screenplays after this class is done. Perhaps I will partner up to work on short films with some students here at school. Maybe I'll continue practicing so that when my novel writing career takes off (and it will, regardless of what my parents say about being practical and acknowledging it might not happen) I can write my own adaptation and do it effectively.

Yes, true to form, even in college Little(ish) Laura had enough confidence in her writing abilities to learn how to write screenplays so she could be the one to ruin her best-selling novels-turned movies when Hollywood came calling.

I wish I now had half of that confidence. But maybe it's time for me to rediscover how good it feels to write fearlessly and to explore new horizons.

Last summer I launched the Little Laura series. Through it, I took a look back at my early beginnings as a writer (both fiction and non). This summer, I figured we could do the same. Or at least something similar. I give you "Little(ish) Laura Goes to Hollywood," a look at my short-lived screenwriting career. Like with the original LL series I'll post the original piece and some analysis. Fortunately for me, all of this comes from a portfolio, so I'll have my original response to the work, my professor's reaction and my thoughts seven years later.

Who knows? Maybe I'll even work up the guts to share some of my more recent screenwriting attempts.


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June 20, 2014

austenland vs. austenland

It is a truth universally acknowledged that if I put a book or movie on my respective to-read or to-watch lists, it'll probably sit there a while.

I recently had an opportunity to check two items off of those to-do lists. I finally managed to:


(Images from here and here.)

Talk about two birds and one stone. I felt like I was in my own book club during the couple of days I spent reading the story followed by a quick trip to Redbox to get the movie.

Here's the gist of the story:


But which was better? The book or the movie? Usually in scenarios such as this, I have a clear front-runner. (It's almost always the book--no surprise, ey?) But in this case I'm split. There are parts I liked better in the book and ones I preferred in the movie. If I could splice them all into one finished product, I'd be deliriously happy.

The movie stayed pretty faithful to the source. The only big differences were the beginning (which I liked better in the book) and the ending (which I liked better in the movie, though the book was pretty cute).

In general, I'm still satisfied with the overall impact of each.

For a Jane Austen fan like myself, what I loved most was the general concept of the story. I mean, how awesome would it be to go somewhere like Austenland? To be at a place where you could pretend to be Elizabeth Bennet or Emma Woodhouse, and be wooed by the likes of Darcy, Knightley and Wentworth. It's a dream. But on top of letting the heroine live her dream, both the book and movie show what happens when you realize the dream isn't what you thought or it isn't enough.

This was maybe the funniest scene in the book or though movie (but don't watch it if you don't want to be spoiled and note the songs are different):


Has anyone else read/seen Austenland? What did you think?

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June 18, 2014

arts & crafts: shakespeare edition


You know I enjoy my literary-themed crafts (like here, here, here and here). They serve as a way for me to embrace the bookish world I hold near and dear to my heart while also expanding my horizons and creativity in new and exciting ways.

In short, they enable me to rationalize procrastination when I'm trying to write.

Last week I found myself in need of a real pallet cleanse when I shifted between doing another round of edits on Book 2 and resuming writing on Book 3. (In case you're wondering, I've officially decided I do not endorse juggling multiple projects at the same time unless you want to be completely nuts like me. However, if you're psycho like me, you'll soon learn that this is the norm.)

Fresh off of watching the Kenneth Branagh adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing, my first foray into this Shakespearean tale, I found myself captivated by one particular quote in the play.


"I do love nothing in the world so well as you--is not that strange?"

Is there nothing so well in the world as that spectacularly wonderful line? Seriously, I can't even imagine a thought so brilliant. Which makes me sad. Sigh. Is it any wonder I was looking to avoid writing when my wit falls so far below that of Bill Shakespeare?

Imagine my excitement when I stumbled upon a set of sticker letters in the dollar aisle at Target. (Quick note: This aisle is basically a drug for me. I can't and won't quit trying to find deals for little items I never knew I wanted.) The wheels in my head were turning (or spinning, as you do). What if I was able to make some sort of wall art for my newly rearranged office that featured this quote I found so amazing and inspiring?

I was home all of ten minutes before I broke into my stash of fancy papers and cardstocks.


