One Year Ago Today…

One year ago today, I was anxiously awaiting the release of my debut novel, LOVE IN TRANSLATION. Emotions were very high to say the least but I remember being so excited to finally release my little baby into the world. In the months that followed, I quickly learned that there is a lot that goes into having a successful  novel, and only a small portion of it is actually writing a great novel. There have been ups and downs, but as I sit here and write this, I could not be more grateful for the experiences and the knowledge learned this past year.

And to celebrate the one year anniversary of the release of LOVE IN TRANSLATION, it will be on sale through Sunday evening. So, if you love love, and want to celebrate Valentine’s Day with a good book, feel free to scoop up your copy.

LOVE IN TRANSLATION on Amazon.com

Book Review: Hard Hats and Doormats by Laura Chapman

12345I am so excited to review Hard Hats and Doormats by Laura Chapman!

Book Summary:

Lexi Burke has always been a stickler for following rules and procedures. As a human resources manager for a leading Gulf Coast chemical company, it’s her job to make sure everyone else falls in line, too. But after losing out on a big promotion–-because her boss sees her as too much of a yes-woman––Lexi adopts a new policy of following her heart instead of the fine print. And her heart knows what it wants: Jason Beaumont, a workplace crush who is off limits based on her previous protocol. While navigating a new romance and interoffice politics, Lexi must find the confidence to stand on her own or face a lifetime of following someone else’s orders. Who says nice girls have to finish last?

My Thoughts:

I have been a fan of Laura Chapman for quite sometime and frequent her fabulous blog, Change the Word, numerous times throughout the week. So, when I found out she was publishing her debut novel, I scooped it up quickly and sat down to devour what I was sure would not disappoint. And,  I was very satisfied to say the least. Her main character, Lexi Burke, is a strong willed woman in a very male-dominated profession. There are a lot of workplace politics but that is to be expected given the surroundings … but I think it also adds to the charm of the overall novel and where we really get to see Lexi’s character shine in the beginning. She then goes through quite a transformation and I found this whole experience to be very realistic and truthfully, where Laura’s writing style really sparkled. There is so much candid honesty and wit that I found it all to be so enjoyable. And then there is the romance with hot Jason Beaumont. He is sweet and kind and teaches Lexi how to Texas two-step (which honestly, is probably my favorite scene of the whole book — but I’m a Texan, a sucker for a good romance, and I love a good two-step!). There are a few bumps here and there, but this is definitely one of the best written romances I’ve read in a while just because it is so honest and so real.

All in all, this book had it all and I am so excited to see where Laura goes next on her publishing journey. Hard Hats and Doormats is a truly great book that really displays Laura’s prowess as a writer with tight, witty dialogue and really detailed, visual writing — truly a great book for everyone!

 

Laura Chapman and Her Path To Writing

I would like to welcome the fabulous Laura Chapman to the site today, where she will discuss her path to writing and how exactly she got to where she is today.

When I was 23, I packed up my car and moved to Houston. At the time, it was the hardest, bravest thing I’d ever done. One year later, I packed up a U-Haul and drove it – with my car chained to the back and my cats in their carriers on the passenger seat – back to Nebraska. That was even harder.

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[Blogger’s Note: The former safety publication writer feels compelled to mention that I was not actually operating the vehicle when this picture was taken. Carry on.]

This time, instead of feeling brave, I felt like a failure. I’d made gamble after gamble, but none panned out. So I was headed home to regroup while I figured out my next move. After driving through the night, I pulled up in front of my new apartment in Lincoln. Despite my disappointment at having to come home sooner than planned, I had a brief spurt of pride. I’d driven a U-Haul 1,000 miles by myself. And I’d arrived in one piece, without even a dent in my car or a broken glass.

It was small consolation, but at that moment – when I needed to prove I wasn’t a complete loser – I instead felt like a total badass. It gave me hope. Maybe I would be okay.

My adventure in writing and publishing Hard Hats and Doormats began a few months later. And the experience was a lot like my move to and from Houston. Sometimes it was hard. Sometimes I had to be brave. And often, I felt like a failure.

Still reeling from the disappointment that was my life, in Fall 2010 I signed up for National Novel Writing Month at 9 p.m. on Nov. 1. For years I’d talked about writing a novel, and I’d even started a couple back in college. This time was going to be different. Hard Hats and Doormats was a story that had been weighing heavily on my mind since before my move to Houston, and it seemed like the best novel to tackle that month.

