August 31, 2015

what starting a new project looks like

Over the weekend I did some plotting (and even writing) for the third book in the Queen of the League series. While I went into this quartet with a general idea of some of the key character development and milestones that would happen for Harper Duquaine, the heroine of the stories, I didn't necessarily know all of the particulars.

Now that the first book will soon be available to you readers, and the second book is in the hands of beta readers, I have a better feel for who these characters are and how they can get to where they are supposed to go in the journey that is this series. It's kind of an exciting place to be as a reader, because this is where a lot of the magic happens.

I've shared some of my practices for writing and editing (you can view an archive of some of them under the "Writing Tips" tab), but I thought it would be fun to share a few of the tools I have used to create this particular story.


Before and After
Last week, after finishing the second draft of book two, I paid a visit to my sister's bar and made a list of where Harper would be at the beginning of the third book under the "Before" column on a few sheets of paper. In the other column, under "After" I wrote where I hoped she would be by the time the story ended. I mulled this over for a couple of days, changing a few things here or there. I also considered which of those plot developments or changes might be the most interesting to focus on.

(Note: I skipped that last part of the Before and After test when writing the second book in the series, and I imagine that's part of why I had so much reshuffling and revising to do. Lesson learned. This is a constantly-evolving process, my friends.


Ten Scenes
With a better idea of the main plot elements and themes of this story, I used the Ten-Scene tool to shape the major plot arc of the story. I recently reorganized my desk and stumbled upon quite the collection of index cards, which I used to help me visualize the flow and ebb of this book's story.

See how pretty that looks:


This was snapped before I wrote out the actual plans for each of those scenes, because I didn't want to give any spoilers, but you get the idea.

Once I could actually see how these ten key scenes would play out, I was better able to visualize what would need to happen in between--and some other smaller plot elements--which is where the next part comes into play...


Working Synopsis
This is actually still in progress, but using those ten scenes, I'm shaping out what will happen in each chapter and each scene in between to get us to those key moments. This is the part of the process that will be most loose. I like to leave myself open to making some changes as the story progresses. That frequently means cutting, adding, or changing a previously planned scene--hopefully before it's written.

I sketch down some of my ideas in a notepad while I'm out and about, but I do most of it directly in Scrivener by organizing my folders and the scenes within them. God bless Scrivener for speaking to my Type A plotting tendencies.


Brief Sketches for New Characters
I'm introducing a few new characters for this book. They needed names, personalities, and an explanation of their purpose to the story.


Plotting the Fantasy Football Season
This is an added step unique to this series, but each book in the Queen of the League series has to have a fake football season play out. As part of that, I need to know how Harper's team will perform and how it is affected by or shapes the rest of the story. For example, I can't have Harper being in an amazing mood if she's just lost a major game to her opponent, can I?


So that's kind of where I am with this story. I'll admit, I wasn't planning on writing this one next, but after spending a little time away to write a Christmas novella and reading through the first and second books again (not to mention the upcoming start of football season) I was in the mood. Wish me luck!


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August 27, 2015

a look back at my fantasy football prince charmings

During the past three years, I’ve managed five fantasy football teams with mixed results (and never a title), but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Each time I drafted a team, I sought to find a group of players worthy of the title “Fantasy Football Prince Charming” to help me secure my rightful throne as queen of the fantasy football league.

In retrospect, perhaps I should have looked for a knight with an army to do my bidding rather than a figurehead (think Daenerys Targaryen in "Game of Thrones" rather than "Cinderella"). I suppose it’s only inevitable I was confused. Most of my experience about attaining nobility is limited to Disney movies and romance novels. I should have studied up on the War of the Roses rather than stopping to smell the roses.

During the last two seasons—and drawing from four teams—I documented my ill-fated attempt to find a Fantasy Football Prince Charming to rule by my side. And despite my failure to secure a title, I “met” a few nice dudes along the way. I'll hope to find some more candidates during this year's fantasy season.

To honor them—and the forthcoming release of my fantasy football-driven novel First & Goal—let’s take a look back at the best and worst of my contenders for the crown.


Best

Peyton Manning (read about him here and here) – Peyton is my constant. I’ve had him on one of my fantasy teams each of the past three years, and he has only on one occasion let me down (and everyone has a bad week). Sometimes a woman needs to be able to depend on a man—or quarterback—to even believe in love—or the possibility of winning games.

Calvin Johnson (read about him here and here) – Oh, Megatron, how I missed you last season. Calvin was a star on my team during my first two years of fantasy football, and he was a big playmaker. I’ll admit there were moments in the first season when I wondered why he wasn’t performing as well as I’d like, but I soon learned that it isn’t always the wide receiver’s fault when a quarterback is figuring out the game.

