Thanks to I Dare Me author Lu Ann Cahn for answering some of my questions today! And be sure to check out her book – on sale now!
Why was I Dare Me a book you wanted to write?
I hoped to write something that would inspire other women to grab on to life again; to live full out. I knew that what I experienced wasn’t just anecdotal. Incorporating first time experiences in your life can be a prescription for “stuck.” I would be thrilled if groups of women start doing First time experiences together.
I’m also a long time survivor of breast cancer, kidney cancer and having my colon removed because of ulcerative colitis. I know how important it was for me when I was diagnosed each time to see long term survivors living active lives. I hope others in the midst of “battle” will find this book.
What would you think some common fears are?
Fear of change in general. Fear of technology we don’t understand. Fear of social media that makes no sense to us. We fear becoming irrelevant, getting old and out of touch but that’s exactly what happens when we insist on sticking to our old ways and habits. We fear veering outside the day to day path we are on even if we know we are unhappy.
We fear the very things that could open up our world. Instead of being curious, we dismiss. We don’t want to ask for help. We forget our brains love to things, new information, new experiences. Firsts remind us how to be courageous and take risks again.
What was the dare you were most excited about completing?
I was really looking forward to eating dessert all day long for a first. Couldn’t wait. That was horrible. Don’t do it.
What is the hardest part of the writing process for you?
For me, it’s being disciplined and blocking out time. I work full time as a tv news reporter. I wrote most of this book in the early morning hours. Weekends I’d start at 6 am and go to 2 or 3 in the afternoon. I have to write first thing in the morning when I wake up. Of course if I don’t like what I’m writing, it doesn’t matter how many hours I sit at my lap top, it’s just not going to work. When that happens, I go to the gym and work out. The best ideas come to me when I’m not trying so hard. Sometimes, I leave in the middle of a class when I think of something so I can go write it down.
What are your favorite genres to read?
I guess you wouldn’t be too surprised that I like lots of variety. I love fast paced mystery thrillers. I have a stack of self help books. I like short stories and science fiction. I like beautifully written novels and cookbooks. Sometimes I have two or three things going at the same time.
What do you want readers to take away from your story?
You are never done. The best stuff really is outside of your comfort zone. When you stop doing things for the first time your life becomes a “flat line”….and you know what that means. If you are stuck and life seems like “Groundhog Day”, just doing one new thing can be the start of changing everything.
How important do you think social media is for authors these days?
Social media is critical. Am I a pro at it? Nope. I’m on a big learning curve. But what I love about social media is I get to immediately connect with readers from anywhere. I enjoy the interaction far more than marketing online, but I work with some good friends who are constantly helping me tweak my social media skills.
I think it is harder to launch a book these days without establishing a platform and an audience online first. My daughter, who is a social media guru, is constantly chiding me that I’m not doing enough. She’s probably right.
What would be your advice to aspiring writers?
This is tough. I think Elizabeth Gilbert said this in an interview and I think it’s true; working on deadline as a journalist helps tremendously. As a tv news reporter, I write every day. I have to write quickly with little time to edit. There’s no time to look at a blank page…the clock is ticking.
I think the training you get as a journalist, regardless of whether it’s print, online or broadcast, teaches you discipline as a writer. When you finally sit down to write what you want, it feels like a delicious luxury.
About the Author:
Lu Ann Cahn is a reporter for Philadelphia’s WCAU-TV. She covers breaking news and investigative stories for NBC10 News. Cahn is an honorary board member of the Philadelphia chapter Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America and serves as the annual emcee of the foundation’s main fundraising event, the Renaissance Ball. She also works extensively with Living Beyond Breast Cancer.
A MADARIS BRIDE FOR CHRISTMAS by Brenda Jackson
Publisher: Harlequin Kimani Arabesque
Publication date: October 29, 2013
Page Count: 320
ISBN: 9780373091430 (market paperback)
IN HER 100TH BOOK, NEW YORK TIMES AND USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR blends heated sensuality and drama into a dazzling new novel featuring one of her most unforgettable Madaris heroes yet…
One by one, Madaris men have surrendered to the matchmaking schemes of Felicia Laverne Madaris, matriarch of the family. But Lee Madaris isn’t letting anyone else control his destiny. He’ll bring a bride of his own choosing to the family’s holiday gathering—if his hotel’s gorgeous new chef will agree to a marriage of convenience.
