Phasing Out the Blog

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To my faithful reader,

Thank you for walking the path of this blog with me, but it’s almost time for the road to change. The blog has been a lot of fun to write and I’ve enjoyed spending time with you, but my social interactions online have shifted. I need to find where that road leads.

I hope you’ll follow me in that other direction. I’ve started a private Facebook group which I named Stacey’s Novel Family. (Because, hey, it’s all about creating the family you want.) If you have Facebook, and would like to be a part of that group you can either click on the link or reach out to me on Facebook. I’ll give away swag, share inside writing stuff like deleted scenes, and who knows what else, but I promise we’ll have fun.

Or you can follow my newsletter, if you already don’t. That’s where I will continue to share stories about the Noodges, the Coffee King, and my struggles or antics with aging.

The website will remain right here so you can always contact me, check out new releases, and find spots where I’ll be signing.

I hope to see you soon. The door is always open. Just walk right in and make yourself at home. Oh, don’t forget to bring the cannolis. Wink. 

All the best,

Stacey

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Scenes From the Cutting Room Floor – ASCH

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I often get asked how long does it take me to write a book. That’s a tough question. Do they mean how long does it take to write the first draft? How long it takes to edit the book? I wrote the first draft of A Second Chance House in maybe four to six months. Honestly, I forget. It spent eleven months in edits. That part I will not forget. I wrote the first draft of the second book in the series The Bridge Home in six months because I started it twice, wrote half and then trashed it to start over. Bridge is in edits now. I wrote the third book in the series The Essence of Whiskey and Tea in eight weeks. No one has seen Whiskey yet except me. Very different process for each. But here’s one thing that is the same in all my books. Some scenes just don’t make it into the finished product – like in the movies.

When a movie is filmed, many scenes are cut from the final version for a variety of reasons. I doubt film makers actually cut the film like they did in the old days, but the process is still the same. Get rid of what doesn’t work to tell the story.

Every word on the page has to count. If a scene isn’t doing it’s job, then it has to go no matter how much I like it. Many times I’ve had to delete cute dialogue, heartfelt confessions, or fight scenes. But I don’t actually delete them. I cut and paste them into another document. I’ve sweated over many of the scenes that don’t get used. I don’t have the heart to rid my world of them completely.

I thought my blog readers might enjoy seeing a scene that didn’t make into A Second Chance House. Think of it as a special treat for being my constant readers. Thank you for taking the journey with me.

 

Nothing good happened when the phone rang at four a.m. Grace pawed for the rattling phone on the pillow next to her. Blaise’s pillow, but he wasn’t there.  She had three weeks before she closed up the house and met him on the west coast. “Hello?”

“Babe? I think I’m dying.” Blaise’s voice was a breathless mumble.

She sat straight up, sleep forgotten. He wasn’t playing a practical joke. Not this time. “What’s the matter?” She switched the bedside lamp on and blinked against the glare.

“I’m sick. I’ve been puking for two hours and my side hurts. I mean fucking hurts. I can’t take it.”

“Do you think its food poisoning?” What was she going to do for him while she was in New Jersey and he was in California? Panic squeezed her throat and filled her lungs like water.

“I don’t know. Colton and I, hang on.” The phone sounded as if it slammed into the floor.

He hurled. She cringed.

“Sorry.” His voice croaked. “Colton and I had dinner around six. By eleven, my insides hurt so badly I threw up right in the kitchen sink. Is that food poisoning?”

“I never had food poisoning. Did you call Colton?” If they had eaten the same thing, then he’d be sick as a dog too.

“No, I wanted to talk to you. I thought I’d feel better if I heard your voice. Babe, this sucks. Hang on.” More hurling. “Sorry.”

“Where are you?”

“Curled up on the bathroom floor.”

She imagined him in a ball on the floor with his cheek pressed against the cold tile floor. “I’m calling Colton and telling him to go over. You need to go to the hospital.” She had to try to help.

“No, don’t hang up.”

“Blaise, I’ll be two minutes. Just keep the phone nearby. I love you.” It broke her heart to do it, but she pressed the end button and dialed Colton’s number. He was a mile away from Blaise and could help him.