Jordy Nelson (read about him here) – One of the few Packers players I’ve had on my team, Jordy Nelson has the “old reliable” components of Peyton with the stud factor of Megatron. When Jordy and Aaron Rodgers collaborate on the field, magic happens. I contend that their partnership is one of the greatest bromances happening on the field in this era. Knowing he won't be on the field this year breaks my heart. He could have been "the one."

LeSean McCoy (read about him here) – When Shady is at his best, it doesn’t get much better. During my Cinderella season of 2013 (where I started the season in last place and ended up finishing as the first runner-up) LeSean was the perfect first-round draft pick and an obvious keeper for the next season in my keeper league.

Worst

LeSean McCoy (read about him here) – When Shady isn’t at his best, he has the ability to break hearts. After a wonderful 2013 together, 2014 was filled with disappointing numbers that made me question everything we had together. We finished our season with a losing record, and it still tears me apart.

Eli Manning (read about him here) – We had one good game together, and that was all it was. Two ships passing in the night… While I’m fortunate for our time together, there’s no way I could commit to him. Especially not when his brother and I have such a good thing going.

Jamaal Charles (read about him here) – Maybe I was expecting too much from him too soon. Maybe I should have been more realistic. But when you take someone with your first draft pick, you expect him to put up some big numbers week in and out rather than spending half of his life on the will-he-won’t-he play-this-week bench. Sorry to put you here, buddy, but I'm also not sorry, because this just didn't work out well for us.

So, watch out men of the NFL. I'm drafting the first of my new teams on Sunday, and I have a bunch of blank spaces waiting for your name.


Now that you’ve read my best and worst fantasy players, it’s your turn to weigh-in. Who are your favorite players in the league?


About the Book
When Harper Duquaine’s no-nonsense approach to work unintentionally ruffles the wrong feathers at her new job, she joins her co-workers’ fantasy football league to prove she can hang with the guys. Only problem: she doesn’t know a sleeper from a keeper (or any of the other lingo thrown her way).

Embroiled in a world of lineups, stats, and trades, Harper’s quest to make nice topples when her competitive streak emerges. And her promise to herself that she’ll be a strong, independent woman and leave the drama and heartache behind is seriously tested when she catches the attention of her two biggest competitors: J.J., a local celebrity determined to win a fantasy championship, and Brook, the mild-mannered coach who seems too good to be true. Both threaten her resolve to remain single… and, more importantly, her chances at winning the prize pool.

With a slew of conflicting advice in her real and fantasy worlds, Harper must figure out how to play the game and come out a winner.

Available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Marching Ink on 9/9/15. 
Add it to Goodreads


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August 25, 2015

what's on my bookshelf? bonus treasures


Blogger's Note: After years of sharing my thoughts on books through book releases and #bookselfies, throughout the month of August I'll be giving you a closer look at what books are in my home library.

I still have more shelves and favorite stories to share, but today I wanted to showcase a few of the little extras that make my little home library uniquely mine.


This beautiful Murano glass pen and ink set on my Garwood to Gibson shelf was a gift from my little sister. During a trip she took to Europe a couple of years ago, she found this set in a shop in Venice, Italy, and brought it home for me. And I adore it. Not only is it a perfect gift for a writer, but it's beautiful and looks particularly pretty in the morning sunlight. It has added meaning, because it came from Sarah.


The Ariel and Belle bells on my Montgomery to Robb shelf were another gift. A couple of my friends brought them back to me from Disney World as a thank you present for checking on their dog while they were on vacation. Again, these are two presents that mean a lot because of the givers and because it's always nice to know your friends get you and what you like.


This is a memory jar, located on the writing resources shelf of my library. I've blogged about this before, but basically this jar contains little mementos from some of my travels. Notable pieces are train and tube passes from my college trip to England, a VIP pass to the backstage of the 2008 Scream Awards, and a sea shell from the beach where one of my best friends got married.


This is a never-before shared shelf, but I like to think of it as my nerd nook. I ran out of room on my regular bookshelves, so I keep the boxed sets to my Song of Fire and Ice, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings collections on top of one of the shelves. For a little flare, I have this metal "&" decoration, which I snapped up at Michael's during a trip to find supplies for a project.


I adore the ceramic white owl that stands on top of one of the shelves. I found it at a vintage shop earlier this summer, and I like how it looks sitting in front of that picture frame (another gift from a friend, it is the framed ISBN number for my debut novel, Hard Hats and Doormats).


And last but not least, the story behind the picture you've seen a lot of throughout the month. Those are framed paper-art portraits of my beloved Jane and Bingley created by my sister for me as a Christmas present. These came about, because I fell in love with some artwork my sister was creating to give to a friend for a baby shower. After months of not-so-subtly dropping hints (which ultimately led to me saying, "All I want for Christmas is cut-out pictures of the cats") I was beyond thrilled to find these sitting under the tree. The ceramic squirrel is another gift from my sister, and it doubles as a tea light holder.

