April 25, 2017

visualizing my plot

I'm working on the first draft of my seventh novel right now. This is the first book in what I anticipate being a six-book series (with two spin-offs). Each book will focus on a different pair, but characters will make appearances in multiple stories and the timeline matters a lot.

With this big project in the works, I've done a few new things from a creating/crafting standpoint.

1. I created a series bible.

This is the physical version, but it also exists in a Scrivener file that will carryover from story to story. It includes detailed character sketches for the main characters, my outline, and major beats. But it also includes tools for me to track what characters reveal about their back story and personality--particularly in the stories where they're background characters. This will hopefully help me stay consistent and avoid having someone change eye colors from book to book.

Here's how the content of my physical series bible breaks down:

Section 1: Overall Series (timeline of books, character key (a living document where I will add elements revealed about reoccurring characters in each story for consistency/continuity), setting sketches (my current project focuses around a bar, so I created a floor plan and a small file of photos of different elements that exist in the bar))

Sections 2-7: Separate folder for each story, then within that:

  • Tab 1: Cover image (This is subject to change, but designing it helped put me in the mindset to tell this story)
  • Tab 2: Word count tracker
  • Tab 3: 10-Scene Outline
  • Tab 4: Working Synopsis (scene by scene/chapter outline, which also changes and evolves as I write)
  • Tab 5: Main Character sketches (I have two main characters in each of these stories and the sketches are four pages long, which includes a photograph of an actor/actress who looks a lot like I envision this character)
  • Tab 6: Secondary Character sketches (also contain a photo and bullet points with what we will know about this character in the book--and maybe a hint of what readers will eventually come to know--that are one-page each)
  • Tab 7: List of extremely minor characters who are only mentioned and maybe a one- or two-line description of who they are and their role in the story (this is one I'm working on as I go--I'm still outlining, and rando characters pop up as I write)
  • Tab 8: Setting sketches (with specific scenes being used in this particular story, which include locations that will be one-offs or revisited in one or two stories down the road)

It's so pretty. Seriously. I sometimes just sit and hold my little series bible and admire it to the point that I wonder if it's even necessary to write the book, because I put together such a lovely binder of supporting documents.

Then, I remind myself that I put a lot of time and energy into creating that lovely binder with its supporting documents, so I should probably put it to work.

Plus... at some point during the creating process, one of my kittens must've stepped in something then tracked it across the cover. So now it's decorated with his or her (I'm guessing this has Bing written all over it, though) handiwork too. Love.

If you're curious about making your own series bible, I used a few resources. One was a workshop I attended led by members of my local Romance Writers of America chapter. The other was this blog post.

As for the other tool I'm using...

2. I made a plot wall.

Yes, look at that. Isn't it a thing of beauty? Basically, one of the easiest ways for me to visualize my story line is to jot down a couple of notes about each scene and organize it chapter by chapter. I've done this on a couple of other books, then I use those notes to create a more thorough working synopsis, which I keep in my Scrivener file and my bible.

(If you'd like some tips on plotting out scenes, here's a great resource from Writers Digest.)

This time (also at the advice of a local RWA member) I used index cards to brainstorm conflict and tension that would keep the story going. I asked why can't she/he love him/her? And I focused on what stands in the way of her/him fulfilling their main goals.

It seemed like such a waste to set those index cards aside, never to be used again. And, now that I have my own office for creating, I figured I'd give them new life by hanging them on the closet doors in my office. They're not completely organized by acts, but that's not a totally incorrect way of looking at it. Mostly, there's the beginning. There's the ending. And then the middle is split into two parts that make sense to me and where the characters are on their development arc.

This serves a couple of good points. For one, I can look up at it from my desk and really visualize where I am in the story and what should--and should not--be revealed as I write. Two, I can see it from my treadmill, so even when I'm burning a few calories, I have my story literally in sight. And three... it's just kind of nice to have. I mean, whenever I pass my office, whenever I enter it, there's no avoiding my current WIP.

Down the road, as I write more and more, I hope I'll also be able to look at this and see how far I've come. At the very least, it doesn't hurt anything, right? I'll keep you posted on how this works out.

What are some tools you use for planning and plotting your stories? How do you stay motivated? Feel free to share any tips you might have in the comments.

*** Let's keep in touch! You can find out what's going on in my world between blog posts by following my daily adventures on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. You can subscribe to my monthly newsletter here. You can also find out more about my books by visiting my website, www.laurachapmanbooks.com. Whew. ***

April 20, 2017

a brief history on my life as a writer

For the past year, I have served as the honorary author member on the Nebraska Literary Heritage Association’s Board. The NLHA provides support for the Lincoln City Libraries’ Jane Geske Pope Heritage Room of Nebraska Authors, which collects, preserves, and promotes work by and about Nebraska Authors.

As my year on the board comes to an end, I was asked to give a brief presentation on myself and my writing during our meeting yesterday. I’m a Toastmasters drop-out, and public speaking isn’t my favorite thing in the world, but I did my best to put together some remarks on my story as a writer and what I do.

So I thought I’d share it with all of you. Here’s the talk I wrote, and I (mostly) tried to stick to the script. (Though, I'm pretty proud to say I barely looked at my notes, so I probably paraphrased and shook up the word choice.)

Nebraska Literary Heritage Association Presentation

April 19, 2017 at 3:30 p.m.
Bennett Martin Public Library

Growing up here in Nebraska, I always knew I wanted to be a writer. That began with being a reader. At my house, we were always reading. My mom always had a mystery novel from Agatha Christie or a thriller from John Grisham with her as she took us kids to our various music, sports, and art classes. I remember spending Saturday mornings learning about space, history, animals, and fairy tales from the children’s encyclopedias we had. My dad was interested in everything, and those bound volumes helped us keep up with him.

When I graduated to picking out my own book, I raced through the Baby-Sitters Club and Little House series. And as a Nebraskan, I found great inspiration as a reader—and writer—from Bess Streeter Aldrich and Willa Cather.

(As an aside, I geeked out the first time I saw my books on the same shelf as Willa Cather right here in the Heritage Room.)

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a reader or when I didn’t want to be a story-teller. Even in elementary school, every time we did creative writing, I imagined a day when the stories I wrote would be published for others to read. In 8th grade I was even lucky enough to participate in the Writers Write Workshop. And somewhere in the Heritage Room archives, there is a badly written poem about softball thanks to that experience.

Fast forward to college. I earned a journalism degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and minored in English and history. Journalism seemed like a practical way to make a living as a writer, but it actually made me a better story-teller. I learned how to ask questions—the right ones—to dig deeper. I learned that subjects that didn’t seem interesting on the surface could be fascinating. And most importantly, I learned that everyone has a story to tell.

