April 30, 2015

another round of edits

It's been a productive week in the Land of Laura. I'm working on another draft of Book 3 using beta remarks and my own changes. It's a critical process that, like writing, comes with highs and lows. The good part is that I know the story is becoming better and stronger. The bad part is that it's tedious work, and I often try to procrastinate it.

Today I thought I'd share a little bit about the process I use for this stage of editing. I'm a big fan of staying organized with projects, and this style of editing reflects that.

First, I print off a hard copy of the book and break it down into sections. This novel printed to 333 pages, and is 27 chapters, so I split it into four sections of seven chapters (one has six) that are about 80-85 pages long. I work on one section at a time (storing the other three in an accordion folder) and it helps the whole project feel less daunting.


Next, I mark each chapter with a post-it note. These are basically tabs to help me keep track of the story when I go to make the changes from the hard copy on the digital draft.


I then went through and read all of the beta remarks. I marked ones that might require a little more consideration with blue, and continuity issues with hot pink (there weren't too many of those, thank goodness).



If I have any ideas for how to correct those issues, I go ahead and note them on the document at this time.


At this point I also made a list of things to look out for when I did my own read-through to address the beta remarks and any other edits that need to be made during this portion of the read-through. Most of these include over-used words, some continuity issues, etc.


This didn't take as long as it sounds (maybe an hour or two), but it has definitely been a help as I am now going through and reading and making my own edits.

This part isn't pictured, but I keep a checklist for myself on where I am at with each chapter. One check means I've made the edit on the hard copy. A second check means I have made the changes on the digital copy. And the third check will come when I've done my final read-through before sending it on to the next stage.

So that's a little glimpse at the method to my madness. How do you make edits? Do you have any special things you like to do?

And as a quick note, if you're on Facebook, I will be "taking over" the Multi-Author Chick-Lit Bash by Page Curl Publishing and Promotion from 12-12:30 p.m. CST (11-11:30 a.m. EST). There will be conversation and prizes. Hope you'll join us.


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April 28, 2015

#bookselfie: hello, old friends


If you've been following the blog the past couple of months, then you know I've been working the "I'm an author now" job pretty consistently. I released The Marrying Type in February, finished the first round of edits on my third novel in March, and I've spent April writing the first draft of a holiday novella due out later this year. This is all good stuff, and I feel terribly busy and important. ;)

There's one downside to all of this productivity: It's really hard for me to get into any new stories (book, TV, or movie) when I'm heavily engaged in writing project mode. It's part of the reason I elected to stop officially doing book reviews. For a while I thought I was a big weirdo because of this, but I've heard a couple of other authors say they have the same problem. For me it's not that I'm afraid I'm going to accidentally steal that other book's voice or story. It's more like my strange little brain just can't handle any more new stories, while I'm working on my own.

Fortunately, I've found a good workaround to satiate my still-persisting desire to consumer entertainment. In February I re-watched every episode of The Mindy Project. (Please don't take this show away from me, Fox. I need it to survive.) That led to me re-watching every episode of The Office, 30 Rock, and Parks and Recreation, which led me to a couple of weeks ago. By this point in time, my Roku and I needed to take a break to explore other projects. And I missed reading.

On impulse, last week I picked up a copy of The Prize, one of my favorite historical romance novels by Julie Garwood. It was one of the first romance novels I read back in seventh grade, when one of my best friends introduced me to the genre. After I became accustomed to the sexy times depicted (I was 12, guys, and not too worldly), I fell in love with Garwood's writing, which led me to other historic romances by the likes of Catherine Coulter and Judith McNaught. (I also turned to contemporary romance, but that's not where my head is today!)


I've re-read many of those books several times over the years. I know of people who are staunchly against re-reading books. I had an English teacher once say she couldn't understand why I'd waste my time doing that when there were more books than I could ever read in a lifetime. I didn't have a good explanation for her then other than the fact that I just enjoyed it. (In hindsight, that's a perfectly fine answer, and I should've felt no shame saying it.) But now I realize it's more than that. When I re-read these books, I'm reacquainted with characters and settings and stories that are like old friends to me. Though the words are same, each reading isn't the same experience. Oh sure, I still laugh and gasp and shout an "OMG" at some of the same places. But because I'm always changing as a person, the story always reaches me in a new way.

I'm working my way through my Julie Garwood collection right now. It's fairly safe to say stories about British nobles, soldiers, and Highlanders won't be working their way into my contemporary chick lit novels, but they are still inspiring me to tell stories that will touch, or at least entertain, an audience.