Mr. Squirrel is sitting on top of three gift books, including The Wit and Wisdom of Jane Austen, Downton Abbey Rules for Household Staff, and A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen.


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August 20, 2015

my jealousy can go fly a kite

It's been a while since we had one of these posts, but grab your jackets and meet me at the park down the street. Let's go fly a kite...


If you're new to the blog, this is a moment where I'm telling someone (usually myself) or something (usually a bad habit of mine) to go fly a kite. And if you're not familiar with that little diddy, basically it's a nice no swearing way to say go eff yourself.

So back to why we're flying a kite today. This is nothing new, but lately it's reared its ugly head in my life again, and it's getting out of control. The green monster that sneaks out and sours what should be sweet and for lack of a better description, turns me into a bit of a mean wench. I'm talking about jealousy.

I've been feeling a lot of jealousy lately. It happens almost every time I'm on Facebook. It happens every time I see a post from a friend or acquaintance (particularly fellow writers) when they share what is great, wonderful news for them and their careers. Instead, I see the "my book is a best-seller" and "I just received my first advance" and "my fans keep saying this" and, well, I get jealous. I'm sure it's a perfectly normal, natural thing, but I don't like what it brings out in me. I don't like that instead of thinking, "way to hit that best-seller list" or "you earned that reward" or "you have such wonderful fans," I turn into an Ursula-like monster who grows bigger and badder until she's about to explode and thinks rather loudly HOW COME I DON'T GET THOSE THINGS TOO??? (She also tends to write insanely long run-ons, but she doesn't have the self-discipline or energy to rewrite them into smaller, more user-friendly sentences.)

I kind of touched upon these feelings last week with my post about wishing my life away (read it here). That envy feeds me jealousy. And that's a bad thing. I mean, when you watch a lot of TV shows and movies or read a book, one of the major motivators of any villain is his or her envy/jealousy of someone else. I don't want to be the villain in my own life.

Which is why right now--and it's not going to be easy or as simple as flipping a switch--I'm going to do my best to adjust my mind-set and get over being so jealous. I'm not entirely sure how that works. I suppose one thing would be to spend less time on social media, but who are we kidding? I can't quit it (I have a blog and novel career to run!). But maybe I should handle it the way a counselor advised me to handle my panic attacks. I should recognize the triggers and avoid them. And when that isn't possible, I should know the starts of an attack and be prepared to handle it. For the panic attacks, I'm supposed to walk it off or go to my happy place (which is actually a list of five things that bring me a lot of joy that I focus on). Maybe I do the same with the jealousy.

And maybe I should work harder at being happier when other people succeed. Because at heart I am happy for them. They've worked hard. They've earned their rewards. They don't deserve someone begrudging them their joy.

So that's going to be one of my new goals for the near future. I'm going to manage my envy and tell jealousy to go fly a kite.


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August 17, 2015

join the 'first & goal' team


Thank you for all of the kind words and support since I revealed the cover and release date for my upcoming novel, First & Goal. For me it's always a kind of exciting and terrifying time when you're about to share your book baby with the world. This time around, it was twice as scary, because I designed the cover myself. So the compliments meant even more to me.

Today I wanted to extend an invitation to all of you to be part of my release week team helping to spread the word about First & Goal when it is released. I'm looking for fellow bloggers wanting to feature a guest post, interview, or promo. I'm looking for social media fanatics willing to spread the word on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. There are lots of ways you can help. Use the sign up below to let me know how you'd like to help, and I will be in touch with you soon.


Thanks in advance for your help spreading the word on my new book baby. Your support means everything. Please let me know if there is ever a way I can repay the favor.


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August 13, 2015

my life as a plotter

Here's the cast list, 10-scene tool, and working synopsis
aka outline I used while writing the first draft
of what became Hard Hats and Doormats.

One of the most frequent questions authors receive is "Are you a plotter or a pantser?" Though I primarily fall under the plotter category, I've tried my hand at pantsing. I can't show you any examples of that, because none of those stories have been finished. I guess that means I'm truly a plotter at heart.

There are a few tools I use to plan and plot my novels/novellas/shorts before I officially begin the writing process. Here's a rundown of what I do before I write:

Character Sketches
This is a good opportunity to get to know my characters. I write down everything from what they look like to their major ticks to the way they drink their coffee--or if they drink it at all. I also write a brief history, which is usually a free-form essay of sorts that explains why this person is the way they are. For The Marrying Type, I wrote about how difficult it was for Elliot to lose her mother to cancer when she was in high school. I wrote about her strained relationships with her father and sister. I wrote about what it was like to begin dating Eric and then to breakup with him. Having this background and knowledge was important to have before I wrote, because it showed why she acted the way she did in certain scenes. And some of it actually ended up being included in the story. I sometimes also include aspects of a character that don't make it into the story, but they're still important because they help me better know who I'm writing about.