Journalism also gave me a ticket to see more of the world. In college, I spent a week in England studying international quilting traditions. (That week, incidentally, also helped prepare me for the job I have now working at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum.) I spent a summer in Carbondale, Illinois, as a news intern, covering everything from major flooding and the 2008 presidential election to a multimedia depth report on coal and its impact on the region. And I spent the first four years of my professional career traveling to more than 22 states interviewing and photographing people to tell their stories in corporate newsletters and websites.

This was an interesting job, but it came with a lot of challenges. Long days, longer weeks away from home. Uncooperative interviewees. Never having any idea of what to expect, which was tough for a planner like me. It was this chaotic time, though, that inspired me to write my first novel.

I was in a rental car somewhere in central Louisiana, on day four of a six-day trip along the Gulf Coast. I’d already logged more than 1,000 miles behind the wheel and I still had a lot of territory—and work—to cover. I was visiting two different railroad customers, which meant I had two different hard hats, plus the rest of the personal protective equipment I needed like steel-toed boots and a reflective vest. They littered the floor of my car along with road maps, notes, and empty water bottles. I looked at the mess I’d made and thought about the roller coaster I’d already experienced that week and I was struck with a thought. This was my life—hard hats and doormats. It made me laugh, and I thought it might make for a funny book. I spent the rest of the drive imagining how I’d write this as a story. I’d naturally work for a complicated industry I barely understood. I’d have difficult co-workers who added unnecessary drama. Of course, I’d have a love interest. Some handsome colleague I wasn’t allowed to date, because of corporate policy. I’d face a series of problems—some big, some small—but they could all be resolved somewhere between page one and “the end.” And while my life was pretty unhappy and lonely at the time, my story would be a romantic comedy with a happy ever after—or at least a happy for now.

I thought about that story for more than a year before I wrote it. In November 2010, I was hanging out on Facebook when a friend posted about National Novel Writing Month. For thirty days, she planned to work towards a goal of writing 50,000 words. It sounded impossible but perfect all at once. By this point in my life, I’d moved to and from Houston. I’d loved—or rather crushed hard—and lost. I felt like my life was lacking direction and like I had little to show for several years of hard work. I was also dealing with severe anxiety, though I didn’t understand what it was. I needed a lifeline—something to pull me in and hold me stead. NaNoWriMo was that for me. And while I didn’t exactly know what I was doing, I made myself write most days. Some of it was good. A lot of it was bad. But when I hit 50,000 words at 9 p.m. on November 30, none of that mattered. After feeling like I’d fallen short on so many goals I’d set for myself, I had accomplished one of them. One that had me working toward that dream I’d always had of writing.

Since that November, I’ve written and published six novels, two novellas, and two novelettes—with a third currently in editing and due for release this fall. I’ve participated in—and completed—six more NaNoWriMos. I’m now Lincoln’s local coordinator for the organization. I’ve published with small presses and independently. I’ve written stories about reality TV hosts, rock stars, professors, and car salesmen. I’ve experimented with my voice, style, and technique.  I’ve come back to the Writers Write Workshop twice—this time as an author. I’ve had a book become a bestseller (briefly, but it was there). I’ve had days I’ve sold no books. I’ve been interviewed on USA Today. I’ve had my publisher go out of business. So still, a lot of highs and lows, but you get through that roller coaster better when it’s something you love.

My writing and I have changed a lot over time. But there are a few things you can usually expect when you pick up a romantic comedy by Laura Chapman.

1)  There will be laughs. At least I hope people find them funny.
2)  The characters will be people you recognize. Even if they’re a famous football coach, I strive to make them as real and relatable as possible.
3)  Some of the characters will find love. The focus is usually on the romantic, but there’s a lot of love between friends and family, too.
4)  There will be a happy ending. I’ll put my characters through some struggle and pain, but I like to leave them in a good, promising place.

My dad used to ask me why I wrote rom-coms. Given my background in news, he’d ask why I didn’t set out to write the Great American Novel. Being contrary, that would naturally set me off. I’d rant about the subjective definition and systemic biases and overlooked marginalized groups. The best argument I gave was that the Great American novel captures the spirit of a place, people, and time in America. My characters and places are real and reflect their times. They just happen to fall in love and get into silly situations along the way.

But the real reason I write rom-coms is because they’re an escape for me. Both as a writer and reader. After years of covering car accidents, railroad incidents, floods, and other disasters, when I write now, I like to write to make myself—and others—laugh and feel hopeful. There’s so much you can’t count on in this world, but I like being able to count on that happy ever after in my stories.

*** Let's keep in touch! You can find out what's going on in my world between blog posts by following my daily adventures on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. You can subscribe to my monthly newsletter here. You can also find out more about my books by visiting my website, www.laurachapmanbooks.com. Whew. ***

April 18, 2017

my book launch marketing plan and results

Now to talk about something that has become an even bigger part of author life: marketing.

Though I've always been interested in book marketing, I've paid even more attention to it since my previous publisher unexpectedly closed last fall and I became my own publisher. Through my reading and research, I particularly appreciated posts from other authors that offered real talk on what they did and their results. After a lot of consideration, I decided to put this post together looking at my recent book launch. This is not intended to be a pity party and it is definitely not meant to call out anyone. I'm specifically not including names in places, because I do not want this to feel like I am targeting anyone. Especially because this was my experience and it is not necessarily indicative of what others might face. I am sharing this information in case it can offer insight or guidance to other authors out there.

With those disclaimers, let's get into it.

My Book Launch Marketing Plan

For my launch, I decided to use a combination of marketing approaches that included social media, newsletters, advertisements, and blogs. This included:

  • Blog Tour (self-organized using a Google Doc sign-up promoted in my newsletter and shared with bloggers I have worked with previously) featuring a Rafflecopter giveaway with entries for social sharing
  • Release Blast organized by a tour company featuring a Rafflecopter giveaway with entries for social sharing
  • Newsletters (mine as well as ads in a couple of industry newsletters)
  • Facebook Ads
  • Amazon Marketing Services Ads
  • Social Media Posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

In addition, I submitted my book for review with a couple of review sites separate from the tour. I also was fortunate to be interviewed on USA TODAY's Happy Ever After blog, which was a nice bonus and fun experience.

Marketing Expenses

  • Facebook Pre-order Ad: $11.19 
  • Facebook Release Week Ad: $28.29 
  • Amazon Marketing Services Sponsored Product Ad: $11.11 
  • Pre-Order, Release Day, and Bonus Day Ad in a Romance-Focused Daily Newsletter: $15
  • Release Day Ad in a Women's Fiction-Focused Newsletter: $5 (Note: This was a somewhat unexpected expense. I didn't actually know this was a go until I saw my book in the newsletter and received an invoice shortly after. But, it was 5 bucks, so not a major hardship.)
  • Release Blast: $100
  • Prizes: $40 (This included two $10 Amazon gift cards and physical prizes. I am not including the expense of audiobooks gifted, because I had a set available at no cost to me.)
  • Shipping: $9 (all sent First-Class)

Target budget: $200
Total spent: $219 (I went a little over, because I impulsively added a few days to my Facebook and AMS ads, and I had the unconfirmed newsletter ad run.)