She pounded out the numbers on the screen and waited for the ringing. Why did they continue to live on opposite coasts? She’d put her house on the market as soon as this was over. Please, let him be all right.

“Damn it, answer, Colton.”

“Yeah?” Colton’s brusque voice echoed in her ear.

“It’s Grace. Did you eat the same thing as Blaise for dinner?”

“What are you talking about?”

Fear pushed its way up from her stomach and shook her vocal chords. She lost what little patience she could muster. “Did you eat the same thing for dinner as your brother?” She stilted her words so the dumb ass would follow her.

“No, why?” His voice took on a softer tone or had she imagined it?

             Dear Lord, it was his appendix. “I need you to go to Blaise’s. He’s on the bathroom floor throwing up and says his stomach hurts.”

“Are you shitting me?”

“Yes, Colton. I am. I’ve decided to call you at one a.m., tell you Blaise is sick to see if you’re stupid enough to go over and find out. Please go to your brother’s house and call him an ambulance.” She hung up and dialed Blaise.

“Babe?” He wheezed.

“Colton is on his way. Just stay put. I’ll stay on the phone with you until he gets there and then he’s going to get you to the hospital.” Hopefully, in enough time.

 

If I Had to Do It All Again…

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Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

You get to a certain age, and you start to think, “If I could go back and start over…” Real life doesn’t give us a “do over,” but it’s nice sometimes to fantasize. I’m at that age, and as wonderful as my life is, sometimes I think about the roads I didn’t take.

I talked about my process for writing A Second Chance House recently. Though my characters started out as two people talking, I had to turn them into characters others would relate to. Otherwise, no one will stick with your story. Think about any movie or book you enjoyed. Part of the reason you liked the characters in that story so much was because you saw a piece of yourself in there. Do you remember the show Roseanne starring Roseanne Barr? Why was that show such a success? Because women everywhere said, “that’s what my house looks and sounds like!” Relatable.

I’ll tell you a little secret. I have a hard time writing women. A strong female lead has to be, well…strong, independent, smart, tough, vulnerable, wounded (otherwise there’s no character arc,) emotional, but not whiny, she can have insecurities, but she can’t be too desperate. That’s a tall order, and it takes me more than one pass through to get my heroine right. (Personally, I don’t like the unreliable protagonist so in books like The Girl on the Train, I just get mad at her repeated poor choices.)

How did I make Grace relatable? It wasn’t easy. In the first draft, when we first meet her she’s in the library crying her eyes out. Ugh.

But Grace became relatable because as I got to know her, she fantasized about a fresh start. Grace gets one, at the exact moment she needs it. Not that she knows that at first. In fact, she doesn’t know she wants a fresh start at all until she realizes she’s a walking cliche and all her planning, following the rules, playing it safe has backfired in her face. She’s also a little stubborn. She wants to prove everyone who told her she couldn’t renovate a house in a town she didn’t know – wrong! Yay for Grace! It’s a good feeling to tell the nay sayers in our lives to shove it. We can relate to that too.

I put Grace in my age bracket because it is in the middle of our lives with as much time behind us as ahead that we start to wonder if this is all there is. It’s also during the middle of our lives when people act out on those what ifs. We’ve seen a lot of bald, paunchy men in red sports cars, no? Just saying. I can relate to women my age, and why shouldn’t women in their forties be the heroines of a love story? They fall in love too. Love the second or third time around is a different love than the first one. I wanted to read about a woman my age who’d been married, had children, wondered what if. I figured other women did too.

So, I now have a middle-aged woman faced with the tough choice to start over or not. She isn’t a risk taker. I’m setting up the conflict for her. Go or stay? She goes. Brava! But when she gets there, she gets more than she’s bargained for. More conflict. And when she meets the sexy neighbor, he is the exact opposite of who she is. What is she supposed to do about that?

What’s great about writing books is I get to control the ending. I can’t control much of anything in real life, but believe me I try. When we sit down and take the journey with Grace, she gets to do the things that maybe we can’t. We don’t always get a second chance to start over. And we can’t predict the ending of our love story. But we root for Grace to achieve her goals and fall in love.