Cast List
From this, I create a brief cast list that has a rundown of each of the characters in the story along with a one- or two-sentence explanation of his or her role to the story. Often it explains the relationship a supporting character has with the main character. This is a quick reference for me to pull up while I'm writing, because sometimes all of the names can get confusing.

Before & After
I've blogged about this before (you can read about it here), but basically what I do is imagine where my primary characters are in their lives when the story begins. I write this down in one column, and in the next I write where I would like them to be after the story. So, without getting too spoilery, in "Oh Baby," the Autumn and Tuck follow-up featured in A Kind of Mad Courage, I knew Autumn would be super pregnant at the beginning, and she'd have a baby in the end. Somehow, during this story, I'd have to show that happening. Getting her from Point A to Z is the story and my plot.

Ten-Scene Tool
This is another resource I've blogged about (read about it here), but basically this is an opportunity for me to do a quick outline tracking the major conflict(s) or a story and how it will unfold and how it will be resolved.

Outline
Now that I use Scrivener, most of this happens in each project rather than on a sheet of paper, but this is where I write the A-Z of what will happen. I give a slug to each of the scenes--usually something that will stand out to me as a reminder of what that scene involved. Here's a picture of what this looked like when I was just starting the Christmas novella I'm wrapping up this week:

I should note, several of these scenes have been eliminated
or renamed as the story evolved during the writing process.

Then, in the notes section of each individual document, I'll write a few sentences about what needs to happen to the characters in this scene to move the story forward. For example, in The Marrying Type, during the first scene my notes would have read something like, "Elliot is searching through the family business's financial records in preparation for a meeting when she receives a call from her cousin. Marissa is filming a reality TV series about wedding planners and she wants Elliot to be on board. Elliot founds the idea repulsive, but politely declines. During the call, she uncovers the badly stored company records and realizes they are about to lose the business to the bank. Desperate to save the company, she agrees to do the series as long as the price is right." Now, that scene is a little more descriptive than some of my outline notes. It could be as simple as, "Elliot and Eric meet to talk wedding plans, and both feel a lot of the old emotions resurface and neither knows what to do about it. Elliot's instinct is to push them behind and be kind. Eric's is to also repress them, but also use them as an opportunity to keep her at a distance."

I keep my outlines flexible during the writing process. Sometimes scenes move around, or sometimes they go away. Sometimes new ones come up as I write and realize the story needs something more. But I find I need to have this sketch of a roadmap to begin, otherwise I'm unable to navigate the trip from the first scene to the last.

So here's the question to you, fellow writers: What sort of pre-writing resources do you use to prepare for your story?


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August 12, 2015

what's on my bookshelf? from coulter to garwood


Blogger's Note: After years of sharing my thoughts on books through book releases and #bookselfies, throughout the month of August I'll be giving you a closer look at what books are in my home library.



I introduced part of my Catherine Coulter collection last week, but the real mass appears on this shelf, particularly in the form of the Sherbrooke series.

My most-read Coulter book is The Sherbrooke Bride, the first in the series. I have fond memories of reading it. Not my first historical romance novel, but one of the first, I borrowed it from a friend, who had probably borrowed it from her mom. This was about the time that we, at 13, decided we should probably try our hands at co-authoring a historical romance novel. If I'm remembering the story correctly, then I'm fairly confident there were definitely some major allusions to the Sherbrooke series. It's also worth noting that we only made it a few pages in before we took a break to focus on watching Practical Magic while eating leftover lasagna. And then we never picked it up again. (By the next year, we were concerned with writing the next Harry Potter series, which was also abandoned for The First Wives Club and imitation crab time.)

We also see additional books that came to me from my mother in the form of Michael Crichton's works. That said, I did read Jurassic Park and The Lost World when I was in middle school. (They were probably the most challenging books I'd read to date at that point in my life.) My mom is a purist, and she preferred the book to the movie (as most people do), but man oh man, I really liked Sam Neill as Alan Grant and Jeff Goldblum as Ian Malcolm in the movies. They were defining parts of my childhood.

We move on to other books in my collection like James and the Giant Peach (not my favorite Roald Dahl book, but the one I picked up at a book fair) and my incomplete Bridget Jones series (I opted not to read Mad About the Boy, and a former roommate borrowed the first book in the trilogy and never returned it, which is part of why I still don't like lending books).

