Release Day – Two Weeks Away

The Second Chance House will be released in print and digital formats on March 7, 2018. That’s only two weeks away! It will be available from all major online retailers, and on my website.

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Sorry about the picture of me sitting in Panera. I’m trying to mess with the Facebook algorithms.

There are so many moving parts in getting a book out into the world. I could write a blog post every day for a month and still not hit on all the things an author has to do to get a book into the hands of her readers.

A friend of mine recently suggested I talk about my process for writing the book. So you can blame Sean for this one. Wink! And then when you’re done here today, jump over to Sean’s blog and read about writing (he has a great book coming out if he’ll ever stop editing it. Joking.), movies, and his nostalgia for New York City. You won’t be sorry. I promise.

Come sit beside me as we talk about writing. I have my tea. You? Great. paneracup

In 2015, in the midst of finishing the third book in my middle grade series, Welcome To Skull Mountain, two characters began talking to each other in my head. Non-stop. No matter what I was doing, they’d show up. They drove me crazy. That’s good stuff for an author. I started putting their story down on paper.

Problem was I had to finish that third book first, and then my daughter became sick. It took a little while before I could really figure out who these two people were. Thankfully, they kept talking to me.

I believe all stories are character driven. In my world, people talk about plot driven stories and character driven stories. In my humble opinion, you could have the best story in the world, but if your characters don’t actually make choices on every page then who cares about your plot? Characters are what stay with us long after the book ends. Characters make me laugh and make me cry. Plot is just an accessory. The most important, like a pace maker, but plot can’t do diddly without character. I’m sure someone else will have a different opinion.

The first thing I have to do when I write a book is get to know my characters. I don’t do character interviews, though that’s a popular technique. I start asking myself questions about what their wounds are. The ugly stuff we hide from Facebook. I need to know what happened to them in their past that makes them the way they are when my reader meets them. I come up with stuff you’ll probably never see, but that’s okay. The better I know my characters the more real they’ll be to you.

We’ll pick on Grace for a minute. Grace Starr is the heroine in A Second Chance House. I like Grace. I can relate to her. She’s middle-aged, has a teenage daughter she can’t communicate with, and a husband who left her for a younger woman. (I can’t relate to the husband part. Good thing for the Coffee King. Otherwise he’d be coffee grounds. Ba-da-bump.) She’s a control freak, and she’s been following the rules her whole life. When you meet Grace, she wants a new life.

First question for Grace is what happened to you that made you this way? I start to build her backstory. Her father left her when she was too little to remember him. Her childhood was filled with chaos. For some people, in order for them to handle chaos in their lives they like to control things. That’s Grace.

So, who would be the worst kind of match for her? Well, a rock star might be a good place to start. We’ve all heard wild stories about rock ‘n roll. I have a vivid imagination. Enter, Blaise Savage. Just his name alone should have Grace shaking in her boots. In more ways than one. Ha! Sorry, Grace.

I’ve sat through countless workshops and seminars on the craft of writing. I learned pretty early on if you want a romance to sizzle on the page you need to pair opposites. The analogy often used is if your hero is a fire fighter then your heroine better be an arsonist. Follow?

Once I know who my characters are I need to know what they want. They must want something they can touch, and they must want something internally. Love, family, a second chance. Those things Grace wants have to be connected in some way to the things Blaise wants. And as often as I can work it in each scene, Grace has to stop Blaise from getting what he wants and Blaise has to stop Grace from getting what she wants. So, if Blaise wants to kiss Grace, it can’t happen. If I can’t get Grace to control herself, (because let’s face it, Blaise is a damn good kisser) then I bring in another character to break up the moment. I know, that’s so mean! Trust me, makes for a page turner.

Now I can build the plot. I won’t go into the details about inciting incident, plot points, black moments, point of view, show don’t tell, etc. Unless you’re a new writer and need to learn it, all that stuff will just pull the curtain back too far. Readers need to be mesmerized by the smoke and mirrors. If you are a new writer, and have questions email me. I’ll get you going in the right direction.

I write the first draft. A Second Chance House is 99,000 words. That’s about 380 pages. I edit that draft with the help of my critique partners. I ask questions, they give me suggestions. I let them read the first fifty or so pages because they understand all the technical stuff and they can tell me if I’m hitting my stride in the right places.