Comparatively, I imagine this is not a large promotional budget, but it is the biggest one I have had for a book launch. I set this amount as my target, because I felt this is what I could afford to lose if I did not generate major sales.

Blog Tour

I had about 20 bloggers sign-up to participate in a blog tour that I hosted. I spread out the sign-ups over three weeks. The first week ran one week prior to release day and included pre-order links. The second two weeks ran after the book was already out. Posts included a combination of reviews, excerpts, guest posts, and interviews. These were quite time consuming to produce, particularly the interview answers and guest posts. I also struggled some with coming up with unique guest posts when the host did not provide prompts, which most did not.

Of the bloggers who committed to dates on the tour:

  • Two had to cancel their posts at last-minute because of unexpected life events, which is totally understandable and unavoidable.
  • Two did not post content without explanation or response to prompt emails.
  • I received six four- or five-star reviews on blogs, of which five were cross-posted on Amazon. One person who received an ARC posted a review exclusively on Amazon. This was out of 11 possible reviews signed up for on the Google form I created to enlist participation.
  • Most bloggers shared the new posts on their Twitter and Facebook pages, while a couple did not. Of those who shared, a majority tagged either my Twitter handle or my Facebook page. About half did both.
  • I did not see any pre-order sales from the blog tour spots posted in the week before the book's release.
  • I did not see new sales during the final days of the blog tour, when I did not have other advertising running.
  • I did not see social interaction from these blog posts beyond readers sharing a tweet to enter the tour's Rafflecopter for prizes. 
  • With that same Rafflecopter, I did garner some new subscribers for my monthly newsletter. A number of those who said they signed up for my newsletter unfortunately did not. (I removed those names from the drawing.)

My Takeaway: I will hesitate to do a blog tour that includes guest posts in the future. Creating this content was time consuming (and sometimes challenging), and it did not appear to create significant results in sales or platform-building. I will put more focus on providing ARCs to book bloggers in exchange for honest reviews. In terms of doing prizes, I will also reconsider what I do for entries. Though there were a number of tweets sent throughout the tour, I do not believe many--if any--resulted in sales. Still, book bloggers are wonderful and do a great job. Building a great list of bloggers, and looking for additional ones to join your promotional team, is an important part in helping you build an audience.

Release Blast 

I worked with a tour company used by several authors I admire and respect. The prep work was pretty easy for me. I booked a date, paid my invoice, and filled out a form containing the information I wanted provided all within 48-72 hours of contacting the company's organizer. I provided unproofed ARCs, because I had to book this farther in advance, and agreed to provide a giveaway. Some notes:

  • This took relatively little work on my part with everything pretty well managed by the company.
  • I booked my blast (which would include dozens of promotional stops) for March 22, the day after my release, because March 21 was already booked.
  • My one area of concern was that I am not sure how many review copies of my book were sent out. I know at least six, because that's how many bloggers shared reviews. But I did also receive an Amazon review from someone who did not have a blog, but said she received a copy from the tour organizer. I also heard from a writer friend who said she requested, and received, an ARC of my book, but I did not send one to her. This isn't a huge point, but I wish I better understood how this worked.
  • I received a handful of Amazon reviews (five or six) as a result of this promotion.
  • The day of my blast also coincided with my interview on Happy Ever After and the second day of my ad with a promotional newsletter blast. That makes it a little more challenging to determine the point of origin for sales that day, and those to follow.
  • Sales for the day were 60 percent what they were the day before, which is not wholly unexpected. However, the number of sales that day--and in the days following--did not pay for the cost of this promotion.
  • Most of the participating sites--including the tour company--did not tag my social channels when sharing. This isn't a huge issue, either, but it would have been nice as I tagged them.

My Takeaway: While I appreciated the ease with working with this tour company and the professionalism, I am not sure if I can fiscally justify booking a release blast again at this point in my career. I would have liked to see more reviews and more platform building results. However, if later in my writing career I have more resources and I decide to do another tour company-run blast or tour, I would likely work with this team. I would also consider booking a general blog tour in the future, too.


In my February and March newsletters, I shared the pre-order links for the book. I use MailChimp, which provides useful analytics for tracking how subscribers interact with your newsletter.

  • In February, 11 percent of newsletter subscribers clicked on the Amazon pre-order link, 6 percent clicked on the Goodreads link, 2 percent clicked on the Kobo pre-order link, 2 percent clicked on the Apple pre-order link, and 2 percent clicked on the Barnes & Noble link.
  • In March, 6 percent of newsletter subscribers click on the Amazon pre-order link, 2 percent clicked on the Barnes & Noble pre-order link, and 2 percent clicked on the generic Books2Read link, which takes readers to all available channels for purchasing the book.

I sent a release day email with the sale links and information about the blog tour, release blast and prizes that would be available.

  • Outside of the two Rafflecopter giveaways, I had three prize packages up for grabs with this release. All three did not require purchasing and would give one entry for a chance to win. 
  • The first prize was exclusively for newsletter subscribers. To enter, subscribers just had to email me. I asked them to send me a note of good cheer or to tell me about one room they would like to renovate in their home. I had about 20 entries. 
  • For the second, I asked readers to share my Facebook post. I had 28 shares on this post. Of those, I believe eight came directly from the newsletter based on analytics.
  • On the third, I asked people to review the book on their blog or Amazon by March 31. This had the fewest entries with perhaps a handful.
  • As far as sales links, release day clicks consisted of 21 percent on Amazon and 3 percent on Books2Read

As mentioned earlier, I also had ads in two romance/women's fiction industry newsletters. One cost $15 and included prominent placement on the organizer's main website on March 21 and 22 as well as a participation in a pre-order event, which (on the day it launched) yielded a handful of pre-orders, but also during its run increased my Facebook page likes and Twitter followers. I also received a mention in their daily newsletters on March 21 and 22. 

The second ad, which was a surprise but inexpensive at $5, appeared in a brief newsletter message along with a couple of other new releases. 

My Takeaway: Everything I read says newsletters are the way of the future. At present, it is free for me to operate and takes me relatively little time to assemble (I do these for a living and have for almost nine years, five in a marketing capacity), so I will continue to do them. I might as well.

As for the two newsletters I purchased ads with . . . It's hard to tell what sales either of these directly generated, but I did notice an increase in purchases on both days after the first newsletter hit inboxes (or at least mine). The number of books sold at these times made back the money spent. The first newsletter scored bonus points with me, because it provided prompt response--and invoicing--when I inquired about placing an ad. The organizer also sent me an email with links and suggestions on how I could share the information myself on Facebook, Twitter and in newsletter, even providing copy I could use. That level of organization--without being over the top--scored major points with me. I've worked with this company before on sales announcements that also led to successful sales figures. Because of their professionalism, organization, and the good results, I will definitely work with them again in the future.