This is also the beginning of my Julie Garwood collection, which is one of my most extensive collections of historical romance. I'll talk about it more in my next bookshelf post, but these were some of my favorite books when I first discovered romance novels. Oddly enough, this shelf features three of my least-read Julie G books, but not because I didn't like them. I just already have about four or five in my "I read these every year" pile. You'll probably be able to pick those ones out for yourself in the picture.

Do you have any of the books on this shelf? Have you read any of them? Share your book story in the comments below.

The Complete List of Books Featured on This Shelf:

The Heiress Bride by Catherine Coulter
Lyon's Gate by Catherine Coulter
Mad Jack by Catherine Coulter
Pendragon by Catherine Coulter
They Penwyth Curse by Catherine Coulter
The Scottish Bride by Catherine Coulter
The Sherbrooke Bride by Catherine Coulter
The Sherbrooke Twins by Catherine Coulter
A Case of Need by Michael Crichton
Disclosure by Michael Crichton
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
The Lost World by Michael Crichton
Rising Sun by Michael Crichton
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Foul Play by Janet Evanovich
Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason by Helen Fielding
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Fatal Distraction by Emma Frederickson
The Bride by Julie Garwood
Castles by Julie Garwood
The Claybourne Brides by Julie Garwood


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August 11, 2015

cover reveal for 'first & goal'

I am thrilled to announce the upcoming release of my new novel, First & Goal. It is the first book in my Queen of the League series. As a lifelong football fan and fantasy football fanatic, working on this series has been a lot of fun.

Here's the scoop on this book:

When Harper Duquaine’s no-nonsense approach to work unintentionally ruffles the wrong feathers at her new job, she joins her co-workers’ fantasy football league to prove she can hang with the guys. Only problem: she doesn’t know a sleeper from a keeper (or any of the other lingo thrown her way). 
Embroiled in a world of lineups, stats, and trades, Harper’s quest to make nice topples when her competitive streak emerges. And her promise to herself that she’ll be a strong, independent woman and leave the drama and heartache behind is seriously tested when she catches the attention of her two biggest competitors: J.J., a local celebrity determined to win a fantasy championship, and Brook, the mild-mannered coach who seems too good to be true. Both threaten her resolve to remain single… and, more importantly, her chances at winning the prize pool. 
With a slew of conflicting advice in her real and fantasy worlds, Harper must figure out how to play the game and come out a winner.

And here's the cover:


This book will be published by Marching Ink on September 9. Stay tuned for more details about where you can purchase it, but until then you can add it to your to-read list on Goodreads.

You can also enter to win a free digital Advanced Reader Copy of the story by entering the Rafflecopter below. Good luck!



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August 10, 2015

my confessions: dubsmash addict

I'd like to think that we've become friends here on Change the Word during the past five plus years. And because we're friends, I'd like to confide one of my deepest darkest secrets. Here it goes...


My name is Laura, and I am addicted to Dubsmash.

For those of you who don't know, Dubsmash is a video messaging application that allows users, like moi, to use anywhere from two to ten seconds of audio (from songs, TV shows, and movies) and record a video lip synching it. The finished project turns out something like this...

video

Naturally a chance to be all kinds of dramatic, then force my friends into watching the results, holds a lot of appeal for me. I'm sure it doesn't come as a surprise to those of you who read Hard Hats and Doormats. Lexi Burke got her mad karaoke skills from someone (like her book mama). But appealing doesn't even begin to describe the sheer joy and excitement--which ultimately led to obsession--once I downloaded this app. The night one of my good friends and her husband introduced me to it, we exchanged videos back and forth for hours.

video

Nothing is sacred. Any and everything is a potential future Dubsmash. In the days that followed, it was rare for her and a few others to go a whole day without being forced to watch a couple of video responses. It actually reached a point that my sister told me I had to stop sending them, because she wasn't going to watch them any more. Everyone's a critic, or haters are gonna hate, I guess.

video

I liked to think I was offering inspiration or a few laughs, but I guess not.

video

My filming and distributing has grown less frequent in the past month, but Dubsmash is still there for me when I most need to procrastinate actual work or just can't express myself through my own words. Bless its little heart.

video

Maybe the real confession here is that I have a serious case of vanity. Bless MY little heart.

video


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August 7, 2015

playing i wish


I've been playing the "I wish" game a lot lately. And my wishes have spanned just about every topic.
I wish I lived somewhere with mountains. 
I wish I didn't live in an apartment with noisy neighbors. 
I wish it wasn't 100 degrees and humid. 
I wish my air-conditioning worked better.  
I wish I would have had more money to go on vacation. 
I wish my staycation wasn't over. 
I wish I worked from home. 
I wish I'd gone to RWA. 
I wish I was a best-selling novelist. 
I wish I had more reviews on Amazon. 
I wish I was a full-time writer. 
I wish I was better at meeting my goals.  
I wish this draft didn't need more editing. 
I wish my other project was coming together more smoothly. 
I wish I was thinner. 
I wish I didn't hate everything in my closet. 
I wish I was more disciplined. 
I wish I was more patient. 
I wish I was nicer. 
I wish Ever After was still on Netflix, because I'm too lazy to get up and put the DVD in the DVD player.
And so on.