After the third or fourth time through the book can go to my editor. ASCH is published traditionally so the publisher has its own process I will follow at this point. Indie or self-pubbed books follow a slightly different path. But either way, a lot more editing happens over the next several months. Right, Sean?

By the time you read the book it’s been polished to a high shine and in it’s best Sunday clothes.

I am eternally grateful for all the people who help me along the way. My critique partners: M. Kate Quinn, Shari Nichols, and K.M. Fawcett. My editor on this book, Roseann A., is the master editor. I owe her big time. Also have beta readers who I bring in at different stages for help. They read the book all the way through as readers. Readers read like readers. Writers read like writers. My betas give me invaluable feedback so I can fix whatever else might need fixing. Thank you, Robin and Betsy. Love you tons.

I’m hosting a Facebook party on March 7, 2018 from 7 – 9 pm to celebrate the release. We’ll be playing games, there will be prizes, and we’ll be chatting about writing, publishing, and whatever else you want. Hope to see you there.

I’ll be having a Book Launch Concert on March 28, 2018 in Neptune, NJ at Patrick’s Pub. 7 pm. Patrick’s hosts an open-mic night every Wednesday with wonderful bands playing some great music. They were kind enough to allow me to tag along because my hero is a drummer in a rock band. I’ll have books to sign, and I’ll be doing a reading. If you live in the area, please stop by and say hi. We’ll have a good time.

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Book Launch Concert March 28, 2018

Some people describe the ’80s as the decade of excess. Big hair. Big music. Big concerts. Big shoulder pads. Van Halen landed in the Guinness Book of World Records in 1984 for making the most money at one show.  Now, that’s big.

I was about fourteen when I decided going on tour with a rock band would be cool. I never did, but I still feel that way. I love to sing, which I can’t do, but that doesn’t stop me. Just ask the Noodges and the Coffee King. An item on my bucket list is to sing on stage in front of thousands of people. Might be helpful to learn to sing first.

So, it’s not all that surprising that the hero in my contemporary women’s fiction novel, A Second Chance House, is a drummer in a washed up rock band. When I started thinking about promotion for this book, I thought rock concert! Problem was pulling it off.

I found the solution thanks to my friend and author colleague, Karen Victoria. She sings (lucky woman) and knows lots of bands. Karen put in a good word for me, and my rock concert became a reality. I can’t thank her enough.

Because of Karen, Carol Barbieri with Patrick’s Pub in Neptune, NJ kindly agreed to allow me to be a part of their open-mic night on March 28, 2018 at 7 pm. (I won’t be singing, so you’re safe.)

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This is Carol. She’s the Queen of the open-mic night. Isn’t she adorable? Thanks, Carol!

But I will be doing a reading from A Second Chance House, and I will be signing books. And there will be fantastic bands made up of some very talented musicians. If you’re in the area, please drop on by for a night of big bands, big music, and little ol’ me.

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Singing at Patrick’s. The woman on the left in the red is Karen. Thanks, Karen!

Signing and Singing

Patrick’s Pub

116 3rd Avenue Rt. 35

Neptune City Shopping Plaza

March 28, 2018

7 pm.

Release Date – A Second Chance House

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I’m very excited to announce the release date of my first contemporary women’s fiction novel – A Second Chance House published with The Wild Rose Press. Drum role please…

March 7, 2018

The book will be available in print and digital formats from Amazon and all major online retailers. I’ll provide links from my books page when the links are live. In the mean time, mark your calendars.

For those of you who reside near me, I will be hosting two launch parties at the end of March at local pubs with live bands. More details on that to follow.

I want to thank all of you for being a part of this writing journey with me. Thank you for your support, and for your visits to the blog. I love interacting with my readers. You are all amazing.

Here’s an excerpt from the book for your reading pleasure:

A pickup truck glided off the road and stopped behind her car. The sun’s glare bounced off the windshield, making it impossible to see the driver. She shielded her eyes with one hand and gripped her keys with the other.

A tall male hopped out of the driver’s side. “Do you northerners make it a habit of running out of gas?”

Grace loosened her grip on the keys, but she looked around for a way to escape. Maybe a tornado would appear and suck her up in its funnel. She’d hoped Blaise would never find out about her stupidity.

“Did Beau make you come?” Her voice wobbled.

Blaise swaggered up to her. “Nah. After he was done yelling about women and cars, I offered. Figured I’d save Pete the drive and Beau the call to bark at him.”