Facebook Ads/Amazon Marketing Services Ads

I'm lumping these together, because they kind of work in similar ways. You set dates and parameters as well as a budget of how much you are willing to spend on clicks. Some things of note:

  • After seeing no pre-orders come in with the first week of my blog tour, it was gratifying to have what amounted to about 1/3 of my pre-orders come in after the Facebook and Amazon ads went live the weekend before release day.
  • On Facebook, I spent $11.19 for 21 clicks (53.3 cents per click) during the pre-order promo, and $28.29 for 48 clicks (58.9 cents per click) during the release week. On the pre-orders, I was intrigued to find that 57 percent of the pre-order clicks and 47.9 percent of the release week clicks came from the 55-64 and 65+ age groups. These are often ignored in ad targeting, and I am glad I included them.
  • Through AMS, I spent $11.11 on 76 clicks (15 cents per click) and generated an estimated $24.95 sales from those ads.

My Takeaway: I was particularly impressed with the results on Amazon. While these weren't huge, making back the money--and then more than twice what I spent--convinced me that this is a worthwhile venture. I'm not quite as sold on the Facebook ads. While you can see the number of clicks, I am not sure whether or not these resulted in sales. The Facebook ads were also quite a bit more money than the Amazon ads, without being able to provide me with quite as much information. I'll definitely use Amazon ads again in the future and will likely increase my budget there. I will continue to tinker with Facebook ads to see if they end up being worth my while.

Social Media Posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

On my launch sign-up, I invited people to participate in the launch via social media. The majority of the people who clicked on this box also wanted to participate in the blog tour. I did have a couple of additional people sign-up just to share these posts. So, at the time I created my blogger media kit and interviews/guest posts, I also created a small social sharing kit. This included two posts that could run on Facebook or Instagram and a few tweets that could be scheduled. I sent these out about a month before the launch.

Interestingly, none of the individuals who signed up exclusively to participate in the social media blast on my form used the content I sent them. They did share a post from my Facebook page, which was appreciated. I did also have a few author friends contact me to see if they could receive information to share on their pages.

My Takeaway: While these weren't too hard to put together, I'm not sure it is worth the time and effort put into creating this content for anyone not signed up for the blog tour. In the future, if I do promotional sign-ups, this will probably not be an option. While I may provide a couple of suggested tweets or posts to bloggers, this will not be a focus.

Overall Results

Based on the amount of money spent on advertising and royalties generated, this book launch was not fiscally successful. During the time frame I ran the marketing, my sales equaled 75.6 percent of what I spent. Of course, I could still see results from these labors in the future. That said, based on how quickly sales dropped after the newsletter, Facebook, and Amazon ads concluded, I am not sure how fast I will recoup those expenses, as well as the direct costs of production (editing, cover design, etc.).

Though I was somewhat disappointed by this figure, I did see my best release week sales to date with these combined efforts.

This experience taught me quite a few lessons. The biggest was that strategic ad placement with Amazon, Facebook, and the right industry newsletters seems to be the best way to go. I also learned that, unfortunately, blog tours do not seem to carry the weight they once did in resulting sales. (Though, I still say book bloggers are amazing and their reviews are helpful, particularly on Amazon and Goodreads.)

Probably the biggest result I saw: Amazon remains king. Playing House is available on Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. In eBook sales, Amazon Kindle sales accounted for 12.5 percent of pre-orders and 9.6 percent of sales after release (March 21-31). During that same time period, all of my print sales were from Amazon.

Final Thoughts

What does all this mean? In short: I don't know. I am naturally disappointed to see that the time and money invested did not pay off as I'd hoped. I also recognize that my book has only been out a month, and the groundwork laid out before could lead to better results in the future. And--in full disclosure--I'll admit looking at the figures and my bank account makes me a little sick to my stomach. Fortunately, I have a good full-time job that helps me pay the bills--and, right now, finances my publishing venture. That means I don't have to make any hard and fast decisions at present.

Here's my advice to you, which you are free to take or leave, appreciate or scoff at, however you like:
  • Set and follow a budget.
  • Track your results to find what does and does not work best for your platform.
  • Spend only what you can afford. You may recover your costs instantly, or you may not ever recover them, or it may take some time. Regardless, you do not want to put yourself in debt.
  • Provide ARCs to book reviewers one month in advance. I know of some people who are able to get reviews with fast turn-around (like one or two weeks), but in general, it is a kindness to the blogger to give as much time as possible. 
  • Create professional and attention-grabbing content that is easy for others to use.
  • Have a newsletter.
  • Be gracious and grateful. Your results may not be what you hope they will be, but that doesn't mean you should let disappointment taint the way you treat others. But . . .
  • Keep track of people who fulfill their commitments to you and those who don't. It will help you in the future when determining who you should reach out to for reviews and features.

That will pretty much do it for me. I hope this has been helpful or interesting. If you have any of your own results, suggestions, or tips that you would like to share, please feel free to leave a comment. If you are an author and would like specific recommendations on tour companies and promoters, please feel free to send me a private message on Facebook, and I would be glad to offer any testimonials I can.

*** Let's keep in touch! You can find out what's going on in my world between blog posts by following my daily adventures on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. You can subscribe to my monthly newsletter here. You can also find out more about my books by visiting my website, www.laurachapmanbooks.com. Whew. ***

April 6, 2017

a diy guide to your ultimate disney staycation

On Tuesday, I wrote about the Disney Staycation I had for myself a week ago. There's something so perfect about escaping into worlds that you've known forever. It's not whimsical, but comforting, like disappearing into a second home you know almost as well as your own.

My senior year of high school, I went to a screening of the remake of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. There's no polite way to say that, so I'll come out with it: I hate horror movies. I only went because my friends and boyfriend were going, and I didn't want to be a party pooper. I was so freaked out by the movie, when I came the only way I could keep myself from having nightmares was to pop in our old VHS copy of The Little Mermaid. I kept up that tradition when I was in college. I'd get home from a night out the bar--maybe with a little case of the spins--and I'd pop in Aladdin or Beauty and the Beast while I fell asleep.

Nothing like a little Disney Therapy to do the trick. And even though I'm much more grown-up (and avoiding both horror movies and the spins alike), Disney still works for me. And my Disney Staycation was heaven.

I had so much fun indulging in that fun, I wanted to share some of my tips in case you'd like to have your own.

So those were my (hopefully) helpful tips for planning and holding your own Disney Staycation. What do you think? Does this sound like something you'd like to try? What would you include in your itinerary?

*** Let's keep in touch! You can find out what's going on in my world between blog posts by following my daily adventures on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. You can subscribe to my monthly newsletter here. You can also find out more about my books by visiting my website, www.laurachapmanbooks.com. Whew. ***

April 4, 2017

not the most magical place in the world, but close enough

The day after releasing Playing House, I realized I needed a vacation. Releasing a book takes a lot out of you. There's the writing, the editing, more editing, and then some more editing. Then you have to figure out your publishing plan--writing the blurb, creating the cover, formatting, figuring out how you're going to market it, then marketing the whole thing. You put a lot of time into it, but more, there's a lot of your heart and spirit.