Making that decision saved my life. Maybe not literally, but it saved me from giving up on my dreams or hope. It gave me a purpose and a mission at a time when I was at my all-time low and heading even lower. That November, I stopped drinking as a coping mechanism, because I found that unlike Hemingway and Fitzgerald, I couldn’t write drunk. Eventually, it was something I stopped doing for myself.

Instead of sitting and dwelling about what I didn’t have and where I wasn’t, I kept my mind focused on where my story was going and what needed to come next. Even on days when the words wouldn’t come, I didn’t give up. I’d set a goal, and I was going to reach it.

The first time I cried that month – and crying had become a regular pastime for me – was when I surpassed 50,000 words on Nov. 30. I’d done it. The novel wasn’t finished and had a long ways to go, but I’d reached my word goal. I’d met my goal. I’d proved I could do something.

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A couple of months later when I typed “The End” on my first draft, I cried again. Like I had when I drove the U-Haul back into town, I felt like I was a big deal. I’d written a written. That meant something. Reaching this milestone now seemed like the greatest feat I’d accomplished – even more impressive than driving a huge truck halfway across the country.

My writing and publishing journey had barely begun at that point. The journey was more arduous than I ever imagined it would be. I kind of figured you finished writing a book, and then you found an agent who sold it to someone who would publish it. But it’s not that simple.

I still had a few more drafts of the novel to write. I still had dozens of queries for agents and publishers to send out. I still had lots of rejection and disappointment. But through it all, I could remember where I’d started. Then I remembered how far I’d come. Hearing a “no” or “we’re not interested” didn’t seem so bad. Having to rewrite a scene was tough, but it wasn’t any harder than writing it in the first place. Constantly putting my story and my heart out on the line for rejection or approval was now the bravest thing I’d done.

Now that I’ve reached the destination for this novel – finding a home with Marching Ink – I can look back at the journey, the good and bad, and appreciate it for bring me here. I might never have had the courage to write my full novel if I hadn’t needed to prove something to myself and the world. Those highs and the lows of our past are necessary to make us appreciate our present and keep us moving toward the future.

Nicholas Sparks on Writing

12“The one thing I’ve learned about writing is there is no correct way to do it.”

What is your writing process like, and how do you create your characters?
Well, I usually start with a series of “what if…?” questions, and I look back on the work that I’ve done, and I try to find an area that I haven’t covered before. It could be an age group, because every age group faces different dilemmas. And once I have a good idea of what I want, every character needs a character arc whether it’s redemption or hope or loss or death. Then you just start filling in the details.

The one thing I’ve learned about writing is there is no correct way to do it. Stephen King swears he doesn’t know the end to his novels before he starts writing them. I can’t imagine writing that way. John Grisham does a 50-page outline. I don’t outline -– not one page. It can take anywhere from two weeks to two or five months to come up with not only the characters, but every element in the story, and to know every arc of every story and every character and how these things will play off each other. And all of that’s done in my head.

The entire Q&A can be found here.

Book Review: Snowflakes and Coffee Cakes by Joanne DeMaio

2Summary:

From New York Times bestselling author Joanne DeMaio comes an enchanting novel about love, family, and the delicate power of snowflakes.

Reluctant to leave her cherished New England hometown after her sister’s winter wedding, former journalist Vera Sterling makes a sudden decision. She takes what’s left of her severance pay and invests it in real estate … in one particular drafty colonial home and old timber barn set upon the pretty banks of Addison Cove. In that rough-hewn barn, she discovers a secret treasure left behind by the previous owner, the proprietor of the long-forgotten Christmas Barn gift shop.

While restoring her rundown, wood-sided home–its creaking floors, broken bannister, and neglected widow’s walk–that secret slowly unfolds like a bit of snowflake wonder, crystallizing hopes and dreams for many in this small Connecticut town. But mostly for Derek Cooper whose own tragic story has headlined Addison’s news. And whom Vera has come to love.

When the first snowstorm hits during Derek’s annual Deck the Boats Festival at the cove, residents become stranded. It is then up to Vera to not only bring the town together, but to mend one man’s heart she fears she may have lost.

Snowflakes and Coffee Cakes is a heartwarming story, one that reminds us to look to winter’s stars. Because snowflakes can grant very special wishes … if only we believe.