Here's my complete list of re-reads the past 10 days:
And I am currently re-reading The Lion's Lady.

(I also skimmed some scenes from Whitney, My Love by Judith McNaught and The Countess by Catherine Coulter, but those don't officially count as re-readings. I'm sure I'll get to them eventually. It's going to be a full summer of writing and editing.)

Are any of you re-readers? What are your go-to authors and books?


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April 23, 2015

some scoop on book three


At last years of football games, fantasy drafts, and sampling lovely beverages are about to pay off.

I've been a little coy about my next book project. I've dropped a few hints since I started writing it more than a year ago. Like, it's about football, and it's set in Nebraska. And there's a girl who is going to fall for a boy, but there's going to be some sort of strife. (If you've read either of my books, the last clue is a given, right?)

Now that book three has gone through its first round of beta edits (and I'm eternally thankful to the three brilliant and clever ladies who read and commented on my newest baby), I feel a little more comfortable elaborating more on this story.

Here are five facts about my third full-length novel:
  1. It's about football. Okay, I've already mentioned that, but it has a lot of football in it. The main character joins a fantasy football league, she learns to care about NFL football as a result, a potential love interest is a high school football coach, and she attends a college football game on a date. So... there's a lot of football, but if you aren't a fan of the sport, never fear... For the most part, football is the setting and a catalyst, the main story is about...
  2. A young woman learning to get over her Type-A tendencies and trying to take more chances that can lead her to happiness. It's about reaching that point in your life when you realize you need to make some big changes, but you're not entirely sure how to go about it. It's about learning to forgive yourself for past mistakes and getting on with your life. I really, really, really want to tell you this young woman's name, but I'm going to hold onto that fact a while longer.
  3. It's set in Nebraska, more specifically in Lincoln. This was my first time writing a story in my hometown, and there were a lot of things to love about this. For one, I've lived and breathed Lincoln most of my life. I'd like to think I get the people and the atmosphere. Rather than wondering what kind of places my character might go, I already knew. While I love researching places to write about, it was fun to draft a love letter of sorts to my hometown. 
  4. This is the first book in a series. While I didn't set out to make it a series when I initially plotted the story, about halfway through the first draft I realized I had so many ideas for how to develop these characters over a few years, I wanted to keep going. And, bonus, the second novel in the series is in progress. The first draft is more than 75 percent done!
  5. I conducted several interviews to write this book. Though I grew up in a family of football fans and have played in a few fantasy football leagues, I wanted more perspectives. I interviewed two high school football coaches, someone who is in a serious relationship with a coach, a luxury car salesman, someone who worked in the administrative side of a car dealership, and another friend who has participated in fantasy football through the years. I used to do interviews all the time back in my journalism days, but I kind of felt like a total #blessedballer donning my reporter hat once again. 

So... with that, I'm going to get back to making another round of revisions on Book 3. Wish me luck, and I hope you'll enjoy this story.


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April 22, 2015

christmas in april

Source

High-fives all around. Last night I reached my Camp NaNoWriMo goal of writing 25,000 words on my holiday novella. That's 25,000 sentimental words involving kisses, cookies, champagne toasts, and what-ifs. It's also in serious need of some work and two more scenes.

But for today, I'm going to celebrate the moment and say a much-needed, "woo hoo."

This is extra exciting for me, because it's the first time I have successfully met my Camp NaNoWriMo goal. Granted, I was only shooting for 25,000 words, but I still did it. That definitely deserves a victory dance.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'd better finish writing those last two scenes.



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April 21, 2015

#flawless

Sometimes, when I'm struggling to get myself motivated to take action (or even get out of bed, because I've built myself such a comfortable cocoon overnight) I like to imagine what women I admire would say or do to encourage me.

Tina Fey would refer me to her amazing memoir, Bossypants, which equal parts awesome and inspiration.
You can't be that kid standing at the top of the water slide, overthinking it. You have to go down the chute.

Our mutual best friend, Amy Poehler, would offer me a quote from Yes, Please that seals the deal and gets me out of bed:
I believe great people do things before they are ready.

Beyonce is, therefore she inspires. And one of the songs off of her most recent album is just about the most perfect power anthem a young woman could listen to on her morning commute to work.

I know when you were little girls/ You dreamt of being in my world/ Don't forget, don't forget/ Respect that, bow down bitches.