Add in everyday challenges like working a full-time job, trying to eat healthy, be a responsible adult, and maintain relationships with family and friends, and it can be taxing. At least that's how I find it. As much as I love doing this, as much as this is my dream, my bucket always feels a little empty by the time it's said and done.

I've discussed this before, but I have anxiety issues. If I stress too much and let it pile up, I have panic attacks and can go through bouts of depression. During the past few years, I've done some counseling and learned how to detect the warning signs and ways to prevent anxiety from taking over and causing more serious issues. Sometimes, I'm better at managing than others, but I'm doing a lot better.

A few days before the book release, I could see the signs. I'd burst into tears listening to a song. I'd wake up countless times in the night, grinding my teeth and stressing about imagined problems. I'd feel an overwhelming urge to eat a bag of potato chips or candy bars--and not because I'm maintaining a fairly healthy diet. I'd sit down to write, but the words wouldn't come.

With a lot going on with my day job and my writing career, I knew I couldn't afford to have a total meltdown.

I thought about some of my happiest moments in recent memory--times when I felt truly relaxed and happy. The one that came through loudest and most vividly was my trip to Los Angeles as an early celebration for my 30th birthday last summer. One of my best friends had invited me for a long weekend that would culminate in us going to see The Little Mermaid concert at the Hollywood Bowl on the evening Jodie Benson performed with the crew. If that wasn't exciting enough, then when I arrived at the airport, I learned that my friends were surprising me with a day at one of the most magical places in the world: Disneyland. I'd never been before, and I couldn't come up with anything more profound than "I can't believe it" as we made our way to the park.

About to walk into the park to begin a magical and memorable day.

The day was spectacular. I might have been about to turn 30, but I might as well have been 13 or 3. The whole experience was magical.

As I thought about that lovely day I was struck with another idea. The only thing better than getting to spend a day at Disney would be getting to spend one inside one of my favorite Disney movies. With as much chaos going on in my little kingdom and our world at large, the idea of escaping under the sea or into a castle sounds all too appealing.

Unfortunately, an impromptu trip to Disneyland or World is out of the question right now. It's not in my budget, and I don't have the time in my schedule. And, unless science has found a way, I won't be swapping spots with Ariel or Belle any time soon. That's when I had the idea. Why not have a Disney Staycation?

Now, you might be asking, what exactly does one do on a Disney Staycation? Have no fear, I documented the whole thing.

To start off my Disney Staycation on the right foot, I made sure to have the appropriate wardrobe. That meant my The Little Mermaid T-Shirt and bracelet, my Beauty and the Beast socks, a sparkly headband (to feel like a princess), my Minnie Mouse ears, and a pair of animal-print leggings.

This attire would allow me to be functional for what I had planned for my day while also getting in the spirit of the whole thing. I did end up ditching the Minnie Mouse ears shortly after breakfast, but not before I shared them with a furry friend.

Bingley must love me a lot to put up with my nonsense.

Isn't he the cutest thing in the ever?

My number one rule for the day was to not check my emails (or my sales records or rankings) for the whole day. Rule number two was to stay off of social media for the most part. Rule number three: have fun.

With that guide, after creating a movie watch list (I'll come back to this later) I decided to pad out the day with other activities. This included coloring Disney princess pictures while I watched the movies.

Which I promptly snapped photos of and texted to my mom for approval,
because isn't that what you're supposed to do when you color a pretty picture?

I did a 30-minute cardio workout on my treadmill while listening to my Disney playlist. This actually ended up being a lot of fun, because I could lip-synch along while I sweated it out. (No real singing, though, because I didn't have the breath.) I added the workout to the schedule for a couple of reasons. 1) I'm in the midst of a lifestyle change (again) and trying to eat well and be more active. 2) When you visit a Disney park, you spend a lot of time walking around. Treadmill time--followed by a light Pilates routine--was my way of paying homage. As a note to myself: I need to work on a better playlist exclusively for working out. Some of the songs were just way too slow when I needed pep and motivation.

I scheduled a nap for myself, which was delightful, if the pool of drool I left on my pillow was any indication. I also booked myself a spa appointment in my bathroom. That included taking a nice hot bath, full body scrub with this cocoa bean product I have, giving myself a manicure and pedicure, and doing this weird seaweed face mask that looked super weird.

I kind of felt like that guy in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Ick. But my skin did feel pampered when it was all said and done.

As I mentioned, I'm back on the wagon of trying to be healthier, which means following a balanced meal plan and regular exercise. I wanted to maintain that, but I also wanted to treat myself a little, because this was my Disney Staycation, after all.

I created a menu that would fulfill my health goals while also feeling like a treat. That included having a full breakfast of an egg white and cheese omelet with veggie tots (these are seriously my new favorite food), and Morningstar sausage links (these are lower in calories, and they also fit the Pescetarian diet I follow).

My morning snack was an impulse--but a perfect one. Upon discovering that I had enough frozen pineapple and almond milk on hand--plus the calories to play with after my workout--I made the most Disney treat I could: homemade Dole Whip.

Heaven is a place on Earth, or rather in this cup.

If you aren't familiar, Dole Whip is quite possibly the most magical thing about Disney. I sampled it for the first time during my birthday trip, and it is now my favorite dessert. Made entirely out of 1/2 cup of frozen pineapple and 1/2 cup of Almond milk (plus a little squeeze of lemon when I made it), this treat is a little high on natural sugars, but much lower in calories and fat than ice cream.

This felt like a decadent treat and was a big highlight of my day.

For lunch, I had Trader Joe's guilt-free Mac and Cheese, a Boca spicy chicken patty, and some broccoli. This isn't so much a Disney-themed meal as it was a spin on one of my childhood favorites. For afternoon snack I had dark chocolate-covered blueberries from Brookside and a grapefruit shandy (hey, I was on vacation). And for my final movie of the evening, I ate some Skinny Pop.

But the real excitement came when it was time for dinner. While shopping at Trader Joe's, I stumbled upon Cod Provencale with Ratatouille & Rice in the frozen foods section. It seemed like the most perfect meal I could ever pair with my watching of Beauty and the Beast.

I re-plated dinner instead of eating it out of the frozen container,
and I was pleasantly surprised to see how pretty it turned out.

I was right. Though a little skeptical about how it would taste, this dish was delicious and one I'll definitely grab again. Plus, it was pretty fun to feel like I was dining on French cuisine while watching "Be Our Guest." Speaking of movie watching . . .

You can really make your Disney Staycation whatever you want it to be, but I don't think you can go wrong with having a marathon of some of your favorites. I already owned Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid (obvi), and I had The Emperor's New Groove waiting for me on Netflix. But as a "Happy Release Day" present to myself, I ordered a few of my other favorites to round out the collection.

