Saturday, May 24, 2014

Getting in Touch with My (Literary) Roots

I got roped into some spring cleaning over at my parents' house today. To say that they are pack rats would be kind. But, they are also realists. Comments have been made (and not really in jest) that each one wants to be the one to die first so that they don't have to get stuck with cleaning out the house. Realistically, I know it will fall on me.

I'm not gonna lie--cleaning this stuff is hard for me as well. When push came to shove, I was not able to get rid of three of my dolls/stuffed animals. The rest I tossed, shedding a tear for my Cabbage Patch Preemie (Linette Elisa) and my Koosa (Sunshine), as well as the Raggedy Ann and Strawberry Shortcake dolls my mom made for me.

I can see how hard it is on my mom throwing this stuff out, especially some of the things that were my grandmother's. But she/we made progress with large piles of things for donations and garbage. I did find some board games that I know my kids will play when they are over there, including this 1980 Star Wars game (check out the price!!!). My brother cleaned out some of his books and gave a bag to my son, who is all excited to read the original Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark series, in addition to Back to the Future.

I found a necklace that my dad gave me when I was sick as a get well present. I was probably five or six.

I also found a bunch of my old school work. While I don't really remember ever wanting to be a writer, I certainly did a lot of writing when I was in elementary and high school. Here is a book review I did for the 7th and 8th grade newspaper:

This was also in that newspaper, which was the November 1989 edition (frankly, I don't remember it at all).

The two other articles are by the girls who were among my closest friends in grade school (Mari-ann, you had an add for a scooter for sale right under my book review).

I found some notes from friends (Kelly, they are hysterical. We have to get together and read through them some day). But then I also found a poem that I wrote, probably in high school. I was apparently disenchanted with some of the classics we had been reading. Ironic, considering I loved high school English (with the exception of Emily Dickinson, who I thought was a freak. I have since matured). I was such a nerd that I probably thought trashing these authors was a huge act of rebellion. I guess it just goes to show that even the literary greats don't always get the best reviews.

(DISCLAIMER: I am NOT a poet. Frankly, I don't even understand poetry unless it rhymes. And I was probably about 16 when I wrote this. It took me 21 more years to publish a book, so keep that in mind).

Here is my untitled poem:

"To be or not to be" Shakespeare once said.
But now, who cares? Shakespeare is dead.
The literary giants, so widely acclaimed,
yet I can see no reason for their great fame.
Crane had "Courage," Golding had "Flies."
But I couldn't wait to see their demise.
Dickinson, Twain and Bronte too--
I can't find where credit is due.
These giant messes, they couldn't mend.
The only thing that saved them was,

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Stop #2

As I've previously mentioned, I'm doing a blog tour for Hold Her Down. I know many (ok, the four of you who read the blog) are asking, what the heck is a blog tour?

I'm going around and am being featured on a series of blogs. Some blogs feature a book review. Others will feature a guest post that I've written. Some will have an excerpt of Hold Her Down. I did an interview for another.

Today, I'm being featured on Chick Lit Goddess. It is a guest post where I talk about why I write women's fiction. Head over there to check it out.

Also, if you head to the Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours page and leave a comment, you could win a free paperback copy of Hold Her Down (US only)!

Monday, May 19, 2014

7 Quick Takes for Monday

Ok, so I'm ripping a page out of my dear friend's book and doing this blog entry as a Quick Take's blog. Check out Our Little Nuthouse to see how this should be done.

1.  Started the day with a computer that wouldn't turn on. Ominous black screen, but at least no tell tale beeping that signaled death. I learned about that last August when my last laptop died. But do the math here...this laptop is only 8 months old. Too young to die. I took the battery out, put it back in and all seems well. Will be backing up, regardless.

2.  Getting a call at the end of a very difficult meeting that your son has a tick embedded in his leg is no way to end the work day. Finding out that the doctor has left for the day, the urgent care I like doesn't open until 5 pm and that the next urgent care will keep us waiting over 90 minutes did not help. However, the very kind woman also waiting a ridiculous amount of time (also with a tick bite) who went out to her car and brought in her cache of kids' books to entertain Sophia did make all the difference.

3.  My blog tour kicked off today! I received my first review (4.5 stars!) on Tabby's Tantalizing Reviews. Look for more tour stops with original blog posts and interviews coming up over the next two weeks.

4.  When the doctor asked if my ten-year-old could swallow pills, I bit back my urge to comment sarcastically, "As long as they're not horse pills." Perhaps I should have. The antibiotics that he is on, three times a day for the next ten days are, you guessed it, horse pills. Poor kid.

5.  My daughter had her last dance lesson the year tonight. She got a ribbon for four years of dance. How can that be? A mental inventory of her costumes (because that is how I remember things) confirmed that this is, in fact, her fourth dance recital.