After cutting a rectangle the size of one of the empty picture frames I've been hanging on my wall since moving in last November, I checked to make sure I had enough letters to spell out the quote...


Then I spaced them out like I was writing a very neat and orderly ransom letter...


And started sticking them into place. I decided not to be 100 percent perfect with my placement. I could tell you I did this to allow the line room to exist freely and creatively without the shackles of precision, but in actuality, I didn't have the patience to do it.


Once I'd spelled out the quote and give a little credit where credit was due...


I put the letter art in a frame...


And hung it on my office wall. Is it as brilliant a masterpiece as the Fifty Shades of Grey movie poster I received from a friend for my birthday? No. But did it cost me more than $1 or 15 minutes of my time to make? No.


And now that it's up on the wall, I kind of adore it. I had enough fun making it, I went back to Target and bought the rest of their sticker stock (for a grand total of $5 of supplies) and have plans to try my hand at future letter art projects. And if I never get around to them, at least I'm not out too much money, right?

Do any of you have literary artwork on your walls? Describe!


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June 16, 2014

postcards from staycation - june 2014

Today I'm heading back to my day job after a full week of vacation, which I used to play full-time author. But before I do, I thought we'd take a quick look back at how I spent my time.

My main focus during staycation was completing beta edits on my second book and making more progress on my third book. While I didn't quite meet my writing word count goal (which was insanely big in hind-sight), I made some excellent head-way and had a breakthrough on this and my next project. So... excellent news!

If you follow me on Facebook and Twitter, you might recognize a few of the pictures, but let's pretend this is the first time any of us are taking a look at these. (You can also read about my first few days of staycation here.)
 
 After finishing up another round of edits for Book 2, I decided to rearrange my office and do some organizing to procrastinate starting work on my next project. I've tried three different office arrangements in my new-ish apartment, and this is my favorite. This arrangement gives me a view out of my balcony, but also keeps the desk far enough away from the window so I don't have to fight my cats for custody of the desk.


Quite by accident, on one of my vacation days I dressed up as Rosie the Riveter. Maybe my subconscious knew I needed a little motivation to get work done.


I also created a couple new pieces of word art -- one of which is on display in the upper right-hand corner. I'll be blogging more about that piece later, so you'll have to imagine what it spells out until then.


One of the best parts about my staycation was getting to spend some time with my nephew. Now that he's 14 his interests and mine are aligning more, which is pretty awesome. For a few nights of last week we decided to hold a Sherlock marathon, because he hadn't seen the show yet, and I love it. While we thought slamming three seasons was fun enough, we made it a little more exciting by exploring British cuisine during our viewings.

On Monday night we did a sampling of curry.


Tuesday night was bangers and mash. (Those are vegetarian sausages, by the way, just so you know I didn't suddenly go off the pescetarian wagon.)


And on Wednesday we finished the run with fish and chips. You'll notice we subbed sweet potato fries for regular and I baked the fries and fish rather than deep frying them. I also did a lot of portion control with these treats, because I'm still plugging away at my healthy living.


And of course no British dining medley would be complete without tea and biscuits. Fortunately, I have a few British-themed mugs in my possession, which added an extra little touch to the experience. (Quick note: My sister picked up the Manchester United mug for me while she was in Manchester last year. I wanted one, because in Bridget Jones: the Edge of Reason Bridget says they are Mark's favorite team.)


And with that quick look back at my wonderful week, it's time to get back to reality. I had a wonderful time, and the experience helped remind me of why I want to be a writer and the joy and challenge of being a story-teller.

Hope you all have a great week. Thanks to everyone who participated in the Birthday Prize Giveaway last week. The winners will be notified, today.

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June 13, 2014

twenty eight


I'm turning twenty-eight tomorrow. I'm not sure how I feel about that, though honestly I'm not sure I feel anything about it to be quite honest. When I was younger, twenty-eight sounded like a fairly significant number. Little Laura would've assumed Twenty-Eight-Year-Old Laura would've been married, had one or two children, a dog, a house and any number of bells and whistles.

In short: Little Laura assumed Twenty-Eight-Year-Old Laura would've had her shit together.

And while I may not have that husband, kids, dogs or own my own home, I have plenty, and I'm basically happy. I'm a better woman than I was a year ago, two years ago or ten years ago. I'm on my way to becoming the woman I want to become. So really... do I have anything to complain about, just because I don't fit perfectly into my younger self's projected mold?