Most of this wishful thinking comes from the amount of time I find myself spending on social media studying and envying the fabulous lives of the people I know. While the rational part of my brains knows and understands that we don't get the full picture of what a person's world looks like through the lens of social media, the jealous part of me is too busy wishing I was reading those posts from a five-star hotel in Seattle or London or anywhere fabulous.

The grass is always greener, you know?

Some of it also comes from myself, and I'm not sure what to do about that. I know I have plenty of good things in my life. I know I'm fortunate to have any home, and a job, and food, and family, and cats, and so on. And I am grateful for it, even if I don't always celebrate the good as often as I should. Maybe it's the burden of having an overactive imagination--one that has built up an amazing dreamworld for myself, one that makes my reality, which is really pretty good, seem less than stellar.

I should do less wishing and more praising.

I'm not entirely sure what I'm trying to say here, or what point I want to make. Maybe I just miss my staycation, and I should get over it. There's another part of me that doesn't want to let it go. That's the part of me who looks to those wishes--some of which may or may not come true--as a way to motivate myself to keep going. Isn't that what life is all about? Trying to make things better, pursuing happiness?

Do I have any fellow wishers in the house right now? What's on your mind?



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August 6, 2015

#bookselfie: maybe someday

During my Staycation last week, I finally read a book that has been on my Kindle for way too long from an author I've been following for a long time, but hadn't actually read yet. I'm pleased to say that the time I spent reading Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover were well spent, and my only wish was that I'd read it sooner.
At twenty-two years old, Sydney is enjoying a great life: She’s in college, working a steady job, in love with her wonderful boyfriend, Hunter, and rooming with her best friend, Tori. But everything changes when she discovers that Hunter is cheating on her—and she’s forced to decide what her next move should be. 
Soon, Sydney finds herself captivated by her mysterious and attractive neighbor, Ridge. She can't take her eyes off him or stop listening to the passionate way he plays his guitar every evening out on his balcony. And there’s something about Sydney that Ridge can’t ignore, either. They soon find themselves needing each other in more ways than one.
A passionate tale of friendship, betrayal, and romance, Maybe Someday will immerse readers in Sydney’s tumultuous world from the very first page.
I'm always really impressed when authors write dynamic and interesting characters with a twist--and this was definitely one of those books. Aside from the amazing and growing sexual tension between Ridge and Sydney, Ridge in particular was one of the most unique characters I've ever encountered. As much as I was flipping the pages to see what happened next, I was curious to get to know more about Ridge and his history.

Though I wish there had been a little more resolution between Sydney and Tori, the rest of the story developed nicely. Again, Hoover succeeded at taking a topic that's been done--girl gets betrayed by her best friend and boyfriend--and made it completely fresh and inventive.

The story also elicited this tweet from me during the reading process:


Because, yeah, there were quite a few "OMG" moments, and I'm pretty sure I said, "Eff that" out loud a few times... and I once or twice may have thrown my phone across the couch and buried my face in my hands until I was able to develop enough courage to see how the characters got out of the latest development.

Filled with plenty of angst and delicious tension, this was my first time reading Colleen Hoover's work, and it won't be my last.


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August 5, 2015

what's on my bookshelf? from christie to coulter


Blogger's Note: After years of sharing my thoughts on books through book releases and #bookselfies, throughout the month of August I'll be giving you a closer look at what books are in my home library.


My second shelf is pretty basic content-wise. We have the final 20 Agatha Christie novels in my collection, the Hunger Games trilogy and the first part of my Catherine Coulter Collection.

This is also the shelf with the most books still on my to-be-read list.

I confess, I've only read one Agatha Christie book in my life, and it isn't even one that I own. I borrowed my mom's copy of And Then There Were None when I was in sixth grade. I remember being pretty fascinated by how a grown-up murder mystery unfolded, particularly one with the characters being killed off left and right. I was also impressed by how well the story was written and how complicated yet simple everything seemed in the end.

Because of that early interest in Agatha Christie, when my mom was parting with some of her book collection a couple of years ago, I jumped at the chance to give these books a new home. While I haven't read them yet, I look forward to it. And when I do, there will be something kind of special about the books, because I'll know how well they were loved and read by my mom, the person who showed me the joy in being an avid reader.