It’s not just the chance to work at the Strip’s hottest hotel that brought Carly Briggs to Vegas. Witnessing a crime in Miami may have made her a mob target. Though she’s reluctant to complicate their working relationship, Lee’s tempting offer is so hard to resist. And soon, desire is clouding their no-strings arrangement.
The danger that made Carly flee Miami is about to land at their door. So Carly and Lee must decide who to trust, when to let go—and whether a love they never anticipated is strong enough to pass the ultimate test.
A New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling and award-winning author of more than seventy-five romance titles, Brenda is a recent retiree who divides her time between family, writing and traveling with her husband.
Lee Madaris glanced at the clock on his wall before rubbing away the tension forming in the back of his neck. Although it was nearing midnight, he was still in his office working. It was imperative that he do so.
Five potential investors would be arriving tomorrow and spending four days at the Grand MD Vegas hotel. He would be catering to them at a level that was unprecedented. The five men had enough cumulative capital to balance the national budget, if they’d chosen to do so. However, balancing the national budget wasn’t Lee’s goal. His objective was to get them to invest in his next hotel—the Grand MD Paris.
After the success of the Grand MD Dubai, as well as all the attention the hotel in Vegas had received since opening its doors four months ago, a number of investors were ready to provide funds for his next venture. But he didn’t want just anyone; he wanted men willing to take a chance on a hotel that would be astonishingly different from its two predecessors. It would be a hotel of the future.
Both Grand MD hotels had been Madaris-Di Meglio joint ventures—highly successful and breaking sales records. But the third hotel, the one planned for Paris, France, would use state-of-the-art technology while maintaining the rich architectural design Paris was known for.
Lee’s cousin and the architect in the family, Slade Madaris, had designed the first two Grand MDs and would likewise design the one proposed for Paris. Slade’s design was nothing short of a masterpiece and would be unveiled at one of the meetings this week. Slade’s twin brother, Blade, would be the structural engineer. No two Grand MD hotels would look the same. Each would have its own unique architecture and appeal.
Pulling in a deep breath, Lee returned his attention to the documents in front of him—bios on the five men. The name that topped the list was that of his grand-uncle Jake Madaris. Lee didn’t need to read his uncle’s bio.
The man was a walking genius when it came to playing the stock market, and as far back as Lee could remember, Jake had been financial adviser to the entire Madaris family. If it hadn’t been for his uncle’s smart move of establishing a trust fund for all his nieces and nephews when they were still in high school, Lee would not have had the money to partner with his good friend DeAngelo Di Meglio to build their first two hotels.
Jake and another family friend, Mitch Farrell, had been the hotels’ financial backers. Mitch—the second man on the list—and Jake had already confirmed they were on board for the Paris hotel since the last two hotels had been a successful venture for them.
However, the price tag for a Paris hotel was higher than the price of the other two combined, and Jake had suggested bringing in other investors. All were good friends of Jake’s, but his uncle had warned Lee that convincing them to invest would be Lee’s responsibility.
He was ready.
The third person on the list was Kyle Garwood, a multimillionaire who made his primary home in Atlanta. Kyle was married, the father of six. Lee liked Kyle and highly respected him.
The last two men were sheikhs from the Middle East. Sheikh Rasheed Valdemon of Mowaiti had such a close relationship with the Madaris family that he had been named an honorary family member and occasionally went by the name of Monty Madaris when he did business in the United States.
Finally, there was Rasheed’s brother-in-law, Sheikh Jamal Ari Yasir of Tahran. Lee had never met Sheikh Yasir but had heard he was a shrewd businessman, always looking for a good investment. He was married to an American woman, the former Delaney Westmoreland.
Lee would be wining and dining the five men in the Grand MD style. Everything was in place and would be set in motion as soon as they arrived tomorrow morning.
Their visit had been strategically planned down to the last detail. They would be given a tour of the hotel before they were served lunch. Since tomorrow was a traveling day, no meetings had been planned. However, early the following day, Lee’s skilled marketing team would kick things off with several video presentations and meetings. Around three, the men and their wives would be given the chance to rest and relax before a dinner fit for royalty.