“Beau was yelling?”

“Whole neighborhood could hear him. Where were you coming back from anyway?”

She turned and looked toward the woods. That might be a good place to run and hide. “I’m sorry I inconvenienced you. I’m not the kind of person who runs out of gas.”

“Lighten up, Grace. Ain’t no big deal.” He pumped up his southern accent. “Pop open your gas tank. You know where that button is?” He laughed. “You weren’t trying to get out of dinner, were you?”

He poured the gas into the car, and she held her nose. “It would’ve been easier to call and cancel, don’t you think?” she said.

“Depends.”

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The Bridge Home – Cover Reveal

Hello my faithful readers! I’m very excited to present the cover for the second book in my women’s fiction series with The Wild Rose Press due out fall of 2018.

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Harley Kenyon has guarded a secret for eighteen years. Telling would only hurt her son, and Harley would do anything to protect Knox. Colton Savage—the wild, impetuous rock star—is back in town to clean up a few of his messes. She could never resist his charms. His promises prove empty, and more than once, he’s left her for his seductive music career. But when the high school orchestra needs Colton’s skills, he promises to stick around. He’s not the man he was before and vows to spend his life proving it. Does she dare to believe him? Being with Colton means telling her secret.

Will Harley finally reveal what she knows and risk losing her second chance at happiness, or will she keep her secret and send away the only man she ever loved?

 

The first book in the series – The Second Chance House – arrives in March. Stay tuned for the exact date, book launch party invitations, and a sneak peek at Grace and Blaise.

The 5 am Work Out

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Happy New Year! Another calendar is turned to January. When I worked in an office, I always loved those desk calendars. I’d make notes all over it. By the end of the month, the page would be covered in notations, squiggles, or whatever. But when I ripped the page off and found a blank month waiting for me, all possibilities were open again. I’m in love with the blank page. Hence, my career choice as an author.

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Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

We all know I like to exercise. Naturally, I try to encourage the Noodges to exercise too. Noodge 2 does. She works out with a personal trainer for fitness reasons and to help with a medical condition she has. Noodge 1 will exercise, but usually with a little persuasion from me. I want them both to be healthy and happy. Exercise aids in both of those things.

Teens today have pretty tight schedules. The advanced classes they take so their college applications look good require hours of homework. They have extra curricular activities, jobs, and a social life. Noodge 2 wanted to increase her cardio time, but didn’t know how to fit the workouts into her busy schedule. I suggested to workout before school.

I’m an early morning exerciser. In fact, I’m a morning person. My best time for everything is early. Noodge 2 is a night owl like the Coffee King. My early morning exercise suggestion was met with an eye roll.

We belong to the local YMCA. I offered to go to the Y twice a week with her at 5. She agreed. A new habit was formed, and I couldn’t have been more excited. I’m honored my teenage daughter wants to work out with me. Teens usually want nothing to do with their parents unless money is involved.

I will say, getting up at 4:45 (the Y is three minutes from our house, thankfully) to the alarm clock in winter is no easy task. I might do mornings, but I don’t do cold and dark very well. But I won’t bail on her or on Noodge 1 on the days he joins us. (When both of my kids come to the gym, my heart swells.) If they want to skip the gym, that’s fine, but I won’t cancel.

I’ve made encouraging my children’s interests part of my mothering goals. I attend the opera because Noodge 1 wants to go. I’ve attended the Pride Parade in NYC with Noodge 2 and three of her friends because she wanted to see that parade. Have you ever been to the Pride Parade? I have certain images burned on the back of eyelids I can’t unsee. Growing up in my house our whims weren’t exactly indulged. I wanted to do things differently for my kids.

Hence, the 5 a.m. workout.

aruba2018beachchairsRecently, we vacationed in Aruba. I love Aruba. “One Happy Island.” Put a visit there on your bucket list if you haven’t been. You won’t be sorry. Of course, the resort had a gym. And Noodge 2 and I found ourselves on the treadmill several times that week. Me and my girl. I grew ten feet tall when I looked over and saw her working out – with me.

That’s the key. She wants to be with me. My children are about to embark on the real world. Noodge 1 is only months away now. Even though he must go, I will miss him dearly. In the meantime, while they are still mine, I get to soak up the small moments in their company. And if that company is 5 a.m. in the gym, bring it on.