I also have several others on my Amazon Wish List, now, which means I'll have to do one of these days again.

Both kittens fully endorsed spending part of the day
curled up on the couch watching movies.

And because I was way too excited and way too into this whole idea, I created this handy dandy little itinerary for the day in Canva:

I am pleased to say that I accomplished everything on my list. I also finished the day feeling more relaxed and happy than I had been in a long while. Maybe it was just disconnecting from my email (and mostly from my social media). Maybe it was focusing on something other than work. Then again, it could have been the magic of Disney.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for my how-to guide on how to hold your own Disney Staycation.

*** Let's keep in touch! You can find out what's going on in my world between blog posts by following my daily adventures on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. You can subscribe to my monthly newsletter here. You can also find out more about my books by visiting my website, www.laurachapmanbooks.com. Whew. ***

March 21, 2017

'playing house' is now available!


She’s a work in progress . . .

Bailey Meredith has had it. As an assistant at a prestigious interior design firm, she’s tired of making coffee and filing invoices. She’ll do just about anything to get out from under the paperwork and into the field for real experience. Then she sees an ad for a job that seems too good to be true.

He’s a fixer upper . . .

Wilder Aldrich knew she would be perfect for the crew the moment he saw her. His hit home improvement show only hired the best, and Bailey had potential written all over her. It isn’t just her imaginative creativity and unmatched work ethic that grabs his attention. There’s just something about her.

With chemistry on screen, it’s only a matter of time before sparks fly behind the scenes as well. But with Bailey’s jaded views on romance and a big secret that could destroy Wilder and everyone he cares about, are either of them willing to risk it all for love?

Find it on 

Available through March 31 for only $2.99--that's $1 off the regular price.

This month, during the Playing House blog tour, you can enter the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win one of 1 free Audible copy each of The Marrying Type, First & Goal, Going for Two or 1 $20 Amazon gift card.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*** Let's keep in touch! You can find out what's going on in my world between blog posts by following my daily adventures on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. You can subscribe to my monthly newsletter here. You can also find out more about my books by visiting my website, www.laurachapmanbooks.com. Whew. ***

March 14, 2017

teaser tuesday: an excerpt from 'playing house' - available march 21

I'm super excited (and nervous). In exactly one week, my new novel, Playing House, will be in your hands to read. Ack. It's the romantic story I came up with after a weekend of serious HGTV binge-watching. I hope you love it.

In the meantime, here's an excerpt of the book to give you a taste. In this scene, Bailey is on-set for her first real day of filming. Even though she's supposed to mostly be a background player, she's given a chance to see how she does on camera.

“What should I do?” 
“Be yourself.” Renee squeezed her shoulder. “Just be your pithy self and you’ll be great.” 
What was that even supposed to mean? Bailey would have asked, but Renee had already turned to chase after Waverly. She probably wanted to keep Waverly’s call to ten minutes if possible. 
Well, fine. Bailey could figure out what she meant by “pithy” on her own. She’d start by googling “pithy.” She was so absorbed in reading the definition—“concise and forcefully expressive,” which so wasn’t her—she almost didn’t notice Wilder staring at her. 
Is the Pope Catholic? Does the sun rise in the east and set in the west? Is Ryan Gosling the hottest thing to ever come out of Canada? Or maybe it’s Ryan Reynolds. It’s definitely one of the Ryans, though. (Sorry, not sorry, Waverly.) 
Rather than give an outright answer and admit she was terrified, she gave a half shrug. 
Pithy. She probably needed to come up with some clever, but not show-stealing, lines to say on camera. She could still feel his eyes on her, even though she tried ignoring him. It was easier not looking into the camera lens than it was to pretend she didn’t notice how well he looked with a tool belt slung around his hips. 
It was particularly difficult with him standing there with his thumbs hooked into his distressed jean pockets. 
“Want to run through a couple of potential lines?” 
Her eyes flew to his. “Really?” 
“Sure. It’ll be fun. What do you have worked out already?”  
“Well . . .” She took a deep, calming breath through her nose and pulled her shoulders back far enough to do her mama proud. “This fireplace actually has a lot of potential.” She ran her free hand over the mantle the same way Wilder had moments earlier. “All it needs is some sprucing up.” 
Wilder nodded encouragingly. “But isn’t it an ugly-as-sin monstrosity that should be gutted along with the kitchen?” 
“Structurally, it’s in great shape.” Kneeling, she motioned for him to follow her lead. “It just needs a good sweeping. Wait till you see what we found behind this gross facade.” 
She pulled off one of the pieces to reveal an original late nineteenth-century hearth.  
Wilder let out an appropriate whistle. “Hot damn.” And impressively, he sounded legitimately thrilled and tickled considering he and Felix were the ones who’d discovered the hidden treasure during their preliminary walk-through. 
“We can definitely work with this. We’ll build a new mantle.” 
“Maybe a solid piece of native cedar. We could put some chunky candlesticks on it.” Her heart fluttered imagining how good that would actually look. “Create an even cozier setting.” 
He nodded. “Good, good. I like that. And we’ll clean up the original brick.” 
The more they painted the picture, the more she wanted to bring it to life. “It’ll be like stepping into good old Texas—stunning.” 
“Definitely stunning.” His eyes lifted to hers, and her breath caught. He winked, and she was pretty sure she’d never breathe again. “That wasn’t so bad, was it?” 
She blinked and cleared the lump out of her throat. “That was it?” 
“Yep.” Rising, he offered his hand. Pulling her up, he gave a gentle squeeze before releasing it. “You did great.” 
“I did?” She couldn’t seem capable of more than parroting small phrases.
“You were light and breezy—definitely pithy.”

About the Book

She's a work in progress . . .

Bailey Meredith has had it. As an assistant at a prestigious interior design firm, she’s tired of making coffee and filing invoices. She’ll do just about anything to get out from under the paperwork and into the field for real experience. Then she sees an ad for a job that seems too good to be true.

He's a fixer upper . . .

Wilder Aldrich knew she would be perfect for the crew the moment he saw her. His hit home improvement show only hired the best, and Bailey had potential written all over her. It isn’t just her imaginative creativity and unmatched work ethic that grabs his attention. There’s just something about her.

With chemistry on screen, it’s only a matter of time before sparks fly behind the scenes as well. But with Bailey’s jaded views on romance and a big secret that could destroy Wilder and everyone he cares about are either of them willing to risk it all for love?

Available March 21! Find it on:

*** Let's keep in touch! You can find out what's going on in my world between blog posts by following my daily adventures on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. You can subscribe to my monthly newsletter here. You can also find out more about my books by visiting my website, www.laurachapmanbooks.com. Whew. ***

February 14, 2017

the jane to my lizzy

In honor of Valentine's Day falling on a Tuesday--the day I am (theoretically) supposed to write a new blog post--I planned to celebrate great loves. I'm talking Darcy and Lizzy, Rochester and Jane, Logan and Mary Anne (I'm so not over that--SPOILER ALERT--breakup).