Will the woman who never takes a risk, risk it all – and possibly fall in love? If given the chance, would you be that person?

Music is so important to me and my hero, Blaise Savage. I’m having a book launch concert at Patrick’s Pub, Neptune, NJ, March 28th 7 pm. I’ll be signing books and doing a reading. And right along side me will be fantastic bands playing awesome music. (I won’t be singing. Don’t worry.) If you’re in the area, stop by and say hi.

Thanks to the kindness and generosity of Arell Rivers, I’ll be taking over Arell’s Angels (she’s a wonderful author. Check out her stuff.) on Facebook. April 15th, from 6 -8 pm to celebrate the release of A Second Chance House. Stop by for games and prizes, and to talk about writing, or whatever else you fancy.  We had a blast at the last Facebook party. If you missed it, here’s another chance for some fun.

 

 

 

 

 

What Does Music Mean To You?

In 1982, I discovered Van Halen. As far as music was concerned, I never looked back. I knew the words to every song on every album. I could drum solo right along with Alex. I studied everything I could get my hands on about them. (Oh, how the helpful the internet would’ve been.) I stayed up until all hours of the night listening to radio interviews. In my high school year book senior year, we had to list what we would be in ten years. I wrote married to Alex Van Halen. I was obsessed.  (The video above is “Respect the Wind” by Eddie and Alex Van Halen. Enjoy!)

As the years passed, and logic and reasoning formed in my brain (thankfully) some of the obsession died down. (I have seen every American tour since 1984.) I still enjoy their music, but mostly the stuff with David Lee Roth singing lead. Sorry, Sammy Hagar. He seems like a cool person to hang out with. I prefer the harder sound with Dave.

Growing up music made me believe anything was possible. Music sat right beside me while I wrote my first novel at twelve, and every novel since. (I have play lists for all my women’s fiction books.) Music soothed my heart the first time someone broke it. No one understands the broken heart better than a musician. Except maybe a romance novelist. Music makes me dance any place any time. Music transports me. Every time I hear AC/DC’s Hells Bells I’m at the start of a high school football game. High school was a long time ago.

I don’t play any instruments, but 2018 is the year I change that. I can’t sing, but I dream of being on stage in front of thousands singing my heart out. (Possibly in leather pants. And I’d love to do a duet with Jennifer Nettles. I love the quality of her voice.) If I had to go back and do it all again, I’d study how to play music. I love writing, and I wouldn’t change being an author for anything. (Though I’d like to make more than a cup of coffee for doing it.) But I also love the sound of an orchestra. And much to my son’s dismay, I love soundtrack music. The music in a soundtrack evokes emotion often times because the dialogue and the actor’s facial expressions can’t. Being in an orchestra is my kind of team sport.

An artist puts his or her mark on the world. The way rockers played guitar changed because Eddie Van Halen hit the scene. He revolutionized the way guitars were made too. I often hope with my books that I can leave my mark. I had a beta reader say to me recently, “I’m sobbing.” My words moved her. What an honor and a thrill to be able to touch someone deeply. Now I have to find more readers like her otherwise my mark is just one. That’s no easy job.

If I could go back to 1982, I think I’d sit myself down and say, “don’t give up. Don’t listen to what other people say. Deep inside you is a talent and a passion. Sing. Dance. Play. Write. I’ll be waiting for you.”

What does music mean to you?

What passion burns inside you to come out?

Who influenced you the most?

A Second Chance House is available for pre-order in digital format. The print version will become available March 7th from all major online retailers, and here on the website.

I’m hosting a Facebook party on March 7th from 7 – 9 pm in honor of the release. There will be games and prizes.

And since music is so important to me and my hero, Blaise Savage, I’m having a book launch concert at Patrick’s Pub, Neptune, NJ, March 28th 7 pm. I’ll be signing books and doing a reading. And right along side me will be fantastic bands playing awesome music. (I won’t be singing. Don’t worry.)

 

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.

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.

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?