6.  We have a free trial of HBO right now. This is not a good thing. I've been staying up way too late watching movies that I don't even care about. In a related note, very little reading and/or writing is getting done.

7.  Watching Dancing With The Stars tonight, they revealed that Meryl Davis has dyslexia. My son asked what that was, and I explained it to him. He asked if that is what he has. I told him that he has ADD, Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder and a Processing Delay. He seemed unphased and went to bed. I went in and told him that despite this laundry list of diagnoses, none of these were WHO he was, simply they described some aspects of his personality or the way he learns. He asked WHO he was. I told him, "You are smart. You are funny. You appreciate a good sense of humor. You are honest, and you are the best son anyone could ask for." He smiled and said, "But it's ok. You know who has Dyslexia too? Percy Jackson. And he has ADHD." And he is totally fine with it all.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Keeping It Real and National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day

I had a conversation with a high school classmate the other day. She, like many people, expressed an amazement that I have found time to write novels, in addition to being a mother and working close to full time. To which, I responded glibly, "Yeah, but my house is never clean." People think I'm being funny. I'm not. I'm being real. I clean something everyday. I pick up something, I fold something, I wipe up/down something, I put something away. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

But the house is never all clean at the same time. And, that is alright with me. I wish I lived in a spotless house. I wish it were clean. I wish there was no clutter (the clutter is my true enemy, to be honest). But it's not. Because, here I am, at 6:30 pm on Thursday. I have my pajamas on already. I'm waiting for my Twitter chat at 8 pm when I will crack open an adult beverage and chat with some great ladies during the fastest 60 minutes of the week. I could be folding laundry. I could be cleaning a toilet or mopping a floor, but I'm not. I'm writing.

This is me. Cluttered, messy me.

In HOLD HER DOWN, I touched on the pressure that the main character, Elizabeth, faces in trying to live up to the standards of perfection that her peers have established. That was kind of a true thing. I cringe whenever I hear another mother talk about Pinterest. Not to say I don't use it, I do. I find it very helpful for building my story boards for my books. But when I hear about finding recipes and crafts, I cringe. That is so not me, and I don't want to play that game. I don't need to play that game. That game is not healthy for me.

I think we need to be a little more real to ourselves a little more often. We are not those perfect moms that we strive to be. We have our faults. A lot of us keep a lot together a lot of the time. Most of the time. But we need to allow ourselves the space and forgiveness not to be perfect.

I'm going to make another reveal that will certainly lower your opinion of me. It is related to the second part of the title. Today is National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day. I know that every day is some day, but a day for cookies--sounds good to me. But then comes the pressure. Friend after friend has posted and pinned recipes for the cookies they are going to make. Yeah, I don't really like to bake. I read through recipes, and mentally inventoried my pantry. Yep, I could make them. But, nope, I won't. I didn't and I'm not going to. I'm beat. I made my husband pick up Chinese food, just so I didn't have to cook (he wasn't supposed to be home, so we were going to have sandwiches or leftovers). I did the next best thing--I whipped out the ready-to-bake cookies and popped them in the oven.

I got two thumbs up from my son and daughter (who is a very tough critic). Yeah, that's enough for me.

P.S.: If baking is your thing, here's a recipe you should try. It is featured in the novel, Thirty-Two Going on Spinster by my friend, and super-real mom, Becky Monson. Her main character, Julia, has a serious baking fixation. Becky assures me that all the recipes in the book have been tried out. If you like desserts at all (and appreciate humor and good writing), this book is for you. Without ado:

Julia's Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 sticks of butter softened to room temp (use REAL SALTED butter)
2 tsp vanilla (use REAL vanilla, no imitation junk)
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
3 cups flour
Milk Chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375ยบ

**The key to this recipe is all in the mixing, the REAL butter, and the REAL vanilla.***

In mixer beat butter until fluffy (approx 2 minutes), add vanilla and mix for 1 more minute. Add both sugars and beat until light and fluffy (about 4-5 minutes). Add eggs one at a time, mixing after each egg. Add salt and baking soda and mix again. Add flour one cup and a time, mixing after each cup. Add chocolate chips last.

Using a cookie scoop, form into balls and place on sheet at least 2 inches apart. Press down with the back of a spoon to slightly flatten cookie before baking (this will keep it from staying in a ball).

Bake for 8 minutes, until the base of the cookie is a very light brown color. Put them on a plate, grab some milk and go eat your feelings in front of the television. You have my blessing.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Two Thumbs Up

Every night when I cook dinner (ok, the three nights a week that I actually cook), I ask the kids what they thought of dinner. My son is generally forthcoming with a thumbs up. My daughter (except on ONE occasion last week) gives me a thumbs medium (thumb sideways) or a thumbs down. She just likes being difficult.