But when it came to time do it, another love came to mind. One that is just as complicated and wonderful and beautiful as all the great romances. A real one. This week, I felt called to write about the love between sisters.

Growing up, our parents made every holiday fun. It's why I love them all. We grew up treating Valentine's Day as a day where we celebrated our love for each other as a family. So it only feels fitting to celebrate one of my great loves--my little sister.

I've written about my sister before (some of my favorite mentions are here, here, here, here, here, and here), but basically I struck gold/hit the jackpot/insert your favorite cliche about luck when it comes to sisters.

My sister is two years, ten months, and 26-ish (I'm too lazy to do the actual math) days younger than me. As such, I don't recall much of my life without her. I do have a few memories, and the strongest was in the weeks--maybe months--before her birth. I remember knowing they were going to have a baby, and even though they planned to be surprised, I just knew I was going to have a little sister. Maybe I wished it into reality, but a few weeks before I turned three, my little sister was born.

That's another early memory. One that's only a flash I remember being at the hospital and standing at the nursery window and being as happy and excited as an almost three-year-old can be knowing that my little sister was there, nestled in a crib on the other side of the glass.

From then on, I don't really have any memories that don't include my sister. Not just because she's my sister--though that would be enough. She's my best friend. She's been my ride-or-die since before I knew--or had heard of--the whole ride-or-die concept.

She's the person who played school with me when I wanted to be the teacher and need a student. (She also gave me regular reality checks early on by deciding she was over the game when I assigned too much homework and became too bossy.)

She's always been my favorite companion for real and imaginary adventures. Like when we created the characters of Annie Anna Jones and Annie Anna Jones Jr--two archaeologists excavating our backyard in search of treasures before they could fall into the wrong hands.

She was my first roommate and also my first co-worker when we had to spend what felt like every Saturday cleaning our room, because we had way more books and clothes and toys than shelf or drawer space.

She's the first person I talk to when I have a new story idea. She helps talk me through plot problems--and also up off the floor when I'm having a dramatic meltdown and saying I have no business being a writer.

She's the person who knows me best. The person I would trust with my life. (And--hopefully this is never tested--I'd alibi her on anything, no questions asked.)

That's not to say every day is lemon drops and gum drops or braiding each other's hair while we talk about boys. We're sisters. We fight. There's no one who can rip my heart out more than her. (And, incidentally, there's no one who I regret hurting more than her.) There are a couple of stories from our childhood--where each of us plays the villain--that I could share to back that up. But its not Christmas or Easter, when those past sins are usually trotted out for the amusement of family, so you'll just have to take my word.

But we get through it. Like I said, we're ride-or-die.

She's the Jane to my Lizzy. So much so that I'd love nothing more than for us to find--and fall--for a couple of handsome BFFs, who we'll marry in a double New Year's Eve wedding before we settle in neighboring estates--err . . . houses. I would seriously love all of that. So much that I'm keeping this dream alive no matter how many times my sister rolls her eyes and sighs when I tell people about my plan. Sorry, not sorry, little sister. It's totally happening, and you can thank me for it later when it becomes our reality and it's completely awesome. (I'll try not to gloat.)

I love my sister--more than anything else in the world. She has a huge heart, a great sense of humor, and a true wish to make herself and our world better--even if we're both still figuring out how to do that. But here's the deal--the total truth. My world is better, because my sister is in it, and because I get to be in hers.

Happy Valentine's Day, little sister. I love you.

*** Let's keep in touch! You can find out what's going on in my world between blog posts by following my daily adventures on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. You can subscribe to my monthly newsletter here. You can also find out more about my books by visiting my website, www.laurachapmanbooks.com. Whew. ***

February 13, 2017

#chicklitlove hop

Join 49 chick lit and romantic comedy authors in celebrating friendship and romance in the #ChickLitLove Hop on Facebook. We'll honor Galentine's Day on February 13 and Valentine's Day on February 14 with giveaways, freebies, and entries for the chance to win the grand prizes of SpaFinder gift certificates.

Here's a list of the participating authors:

GALENTINE'S DAY (Monday, February 13)

VALENTINE'S DAY (Tuesday, February 14)

Check the Facebook event page (click here to join) throughout the days of February 13 and 14 for prompts on where to hop next and how to enter to win prizes. Be sure to check out the Galentines and Valentines shared on each the pages. You'll learn more about your favorite characters and meet new ones. Plus, you never know. Maybe you'll find the perfect way to say "I love you" to the loved ones in your life.

We'll see you at the party!

February 2, 2017

coming soon . . . playing house

Coming to an e-reader/bookshelf near you...

She's a work in progress . . .

Bailey Meredith has had it. As an assistant at a prestigious interior design firm, she’s tired of making coffee and filing invoices. She’ll do just about anything to get out from under the paperwork and into the field for real experience. Then she sees an ad for a job that seems too good to be true. 

He's a fixer upper . . .

Wilder Aldrich knew she would be perfect for the crew the moment he saw her. His hit home improvement show only hired the best, and Bailey had potential written all over her. It isn’t just her imaginative creativity and unmatched work ethic that grabs his attention. There’s just something about her. 

With chemistry on screen, it’s only a matter of time before sparks fly behind the scenes as well. But with Bailey’s jaded views on romance and a big secret that could destroy Wilder and everyone he cares about, are either of them willing to risk it all for love? 

Writing this book was a bit of a departure for me as it's my first sexy romantic comedy. (Sorry, not sorry, Mom and Dad.) It was also crazy fun. Plus, I actually had permission to binge-watch hours and hours (and hours and hours) of my favorite HGTV shows, because, hey, research! Thank you to my friend, the super-talented Katie Nieland for creating this gorgeous cover (and doing it for someone who kept saying, "How about we try..."). Love it.

You can pre-order Playing House now on Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo now for $2.99. You can also add it to your to-read shelf on Goodreads.

If you are a blogger, vlogger, bookstagrammer, or podcaster and would like to join the Promo Team for Playing House, please click here to sign up. I will send out the marketing materials and Advanced Reader Copies before the end of the month.

*** Let's keep in touch! You can find out what's going on in my world between blog posts by following my daily adventures on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. You can subscribe to my monthly newsletter here. You can also find out more about my books by visiting my website, www.laurachapmanbooks.com. Whew. ***

January 31, 2017

the blah, blah, blahs

My brain is on vacation or hiatus. It hasn't told me which or where.

They're called the winter blues for a reason. Something about being cooped up inside and missing out on sunlight, which depletes our energy and gives us a funk. (It's science.) I've always found this to be an interesting sort of explanation, at least for me. While I definitely get the winter blues, I find it hard to believe it's all weather related. I mean, it's not like I'm an outdoorsy person in the spring or summer. So am I really getting that much less sunlight? (Maybe I am. I'm not a scientist.)