Nope. No complaints here.

(OK, maybe I have a couple of complaints: I wouldn't mind having a more disposable income, the discipline to sit down and write a best-seller every day, a home in one of my dream destinations and a handsome/charming British husband. But those aren't really complaints so much as things-to-do, right?)

But back to birthdays. In the past (OK, twice) I've celebrated my even-numbered birthdays by writing a post sharing twenty-four or twenty-six great moments/reasons to be proud on my birthday. Because we've covered so many of those greats in the past--and in the interest of being different and... well... interesting--I'm going to share my twenty-eight favorite reads from the past twenty-eight years.
  1. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
  2. Both Sides of Time by Carolyn B. Cooney 
  3. Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella
  4. Carolina Moon by Nora Roberts
  5. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
  6. Emma by Jane Austen 
  7. The Ghost at Dawn's House by Ann M. Martin
  8. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  9. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
  10. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
  11. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  12. A Lantern in Her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich
  13. The MacGregor Brides by Nora Roberts
  14. Matilda by Roald Dahl
  15. Persuasion by Jane Austen
  16. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  17. The Prize by Julie Garwood
  18. The Rabbit is Next by Gladys Leithauser
  19. A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L'Engle
  20. Saving Grace by Julie Garwood
  21. Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
  22. The Sherbrooke Bride by Catherine Coulter
  23. Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar
  24. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  25. Something Wonderful by Judith McNaught
  26. The Tawny Scrawny Lion by Kathryn Jackson
  27. Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
  28. These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder

There's also still time to enter my Birthday Prize Package Giveaway. Just complete the Rafflecopter below. (Only valid for readers in the U.S. and Canada.)

Thanks for helping me celebrate my birthday!



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June 11, 2014

happy birthday prize package giveaway!


We all like presents, right?

I've been known to enjoy opening up a present or two in my day...


I'll be turning twenty-eight on Saturday, and rather than ask for presents, I wanted to give some away. I am fortunate to have so many people, like you readers, in my life. I greatly appreciate everything you do to support me. It's what keeps me going. That's why...


...There are two Happy Birthday Prize Packages up for grabs (U.S. and Canada readers only, sorry!).

Since my birthday falls on Flag Day (June 14), each prize is Flag Day themed. In addition to containing some red, white and blue flare, sunglasses and candy, each also has a $15 gift certificate to Panera or Starbucks. Panera and Starbucks are two of my favorite places to write, and this really is all about me, so... ;)

I'm trying to keep the entry process pretty simple. Follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter below, and good luck to all!


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June 9, 2014

edit-palooza 2014: the june edition

As of Friday afternoon, I am now on a literary vacation. For one whole week, I am off of work from the day job and 100 percent focused on writing and editing.

I kicked off the weekend by making another round of edits to Book 2 with suggestions from my beta readers (kick shout-out to my betas - you rule). On Friday night, I allowed myself to have a little fun by watching the season premiere of Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta while I consolidated my beta remarks into one document.


I'm pleased to report I only teared up once while watching. Progress!

I started making the edits first thing Saturday morning. Thanks to an early wake-up call from Mr. Bingley, I was up at 5:30, sipping coffee by 5:45 and energized enough to start by 6 a.m.


Unfortunately, my little buddy wasn't able to maintain his momentum for more than an hour.


I made it more than halfway through the edits by Saturday night and even managed to sneak in some hangout time with my nephew and watched Much Ado About Nothing, which I'd just checked out from the library. As an extra reward, I watched a couple of SYTDA episodes before bed.

I continued to make good progress throughout yesterday, though it went a little more slowly, because the second part had a few more technical clean-ups to make. I expect to finish the last couple of chapters sometime this morning. (Let's hope I didn't just jinx myself.)

I even had a little help from my editing buddy.


All in all, an excellent weekend to kick-off a writing week.

I learned some valuable lessons through the editing process, courtesy of some interesting Google searches.

Question: Do we wear makeup or make-up?
Answer: You wear makeup, but you make-up another person when you apply cosmetics to them.