Okay, another confession. I actually haven't read these copies of the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. I was a little skeptical going into the series, and so I downloaded the first book on my Nook on a Sunday afternoon a couple of weeks before the first movie was due for release in the theaters. And I couldn't put it down. I read the book in one sitting and promptly downloaded the second book. I stayed up most of the night reading and started the third book Monday night, again staying up. I was completely captivated by this series, and I desperately wanted to know what happened next. At the time, I considered calling in sick to work that Monday, and it wasn't because I was exhausted (though I was) from staying up most of the night reading. It was because I wanted to keep reading.

My former co-workers in the office and my friends will tell you I was pretty much obsessed with the trilogy for the next bit of time. I encouraged everyone I knew to read the books stat so we could get into deep philosophical conversations about them. Because I loved the stories so much, I wanted to have the whole trilogy. And because I wanted to have a nice, matching set, my friend who manages a local independent book store ordered the hard-bound volumes for me to adopt for my own collection. I've had a few people ask to borrow these books, and I've instead let them use my Nook, because I love these books so much (and I'm a really stingy book loaner--it's kind of terrible).

The next five books are historical romance novels from Catherine Coulter. I discovered her books in middle school when one of my best friends (the one, in fact, who manages the bookstore) and I would swap romance novels. In college, when I came into a little Barnes & Noble gift card money, I bulk-bought a lot of historical romance, including Coulter's work. I haven't read all five of these, but The Countess, which is a re-release of her debut novel, is one of the most well-worn and loved books on any of my shelves. It's one that every so often I'll think, "I really want to read about Andy and John." It's a first-person Gothic Regency, and it's pretty fantastic.

The Complete List of Books Featured on This Shelf: 


Cards on the Table by Agatha Christie
Cat Among the Pigeons by Agatha Christie
The Clocks by Agatha Christie
Dead Man's Folly by Agatha Christie
Destination Unknown by Agatha Christie
Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie
The Hollow by Agatha Christie
An Overdose of Death by Agatha Christie
Mrs. McGinity's Dead by Agatha Christie
The Mirror Crack'd by Agatha Christie
The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie
Murder in Retrospect by Agatha Christie
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
The Mysterious Mr. Quin by Agatha Christie
Partners in Crime by Agatha Christie
Passenger to Frankfurt by Agatha Christie
Peril at End House by Agatha Christie
The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie
Third Girl by Agatha Christie
Towards Zero by Agatha Christie
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
The Countess by Catherine Coulter
The Courtship by Catherine Coulter
Devil's Embrace by Catherine Coulter
The Hellion Bride by Catherine Coulter
The Heir by Catherine Coulter


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August 4, 2015

#bookselfie: going off script

A sometimes follower of E! News and a fan of Giuliana and Bill, I was pretty excited when my friend recently lent me a copy of Giuliana Rancic's new memoir Going Off Script: How I Survived a Crazy Childhood, Cancer, and Clooney's 32 On-Screen Rejections. Written in a casual, very Giuliana-like tone, it tells the story of growing up in Italy, moving to America, making her mark in the entertainment news biz, finding the love of her life, and fighting cancer to save it.
A witty, warm, and inspiring memoir from the E News! host, Fashion Police panelist, red-carpet correspondent, author, and reality show star Giuliana Rancic.   
Giuliana Rancic is best known for interviewing A-listers on the red carpet and E! News, skewering their shocking style choices on Fashion Police, and giving viewers a front row seat to her marriage and family life on her reality show, Giuliana & Bill. What fans may not know is that she learned English from Eddie Murphy, got her American citizenship so she could be a beauty queen, and used to have a bad habit of stealing cars for fun.  
Giuliana bares this and so much more in her hilarious, warm, and inspiring memoir, Going Off Script.  From a young age she dreamed of being a TV anchorwoman but, because of her inclination toward mischief and away from schoolwork, her path to her dream job was far from straight. After a fateful (and mortifying) encounter with the late Senator Ted Kennedy, she learned that Hollywood news was where she belonged.  Thankfully for readers, this epiphany led her to a bounty of LA misadventures (featuring notables such as Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Russell Crowe) and an entertaining behind-the-scenes perspective on what our favorite celebrities are really like.  
In spite of her glamorous Hollywood life, however, Giuliana could not escape some rockier times, including her battles with infertility and breast cancer.  Here, for the first time, she reveals the whole truth behind her well-publicized struggles, and the highly controversial decisions she had to make. And, of course, at the heart of it all are the two loves of her life who keep her strong through everything, her husband Bill and her son, Duke.  
Candid, funny, and poignant, Going Off Script is an autobiography that proves you don’t always have to follow the rules to get the life you’ve always dreamed of.
I went into the book feeling like I already knew quite a bit about Giuliana. I suppose that's the way a lot of us feel when we see someone on TV every day, particularly when we're given a pseudo-backstage glimpse of their life through a reality TV show. But there were quite a few stories in here that were new to me. And I also saw a more accurate depiction of what was really going on behind the scenes of cameras.