It's no surprise that in the final days of January, with the distance between the holidays and today growing bigger and bigger, I'm pretty drained. Unmotivated. Maybe even a little bummed--or bored. It's hard to say. It's not like I'm unhappy. Not even fully exhausted. Just ennui with a touch of apathy.

Yes, it's true. I have the blah, blah, blahs.

This really became more apparent to me yesterday when a fellow author/friend mentioned how nice I make the writing life look on my Instagram feed. It's true, I usually try to highlight the nice, because I truly feel lucky to be telling stories and have anyone want to read them. But it isn't always pretty and filtered. And maybe I'm not being honest by only showing the good in my attempt to be positive.

So here it is: honesty. The past few months have been hard for me as a writer.

For any number of reasons, the words just aren't flowing as nicely as I'd like. For one, my head and heart are full of thoughts and feelings that have little relevance to the stories I'm trying to tell. I could try to ignore them, but they're too important to erase. Also, as I mentioned, it's winter. I'm not outdoorsy, but I miss the sun and not wearing a coat or gloves. I'm also probably giving into temptation to buy donuts and cookies at the store too often (which is either a lack of willpower or an attempt to give myself short bursts of energy and excitement through the ennui). These and other issues are all swirling together to make me a bit of a pile. I'm an author pile.

I've tried all of my usual practices to get myself out of this funk: going to a favorite cafe, reading other stories that inspire, re-working my outline/character charts, drinking more water, taking baths. When those have failed, I've tried new approaches: ordering a writing desk to try writing in bed before work, carving out specific time to relax, etc. These attempts haven't been a total failure. I still managed to write some words this month. But each word feels hard fought. I feel like my head is full of cobwebs or slush.

Then there are the comparisons. Even as I'm painting a pretty picture of my world via photos and quirky posts, I'm comparing myself to others. If I could change one thing about myself, it would be that I'd stop holding myself up against others in an effort to see what they have that I don't have. That's not healthy. Admiring others--appreciating their successes--is okay. But looking at them to try to find some magical spark about them that proves why they're better than you isn't good for anyone. It's unfair and unkind to myself and to everyone else.

Still, I keep trying. Because if I've learned anything while living with anxiety issues and bouts of depression, it's that I have to keep trying, to keep moving on. Otherwise I get stuck, which feels worse.

I'm not 100 percent sure what I'm trying to say here with this post. (As I've mentioned, I'm struggling to put my thoughts together at this time--particularly when it comes to writing.) I guess my big point is that it's okay to have down times. It's even better to know when you're managing or when you need to do something more or different. Like for me right now, I'm managing. But that's about all I'm doing.

I've been managing for a couple of months now, and I need to do more than that. Maybe I go back into counseling. Maybe I carve out more time for exercise. Maybe I take more of a break from social media. Maybe I cut out processed sugars. (I really hope I can change my feelings and thinking without swearing off sugar!) Maybe I need to ask for more help. It's okay to ask for help. It's okay if everything isn't always pretty and filtered.

Other point of this post: It's also okay to sometimes write a somewhat (or maybe totally) nonsensical blog post or scene just to keep yourself writing through periods when the words aren't flowing easily. At least that's what I'll keep telling myself too.

*** Let's keep in touch! You can find out what's going on in my world between blog posts by following my daily adventures on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. You can subscribe to my monthly newsletter here. You can also find out more about my books by visiting my website, www.laurachapmanbooks.com. Whew. ***

January 17, 2017

anticipating the worst

On one of the first frigid mornings this winter, I woke the way I do most days: with my little boy cat, Bingley, scaling my back to come sit on my side. The temperatures had dropped rapidly overnight. Id failed to have the foresight--or maybe motivation--to add a thermal blanket or trade the cotton sheets for flannel, I'd pulled the comforter over my head like a makeshift cocoon. Apparently distressed by his inability to see my face, Bingley went about tugging the covers loose inch by inch. He did it biscuit-baking style, which only made this process more laborious.

This only gave me more time to consider what would happen next. Just what exactly did Bingley have in mind once he'd uncovered me?

Several possibilities came to mind. Most involved him sticking his nose in my eye or ear. He does that last one a lot, and it's basically the kitten equivalent of a wet willy. Only he usually accompanies that with a meow, which means a wet ear AND Bing in surround sound. There was also a good chance he'd lick me. While I'm flattered he loves me and wants to show affection, my friends, there are few things that feel stranger than a cat's rough tongue scraping over your forehead. (Plus, I have enough of Bridget Jones in me to worry that it's a sign I may wind up one day dead and alone, eaten by my cats. How's that for a morbid thought to start the day.) At least I assume he does it because he loves me. The cats always have some dry food and water in their bowls, so that's the only explanation I can come up with. That or Bing enjoys inflicting discomfort on others. It could go either way.

So I stayed there, keeping as still as possible, hoping he might give up on his mission all the while worrying about what he would do. Even though it probably took minutes versus seconds, he never gave up on his quest. The cover came down inch by inch, the cold air greeting my skin, sending even more chills down my spine.

I wonder if he's dreaming about new ways to wake me up.

At last Bingley succeeded. I froze, clenching my eyes shut, bracing myself for the moment he'd get me.

Seemingly exhausted from the effort, he collapsed heavily onto my shoulder. One paw was draped over my back, the other to my chest. His face leaned forward, his light breath chilled my neck. Then, he rested his furry cheek against mine and passed out.

It was maybe the cutest, sweetest moment I've ever had with my cat. Made even better by the fact I'd been preparing myself for the worst only to have him surprise me with a show of affection that I couldn't pass up. Even if it came before dawn.

I've been meditating on this exchange off and on since. I'm sure there's a lesson of sorts to be learned here. Something about how so often in life I often prepare myself for the worst. Maybe we all do that. It's a learned behavior. Something we've picked up after being burned before. It's hard not to worry. It's hard not to be scared when you don't know exactly what comes next. It's hard to forget about past upsets.

I do this all the time. I panicked about my trip to France last April. I acted like a real a-hole to other people and really braced myself for disappointment. It ended up being one of my highlights of the year. No, it wasn't perfect, but missing a train and ending up killing time with a plate of croissants and fresh-squeezed orange juice wasn't exactly a tragedy. I also came up with my current work-in-progress while I sat in a cafe one evening waiting out a rainstorm (and protest) that left us stranded several blocks from our home base.

I mean, seriously. Check out that set-up.
Not a bad way to spend a couple hours at all.

Life is full of surprises. Some of those surprises are sweet. Those deserve just as much consideration (maybe even more) than my always anticipating the worst. It's not easy to change something so ingrained in our personalities (or at least in mine). But it's probably worth a shot.

*** Let's keep in touch! You can find out what's going on in my world between blog posts by following my daily adventures on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. You can subscribe to my monthly newsletter here. You can also find out more about my books by visiting my website, www.laurachapmanbooks.com. Whew. ***