Q: Is "kiss cam" a proper noun worthy of capitalization?
A: Mmm... seems to be user's choice (I found mixed opinions here and here). I'm going to go with the People magazine style until further notice.

Q: Do you give someone a smack down or smackdown.
A: It's a smackdown, y'all.

Q: Is a person a fuck up, fuck-up or fuckup?
A: It's option No. 1. (And incidentally the only f-bomb in this book. I'm making progress at cleaning up my literary sailor talk.)

I can only imagine what Big Brother must think of me now. It reminds me of the summer I tried to pen the first novel in a mystery series and had to Google, "What kinds of bugs eat human flesh?"

Oh the joys of being a writer.

With that update, I'm ready to get back to work on my first draft of Book No. 3. I'll try to check in later this week.


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June 4, 2014

summer reads 2014: attachments by rainbow rowell

I finished my first Summer Read last weekend. Huzzah! I've been on a fairly major reading dry-spell the past couple of months, so it was nice to get back in the ol' reading saddle (i.e. my bed) and enjoy a book.

Enjoy might be putting it lightly.

I devoured this read.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell was everything I wanted it to be. I try to go into most books without high expectations, but after all of the praise I'd seen for this story in my Goodreads and Facebook news feeds, I couldn't help but want it to be everything. And it was.

Set at a fictional newspaper in Omaha during Y2K mania, Attachments tells the story of Lincoln O'Neill, a young man still trying to figure out how to be an adult after coasting through life. Still living with his doting mother after a stint as a professional student, he embodies the idea of "arrested development."

He takes a job at the newspaper as a nighttime digital security guard/tech guy. It's his job to read through flagged emails that might contain crude remarks, pornography or any other no-no. While he feels creepy about invading people's privacy, it's a job -- and a decent paying one -- and without any other ideas of what to do with his life, he figures why not?

Completely single after having his heart ripped out of his chest during his freshman year of college, he finds himself falling for one of the women who consistently ends up sending emails that end up in the problem folder. As she and her friend tackle relationship and family issues, Lincoln falls deeper and deeper.

This book was beyond adorable. I instantly bonded with Lincoln and found myself relating to him. I'm about the same age as him, and even though I have a good job, supportive family and a few friends I still find myself wondering what the heck I'm doing with my life. And I'm sure I'm not alone. That's the beauty of a book like this. Unless you are the most put-together person in the world (and I'll call bullshit on that), everyone has felt this way at one point in time or another.

On top of that, Lincoln was beautifully adorkable, and I've found myself daydreaming about him in the days since I finished this story.

The best part of this book? It was so wonderful, it inspired me to want to be a better writer. It's been a while since I read a book that motivated me to hone my storytelling skills, so thank you for that.

I have two more Rainbow Rowell books sitting on my nightstand courtesy of the Lincoln Public Libraries (thanks, boos), and I'm pretty excited to give them a read during my vacation next week.

(Yes, I'm going on vacation next week. Can I get another 'huzzah'?)

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June 2, 2014

cover reveal: between octoberts by a.r. rivera

 About Between Octobers by A.R. Rivera
Grace Zuniga, a yearling widow, is convinced she could never fall in love again. She has surrendered to her quiet life on a quiet street in a world that revolves around her two young sons—until the moment she steps into an elevator.

Evan, also known as Rhys Matthews, is a typical Hollywood playboy. He’s used to women falling all over him, but Grace is different. She makes him believe in love at first sight and in himself. She’s thoughtful, beautiful, and intelligent—the opposite of his usual type and the woman he never knew he always wanted.

It’s an ordinary October day when the two meet in an elevator and embark on a romance that is anything but ordinary.

The following October, Grace is living out a normal day until she suddenly finds herself trapped and struggling to get away from a faceless woman. Terrified, Grace can think of nothing but her motivation—her sons, Evan, all the mistakes she thought she had time to make up for, and a love she will give anything to keep. Stumbling through her bleak circumstances, Grace relives the past year and thinks of all that has happened between Octobers.

Giveaway
On June 17, 2014 Take Two Publishing will be releasing their 4th novel, Between Octobers by A.R. Rivera. To celebrate its release, we would like to give one lucky reader a paperback copy! Contest is open to U.S. and Canadian residents only. Good luck!



Book Trailer


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