My Thoughts:

Joanne DeMaio’s third novel, Snowflakes and Coffee Cakes, marks the author’s return to the fictional town of Addison, Connecticut, this time around the magical season of Christmas. In all of her works, Joanne has always excelled at creating small-town stories that transcend borders and her latest is no exception. Lights are strung up on the barn, Christmas trees are decorated, and snowflakes are falling, all while we learn, and fall, for Derek and Vera and their story in this magical novel.

Snowflakes and Coffee Cakes has an air of simplicity about it that fits perfectly to the setting and the time of year, countering Derek’s sad history with all the hope and peace that Christmas can offer. The story is beautifully handled as Derek struggles to come to terms with his loss and Vera tries to find a place in his life. There is so much depth and genuine, heartfelt emotion that I had a hard time putting the novel down. All in all, this novel is pretty amazing. Full of warmth and joy, Snowflakes and Coffee Cakes is the perfect book to snuggle up with on a cold winter night, or really any time of year. So, grab a cup of coffee, hot chocolate, or wine, and dive into a story that reminds us that wishes do come true.

 

Q&A with NYTimes & USA Today Bestselling Author Joanne DeMaio

1I am so excited to introduce you to the amazingly talented, Joanne DeMaio today. She is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary fiction. She enjoys writing about friendship, family, love and choices, while setting her stories in New England towns or by the sea. Her novels include the New York Times bestseller Blue Jeans and Coffee Beans, Whole Latte Life, which was named a Kirkus Reviews Critics’ Pick, and most recently Snowflakes and Coffee Cakes, now a USA Today bestseller.

And, I am so excited to have her here today! Please read the Q&A below to find out more about this great author:

Your books have done so well and are consistently on the NYTimes Bestsellers List and ranked highly on Amazon. How do you define success? And where do you see yourself heading as a writer?

Thank you, Sara, that’s so kind of you to say. In terms of writing, I define success in one word: longevity. To have a body of work that is well-received by an audience that consistently grows is my gauge. As for what’s on my writing menu? Contemporary fiction is just my cup of “coffee” … although I don’t mind changing up the flavor with a spoonful of suspense or a dash of the beach, it is the go-to that I return to.

2Do you have any marketing tips or do you feel like your work will speak for itself?

Marketing happens in stages. It starts with interacting with my existing reader-base on my Facebook Page and Author Newsletter. Pre-marketing begins there with exclusive cover reveals and glimpses behind-the-scenes. My daughter Mary actually handles my PR, and then sets up media coverage and an extensive blog tour to coincide with the book’s publication. This is a favorite part of the marketing, as I get to interact with readers across the country and share my new release. At this point word-of-mouth kicks in, which brings marketing to the ultimate goal of the book speaking for itself.

Have you always wanted to be an author?

Becoming an author was an organic process. I was a writer for many years, published in literary journals, local publications and newspapers. My writing evolved and grew over time, as I explored different mediums. Novel-writing was a natural progression.

Where do the ideas for your books come from? Do the characters/stories stem from real life at all?

We could have several cups of coffee talking about inspiration for my stories, but one of my strongest inspirations comes from favorite New England settings and treasures. My own Connecticut hometown inspires my fictional town of Addison which appears often in my work. Also, in a neighboring town, there once was an actual Christmas Barn, housed in a big red barn near a cove. It’s long been closed down, but in my latest novel Snowflakes and Coffee Cakes, I explore the fun possibilities of bringing it back.

3If you had to choose, which of your novels would be your favorite?

It’s always the one I’m currently writing. At that early stage, a book brings a unique energy, and mystery, to the craft. I just have to know how the characters’ lives will unfold.

Which genres do you enjoy reading?

With my current writing schedule, what reading time I can squeeze in is usually with a non-fiction book. I love researching topics to bring to my work: snowflakes, denim design, beach life.

What is your favorite book of all time?  Who is your favorite literary character of all time?

I have a small collection of illustrated classics that I enjoy, and Jane Eyre is right up there at the top. I reread it from time to time, finding it falls into many genres: mystery, suspense, saga, historical and romance. At the heart of it, it’s a love story that withstands the test of time.

Thank you so much, Joanne!

Please check back here on Wednesday for a review of her latest, Snowflakes and Coffee Cakes!

4To learn more, visit Joannedemaio.com. She also enjoys hearing from readers at Facebook.com/JoanneDeMaioAuthor.