Though I laughed a lot, there were several moments of this story that had me full-out crying. While the Rancics were publicly candid about their struggles with fertility and her cancer diagnosis, these parts of the book were particularly crushing to read. They put on such a brave face publicly, that it makes me admire them even more to know how much of a hard-fought struggle it was to keep going when facing personal devastation.

Probably my favorite part about this book was reading more about how Giuliana and Bill's relationship developed. I've always thought they seemed like such a fun, loving couple that challenges and brings out the best in each other, but in reality it's all that times eleven. They're definitely a total #relationshipgoal.

I laughed a lot reading about her childhood, and will admit I was surprised to hear how much she struggled in school, though it made a lot of sense. It was at times inspiring to see how driven she was to fulfill her dreams even when there were naysayers telling her it wasn't going to happen.

And... I had actually just finished reading this book the night before Giuliana announced she would be leaving E! News. Based on some of the stories she shared in the book, I wasn't at all surprised by the news. Though she seemed appreciative for all of the opportunities her career with E! has afforded her, you definitely had the impression that maybe enough was enough and she was ready to move on to the next phase of her life.

If you're a fan of Giuliana and her work, this is a solid, fast-paced, and entertaining read that feels more like a gossip-session between friends than a straight-up memoir, which made it enjoyable.


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August 3, 2015

what's on my bookshelf? from alcott to christie


Blogger's Note: After years of sharing my thoughts on books through book releases and #bookselfies, throughout the month of August I'll be giving you a closer look at what books are in my home library.


My first bookshelf is kind of badass when you get down to it. Though it only encompasses about 20 books from authors that fall between Louisa May Alcott and Agatha Christie, you get a good taste of what the rest of my collection will hold.

There's a nice mix of historic and contemporary classics; cozy mysteries and anything but cozy mysteries; chick lit and romance; local and international; traditional and independent; young adult to stories I'd prefer my future kids wait until they're mature enough to handle. Another common theme this shelf shares with many others we'll explore in the weeks ahead of us: there's a mixture of books I've never read, stories I've read once, and ones I go back to over and over again.

This shelf has a lot of power when it comes to stories that I go back to over and over again. Stories that have changed my life.

A Lantern in Her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich is one of them. I read this book for the first time in fifth grade when my homeroom teacher learned about my love for the Little House book series. She wrote me a note in my reading journal suggesting I check out Bess Streeter Aldrich, who also wrote historical fiction based on her life and she was practically local, coming from nearby Elmwood, Nebraska. I read the book and I loved it. I went on to do a major book report and presentation on it--complete with me wearing my grandma's dress and bonnet from the Nebraska centennial celebration--and I earned a Girl Scouts patch for studying a local women's author.

(Sidebar thought: Does the Nebraska Girl Scouts organization still feature a different women's author/writer each year for girls to research and learn about? I sure hope so, because what an amazing idea!)

There's a ton of power contained in the Complete Novels of Jane Austen. This heavy volume contains dozens of characters and lines that inspire and thrill me each time I read them. Though I'd read Emma, Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility in other volumes, this specific copy was the one I used to read Persuasion for the first time. I later studied the story going back to review it again and again when I was plotting and writing The Marrying Type.

I recently (and finally) read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I figured it was about time after watching Michael Fassbender play Mr. Rochester dozens of times. Though it kind of took me forever to read it, I'm glad I did. While the movie was amazing, there were so many lines, so many little asides that weren't included, but that I immensely enjoyed.

This will also be our first, but not last, sighting of Agatha Christie books. (I'll save the story about those later.) But along the lines of mysteries, I have the first three Body Movers by Stephanie Bond. I actually reviewed the second book in the series for my college newspaper, and I had a chance to attend a day-long writing seminar led by Stephanie. While many of the stories on this shelf inspired me to become a writer, I would say that the day I spent listening to Stephanie talk about her method for plotting and her tips for maintaining steady writing was probably one of the most influential moments in my writing career. I still think about her advice often when I write, and I've carried those lessons with me and made them my own.

The Complete List of Books Featured on This Shelf:


Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
SECRET by L. Marie Adeline
A Lantern in Her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
The Ideal Wife by Mary Balogh
In Need of Therapy by Tracie Banister
Body Movers by Stephanie Bond
2 Bodies for the Price of 1 by Stephanie Bond
3 Men and a Body by Stephanie Bond
Daydreamer by Brea Brown
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Big Boned by Meg Cabot
The Elite by Kiera Cass
The One by Kiera Cass
The Selection by Kiera Cass
My Antonio by Willa Cather
13 for Luck by Agatha Christie
The A.B.C. Murders by Agatha Christie
Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie
The Big Four by Agatha Christie


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