When I look at myself in the mirror and feel guilty about not working out harder or for eating a donut for breakfast when I could have just as easily had a green smoothie, I can turn to my girl, Mindy Kaling, who in Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) will remind me:
If someone called me chubby, it would no longer be something that kept me up late at night. Being called fat is not like being called stupid or unfunny, which is the worst thing you could ever say to me. Do I envy Jennifer Hudson for being able to lose all that weight and look smokin’ hot? Of course, yes. Do I sometimes look at Gisele Bundchen and wonder how awesome life would be if I never had to wear Spanx? Duh, of course. That’s kind of the point of Gisele Bundchen. And maybe I will, once or twice, for a very short period of time. But on the list of things I want to do in my lifetime, that’s not near the top. I mean, it’s not near the bottom either. I’d say it’s right above “Learn to drive a vespa,” but several notches below “film a chase scene for a movie.” 

When I still feel like that little kid on the first day of school who is worried she won't have any friends to sit with during lunch, I remember my mom telling me that everything will work out. And that even when things are hard, you just have to believe in yourself and try your best.

I think of women I know. I think of women I read about in the paper or online. They're all women who get up and do their thing just because they were given another day to it. With so many powerful, motivational, inspirational women around, it's hard to be stuck for too long.


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April 16, 2015

reading in the kitchen - birds'-nest pudding


While all of Laura Ingalls Wilder's books are full of mouth-watering descriptions of food, but Farmer Boy takes the cake. (Ha ha ha, oh puns.) It's been years since I read the story about her husband Almanzo's boyhood in Upstate New York, but to this day my memories of it can be summed up with food, horses, and more food.

Out of the many foods featured in this book (and incidentally in previous blog posts like this, this, and this), probably the one that most stood out to me was birds'-nest pudding. Described as a fluffy nest of syrupy apples covered in a nutmeg-flavored whipped cream, this dish sounded like heaven. And because it contained apples, I figure it was also healthy, too. (As healthy as anything covered in sugar can be.)

To recreate this dish, I once again consulted Barbara M. Walker's The Little House Cookbook. Here's a list of the ingredients we needed:


Tart apples (her recipe calls for six, but I made a smaller portion with two, because as yummy as this turned out, I didn't need to eat six servings), brown sugar, nutmeg, eggs, milk, maple flavoring, flour, cream of tartar, baking powder and salt, then powdered sugar and heavy cream to make whipped cream. (You can find the full recipe on pages 126-127.)


After greasing a small baking dish (I used spray, but you can use butter or oil), I peeled and cored the two apples. I used Granny Smiths, because I'm not an apple expert, but those sounded tart. At the time of baking this dish, I still don't have a fancy shmancy apple corer, but it sure wouldn't hurt my feelings if someone wanted to give me one for Christmas.


So, yeah, they're peeled, and the core was removed, but it didn't look too pretty. No worries, because about five seconds after finishing the second apple, I filled the middle with brown sugar and nutmeg.


I popped the dish in the oven at 350 degrees to start the apple-baking process while I mixed together the pudding ingredients. At the time it seemed like a silly instruction from the cookbook, but in hindsight it makes sense. A perfectly baked apple takes more time to roast than the pudding.


Breaking slightly from the directions, I tossed the rest of the brown sugar in a bowl with one egg yolk (the egg white went in another bowl and was whipped for later use), milk, and maple flavoring (which, to be honest, I just used some syrup, because I figured it was maple flavored).


I mixed together the dry ingredients and poured them in with the egg. And then I folded in the egg white. Or at least I think I folded it in, because I wasn't too sure what that meant, and I was too lazy to Google it at that moment in my life. (I've since done it, and here's a video. I guess I did it right. Success!)


With that done, I removed the partially baked apples from the oven. The brown sugar had reduced by then, so I poured the mixture in that first and then filled it throughout the rest of the pan.


It came out looking like this:


If I ever make this dish again (and I think I will, because it was delicious and not too difficult), I think I'll use the same size of pan with more apples to have the pudding rise up even more in the pan.

This is what the amount I had in there came out as:


And no, those aren't little teeth marks. That's where I stuck a fork in it to ensure it was done.


Now, this is where I went a bit rogue. Rather than use whipped cream or make nutmeg-laced whipped cream as ordered, I used a little egg nog, because I had some handy. I realize this is in no way, shape, or fork a typical substitute, but it was pretty amazing. Heck, it was yummy when I took a few bites without any cream.


Overall, I'd call this recipe a major win, and it was probably one of my favorites that I have made out of The Little House Cookbook. I definitely will make this one again if that tells you how much I enjoyed it.