With this new year in front of us, remember to hug your kids a little more. Make time for the things they like to do even if you don’t. Tell them they are amazing, because they are. And if you have to, set the alarm clock and go to the gym. At 5 a.m.

Happy New Year. Love to all.

Favorite Christmas Films

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Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

I’ve been driving my family crazy since the end of October watching Christmas movies. I can’t help it. I love them. To me, movies set in the winter in some sleepy little town where Christmas is the most important time of the year, and anything is possible, put me in the holiday spirit.

Christmas in the movies is magical. Dreams come true. Dysfunctional families see the light, or get on the right meds. (Oh, how that only happens in fiction.) I watch every chance I get.

Here is a list of some of my favorite Christmas movies in no particular order:

A Christmas Carol (Starring Alastair Sim He’s the best Scrooge.)

Miracle on 34th Street The 1947 version. Not that remake. Who would remake a classic like that?

White Christmas

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (Hard not to like something with Henry Winkler in it.)

Scrooged

The Family Stone (Here’s a dysfunctional family trying to be on their best behavior for the holidays.) I like movies with large families. Not sure this is in my top ten Christmas movies even though it’s set at Christmas time.

What are your favorite Christmas movies?

Don’t Be Afraid to Be a Jackass

Have you ever seen the movie Serendipity? The movie stars John Cusack as Jonathan Trager and Kate Beckinsale as Sara Thomas. I love that film. It’s one of my guilty pleasures. It’s a rom-com about a couple who met by accident, and felt an instant attraction to each other. Four years later, days before his wedding to someone else, Trager begins a search for this mysterious woman, Sara, because he has to know for sure if she’s the one. At the same time, Sara searches for Jonathan.

serendipityimageDean Kansky, played by Jeremy Piven, is Trager’s best friend. (Piven also happens to be Cusack’s best friend in real life.) While searching for the mystery woman, Kansky tells Trager he’s a jackass  and goes on to quote Epictetus; “be content to be thought foolish and stupid.” Trager doesn’t care how searching for a strange woman on the eve of his wedding appears. His heart leads the mission logic cannot defy.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live our lives as jackasses? Not to worry about what other people think or how they might be judging us. A benefit to getting older is having the ability to care less about the opinions of others; to throw caution to the wind, to coin a phrase, and finally understand life is what we make of it. To live a fulfilled life, we must not worry about being foolish or stupid, but run through the sprinklers with wild abandon, with the sun on our backs, the grass between our toes, and laughter in the air.

Guess who can’t follow Epictetus’ advice? Teenagers. (And a few adults, but let’s talk about the teens for a moment because they can’t help themselves. The adults – well, that’s another story.)

I’m in the thick of raising teens, and like every stage of parenthood, this one has its pluses and challenges. Here’s one of the challenges: teens spend an exorbitant amount of time worrying how others perceive their behavior. They believe the whole world is watching them, because they have magnifiers and bright lights pointed on themselves. They worry that the world around them will judge them; tell them they aren’t good enough, smart enough, fast enough, strong enough.

Truth is, no one is paying that much attention because they’re busy worrying about what other people think of them. One of my favorite quotes by Eleanor Roosevelt:

You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do. 

Teens just don’t understand that. I feel badly for them. They worry about things that don’t really matter in the grand scheme of life, but matter a whole lot to them. If they could let go of the fear, they’d probably enjoy the ride a lot more. (Again, same applies to adults.)

But teens have to be teens. They make decisions based on emotion and not logic or reasoning. So, when I’m trying to be logical with my teens about something that is purely emotional to them, I lose.

I’m learning not to argue. They have to come to their decisions in their own way, and that’s a life lesson for them. Soon they will be out in the world all by themselves and I won’t be there to wave logic in their faces like pom-poms. “This way. Look over here. Pay attention to my wisdom.” I want to shout, but can’t. Their lives. Their choices. I’m only the GPS if they need me. And they need me less and less.

Often I find myself thinking, I’d love to go back to being a teenager with the knowledge I have now. I’d have the great time I was too afraid to have back then. And often, I find myself wanting to say to my teens, “don’t be afraid to be a jackass.”

Since I can’t go back, alas, then I have to live the example now that I want for my teens. Be fearless in the face of fear. Be willing to be thought foolish and stupid. Have a blast.

Are you a jackass?