In this case, their reviews help me know what meals they like and don't like (except for my daughter, who, as I may have mentioned, just likes being difficult). But right now, my life is being ruled by a different kind of reviews. The reviews for my book. I never ever thought about reviews and never ever realized what an impact it can make. How important it is. The book selling business is a tricky thing. Reviews get your book noticed and helps to sell your book. But in order to get reviews, you have to sell your book. See that Catch-22 there?

I look at product reviews all the time. Before booking our hotel in NYC, I read dozens and dozens of reviews, and it was the review that led me to book our hotel (and steered me away from the hotel with a roach problem). Last night, I passed over one pair of leggings for another based on their reviews. But until I started selling books, even though Barnes & Noble e-mailed me after each purchase, it never occurred to me to leave reviews for the books I've read.

Leaving reviews seems daunting. Believe me, it is not. Now it is my regular practice to leave reviews for books I've read. I write the review once and copy and paste it to other sites (I post on Amazon, Goodreads and Barnes & Noble). I takes about three minutes. I don't write much, just a few sentences or two. Here are some reviews that I've written:

This is for A QUESTIONABLE FRIENDSHIP by Samantha March
This book blew me out of the water. I was not prepared, nor did I expect this book to unfold the way it did. In that respect, it is very true to life. We often take for granted our friendships and assume they will always endure the tests of life. I related strongly to both main characters in this book. If you've ever had a friend, lost a friend or been a friend, then this book is for you.

Here is another review for DANGLED CARAT by Hilary Grossman.
I jumped into reading this book without realizing that it was a memoir. I was several chapters in before I realized the main character's name was Hilary and said, "Hey--wait a minute!" This book is well written and draws you right in. Your heart breaks along with Hilary's and you (well, at least I did) will want to slap some sense into this commitment-phobic man who can't see the gem he has in front of him. And because it is real-life, it is not predictable. A pleasant read that I recommend!

Pretty short and sweet, and very painless as well. But each one of those made a big difference to the authors who are either independent authors (as I am) or who are with small publishing houses. So please, when you read a book, please leave a review. Even if it is not the most favorable, feedback is appreciated. (Of course, consider that saying, "Wow, those pants make your ass look huge!" may not be received as well as, "While kelly green is a great color on you, perhaps it would be more flattering in a shirt." Just food for thought.) If you tell an author what you did not like about the story, he or she can make changes for next time around. If you liked or even loved the book and would consider telling another living soul about it, then write a review. Please. You have no idea how much it means.

Oh, and don't forget #ChickLitMay:

Click here for the Pinterest board that will show you and link you to all of these great books.

In case anyone was wondering, both books above are on this list!

Monday, May 5, 2014

#ChickLitMay 99 Cent Sale!

Hey all--did you know that May is International Chick Lit Month? Probably not a coincidence that it is also the month of Mother's Day. In order to celebrate (and perhaps help you hook Mom up, showing her what an awesome kid she raised), 26 chick lit authors are celebrating by putting their books on sale for just $0.99! That means you can get 26 books for less than $26. Think about that--26 books for less than $26. That's an unbelievable deal if I've ever seen one.

Not convinced? Check them all out on this Pinterest board:

Pinterest board where all books on sale are listed:

Okay, I know you wanna start one-clicking. Here ya go, click away!

A Heat of the Moment Thing by Maggie Le Page
A Questionable Friendship by Samantha March
Another Saturday Night and I Ain't Got No Body by Jennie Marts
Blogger Girl by Meredith Schorr
Breaking the Rules by Cat Lavoie
Dangled Carat by Hilary Grossman
Divine Moves by Ellyn Oaksmith
Exactly Where They'd Fall by Laura Rae Amos
For the Love of Cupcakes by Anita Kushwaha
French Twist by Glynis Astie
Good Intentions by Kathryn Biel
Hard Hats and Doormats by Laura Chapman
Here, Home, Hope by Kaira Rouda
In Need of Therapy by Tracie Banister
Let's Be Frank by Brea Brown
Lila's Choice by Laura Brown
Mail-Order Groom by Cindy Flores Martinez
Mr Right and Other Mongrels by Monique McDonell
Open My Eyes by Jennifer Collin
Reframing Emma by Missy Kierstead
Speaking of Love by Ophelia London
Tear Stained Beaches by Courtney Giardina
The Accidental Prophetess by Michelle Lam
The Bad Girls' Club by Kathryn O'Halloran
When Girlfriends Collection (Books 1-3) by Savannah Page
Whiskey and Gumdrops by Jean Oram