Again, if you'd like to try this one for yourself, it's on pages 126-127 in the cookbook.

To check out the other Little House recipes I've tried or any of my other Reading in the Kitchen attempts click here.


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April 14, 2015

'twenty-something' is now available!

It's another publication day!

The first multi-author collection from Marching Ink is officially on sale today. Twenty-Something features three full-length novels from Cat Lavoie, Samantha March and yours truly. The eBook is available on Amazon for the special discounted price of $1.99!

Stayed tuned… Marching Ink will soon announce the next multi-author collection for 2015 shortly.

About the Collection
The first collection from Marching Ink features three full-length novels in Twenty-Something. From the good girl that is tired of playing by the rules in the new adult novel from Laura Chapman, to the friendship between two women that isn’t what is seems in the women’s fiction novel from Samantha March, and then the loveable Roxy that will give us plenty of laughs and touching moments in the chick lit novel from Cat Lavoie. While all characters are indeed Twenty-Something, we believe this collection can be enjoyed by readers in a variety of ages.

Hard Hats and Doormats by Laura Chapman
After losing out on a coveted promotion at work, Lexi Burke is done playing the nice girl. Her first order of business: Giving in to her longtime workplace crush. But Lexi soon learns that balancing a workplace romance and her job might be harder than she anticipated.

A Questionable Friendship by Samantha March
While Brynne and Portland seem to have an ideal friendship, cracks are starting to show as their lives take a turn for the complicated. Not willing to go to one other with their secrets, one woman begins to feel shut out and the other enters into a web of lies to protect herself. Their journey will explore several questions of friendship, and show that happily ever after might not be in the cards for everyone.

Breaking the Rules by Cat Lavoie
When Roxy Rule shares a passionate kiss with her lifelong best friend, she must come to terms with her feelings for him while dealing with two sisters in full crisis mode, a boss who makes her want to stab herself with a letter opener and a fiancĂ© who can’t wait to walk down the aisle. Can she keep it together–or will she break under the pressure?


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April 9, 2015

a few of my favorite things

Source

I went to a counselor for a couple of months last year. I haven't talked about this much, but basically I was struggling with some stress, anxiety, and a few other emotions I wasn't sure how to handle. My counselor was great. While she didn't "cure" me of my anxiety issues (as long as I'm me and I face stress, I'm going to have to deal with anxiety from time time time) she did give me some useful tools for coping.

She taught me to recognize the signs of a panic before it turns into a full-blown attack. She gave me tips for riding out the wave physically by going for a walk or taking a quick break to do something I love. (She mentioned that she went out for copy, but for me spending a few minutes watching favorite videos on YouTube does the trick.)

Source

She also gave me a couple of ways to internally handle my feelings. One way was to write down every single thing pissing me off. Whether it was a major conflict at work or with a story I'm writing or my irritation at having to clean up another pile of vomit, I was to write it down. The point was to do it twice a day and to give myself 10 minutes to give in to my anger (the Emperor from Star Wars would be so pleased) and then to literally close the notebook or delete the computer file and be done with it until my next bitch fest. I've found this particularly good when I need to have a semi-confrontational conversation. I get all of the negativity out of my system, think about what I'd like to accomplish with the conversation, then I find a positive way to say it.

I don't always manage to maintain my Pollyanna-ness, but I'm trying.

Probably my favorite tip was to keep a list of five things that make me happy no matter what. I copied my list down in the notes section of my iPhone, and many times when I feel myself getting a little panicky or gloomy, I open it up. My list is pretty simple, and while we're being honest and open, I don't mind sharing it with you.

Five Little Things That Make Me Happy

  1. When Bingley crawls into bed/on the couch with me and cuddles. He makes a little chirping sound while he jumps and then purrs within seconds of settling in with me.
  2. Re-reading one of my favorite trashy romance novels that are practically falling apart, because they've been so loved.
  3. Seeing a picture or video of Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, or Michael Fassbender pop up in my Facebook news feed.
  4. Getting a random text/call/message from a friend or family member, because she or he saw, heard, or read something that made her or him think of me. 
  5. Burritos.
I opened up this file again last night. I've been feeling quite a bit of stress lately. My day job is crazy busy, and as much as I enjoy building my writing career there's plenty of angst that accompanies it. While there isn't a lot I can do to change any of it, I feel better equipped to deal thanks to my list.

Now excuse me while I watch one of my go-to I-need-a-smile videos:



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April 7, 2015

a study in romance


The holiday novella I'm writing for Camp NaNoWriMo is a RomCom. Well, it's Chick Lit with a romantic plot, and I hope it's funny. And maybe that's why I found myself conducting an unplanned, unofficial study or the genre during one of my recent lazy bouts of binge-watching movies on Netflix. It started with rewatching a few of my favorite RomComs, and soon grew into checking out more alternative versions of love stories and even throwing in a few stand-up routines.

My study of romance and humor was kind of a wonderful thing.

While watching "Sleepless in Seattle," I realized I'd never seen "An Affair to Remember." Finding it on Netflix, too, I went for it. Both of these movies are kind of perfect for my story. Both showed how you can build a love story--and tension--by having the main characters apart a good chunk of time. They both showed how one moment of circumstance can change everything. And consequently, I had two real examples of how rewarding the payoff is when you get those two crazy kids together at last.

Then I went off the cuff and watched "Uganda Be Kidding Me" and "Women Aren't Funny." While neither of these will directly influence the story, and the humor isn't quite right for this project, both were kind of a challenge. Even if one person or reviewer (or a whole group of them) doesn't like what you're doing, you have to keep doing you.

I returned to my romance study, and also realized I was on a kick, with "Notting Hill." It's been years since I saw this--the first time was at a slumber party in middle school, which was one of the films that launched my love affair with British movies and TV. This was maybe the first time I've watched this as a genuine adult (because when you're twenty-eight, I suppose it's time to start thinking of yourself as a grownup), and I was struck by some of the little pockets of beauty. The first time I watched the movie, I was so caught up in the romance between William and Anna that I missed out on some of the other love stories with less screen time. Those are what make a movie divine. Then again, Anna and William's story of two people who fall in love despite the obstacles they face, and how they are able to come together regardless, was plenty inspiring.

I finished the weekend by watching "Your Sister's Sister" and "My Week with Marilyn." Both don't exactly qualify as conventional love stories, which was a good thing, because again, it challenged my thinking.

With all of this study behind me, I started Camp last week with lots of inspiration. And while I wish I could say it has been easy getting up to write every day, it's moving along.

Your turn: Where do you find inspiration for your work?


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April 2, 2015

reading in the kitchen - johnny-cake


As I work my way through the food of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series, and the Barbara M. Walker's The Little House Cookbook, it seemed inevitable that I would eventually make a recipe containing corn meal, buttermilk, and molasses. Maybe it's just me making assumptions, or it's all in my head, but when I read the series, it seemed like just about everything they ate had to contain one or all three of these ingredients.

Obviously that isn't the case--this is our first time working with any of these ingredients so far and we're three months into the process--but here we go. Johnny-cakes. These are mentioned straightaway in Little House in the Big Woods, and in the book Laura asks Ma where the name came from. Maybe it's a nod to the Johnny Rebs of the Civil War. Or maybe it's a New Englander's way of saying "journey." Either way, the three key ingredients in this dish are corn meal, buttermilk, and molasses.

So obviously I had to give this recipe a try.



First up, I mixed the dry ingredients--cornmeal, baking soda, and salt--together in a large bowl. The recipe called for white or yellow cornmeal, and I used white. My natural instinct would've been to use yellow (isn't corn supposed to be yellow?) but they were out of it at the store.


As will be the trend throughout the rest of the year, I next subbed butter for drippings. (Quick reminder, I'm a pescetarian, which means I eat some fish, but mostly maintain a vegetarian diet. Bacon drippings aren't exactly a staple in my kitchen.) After consulting my mom--and my own taste buds--I determined butter would be an equally delicious substitute.


I mixed a spoonful of molasses into boiling water. Now that I've tasted the finished product, I'm glad the molasses was diluted. I made snow candy once upon a time, and the sugary molasses did not make a terribly great impression on me.


I mixed the butter and watery molasses into the dry ingredients to create a paste.


Then in went the buttermilk...


And I poured the thick, gritty batter into a greased pie plate. I only made a half batch, so it all fit nicely into one pie pan in a thin layer.


Like such.


After the disappointing turnout from the fast-baking heart-shaped cakes last month, I popped the pan in the oven at a lower temperature (350 degrees) and for less time (20 minutes). Baking much like a thin quick bread, this was done in 17 minutes.


The cookbook suggested serving the johnny-cake with more molasses (I cringed at the idea) or honey, so I went with that.


And it was actually pretty delicious. It turned out much the way I expected, and even developed a nice yellow color, despite the fact that it was lacking the yellow cornmeal.

To try it for yourself turn to pages 21 and 22 in The Little House Cookbook.



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