Afterward, they would enjoy the nightlife Vegas was famous for—from right inside the Grand MD. The casinos, live shows, state-of-the-art IMAX theater and the exquisite mall on the fifth floor that offered twenty-four-hour shopping all guaranteed that the Grand MD would gain a reputation as the hotel that never closed.
A winning hotel had to have a winning staff. He and Angelo had handpicked all of his executives and managers. Each had hotel experience and had come with sterling resumes and excellent recommendations. He and Angelo were pleased with every staff member, and those who didn’t deliver were quickly replaced. Second-best was not an option at the Grand MD.
Lee moved away from his desk, intending to walk around and get his blood flowing, but the moment he stepped into the executive suite’s lobby he stopped to stare at the huge picture hanging on the wall. It was a portrait of his great-grandmother Felicia Laverne Madaris the First, whom they fondly called Mama Laverne.
She was the matriarch of the Madaris family. Having borne seven sons, his grandfather Lee being one of them, Mama Laverne had raised her sons by herself after her husband, Milton, had died. All her sons were still alive except for Robert, who had been killed in the Vietnam War. Lee’s grand-uncle Jake was Laverne’s baby boy.
Mama Laverne had insisted that Lee hang this particular picture of her right there on that wall. She’d given the same directive to his other cousins. They all had the same framed photograph hanging in the offices of their various businesses. She was dressed in her Sunday best, with a huge dressy hat on her head, and she appeared to be looking directly at the viewer with those shrewd eyes and an all-knowing smile. At least she was smiling. A Mama Laverne frown could make him quake in his boots. She definitely liked giving orders, and she expected them to be carried out.
Lee chuckled. He wished he could say she was getting bossy in her old age, but as far back as he could remember, she’d always been bossy. Besides that, she was a notorious busybody when it came to meddling in the lives of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Even at ninetysomething, he figured she would still be around to meddle with the great-great-grands’ lives as well.
He didn’t want to think of a time when she would no longer be in their midst. Their love for her was the main reason why he and his still-single brothers and cousins overlooked a lot of her shenanigans, especially her determination to marry off each of them.
Closing the door behind him, he walked along the spacious lobby hallway, noting the elegance, style and sophistication that were such integral parts of his Vegas hotel. Besides being the tallest building on the Strip, with seventy-five floors, it had an amusement park on one of its lower levels, making it an ideal place to stay for both adults and families. From the carpeting on the floor to the paintings on the wall, from the furnishings to the hotel’s special amenities, anyone would agree that the hotel deserved the seven-star rating reviewers were giving it.
Sliding back huge glass doors, he stepped out onto the terrace of the executive suite. Normally, he wasn’t one who took the time to appreciate a lot of greenery, but with the quality of the hotel on his mind, he couldn’t help doing so. Various plants had been flown in just for this terrace.
Lee inhaled deeply, breathing in the scent of the plants mixed with the September air. He looked beyond the Vegas view to study the looming desert. The rain had lessened the heat and now a sultry breeze stirred the air. The sky overhead looked dark and dreary. There didn’t seem to be a single star. A part of him longed to be back in Houston, gazing up into a Texas night.
Lee shook off the longing. He had too much work to do to be melancholy. He hadn’t been home since last Christmas and another one would be coming up soon, but opening the two Grand MDs had taken up all his time, personally and professionally. Now luring investors for a third hotel would make him even busier.
Just as he turned to go back inside, his gaze landed on a woman standing on the balcony a couple of levels below. His breath was snatched from his lungs. A low groan passed from his lips as a jolt of sexual energy rocked him to the bone.
She was beautiful. Sensually stunning. Picture-perfect.
She stood leaning against the balcony rail, wearing a sexy green dress and chocolate-colored stilettos, her hair blowing in the breeze. From her expression, as she stared down below, he could tell she was fascinated by the bright lights of the Strip.
Was she a guest at the hotel? He scanned the balcony connected to a tri-level observation deck. It appeared she was alone. Something about her pulled at him. She looked happy, peaceful, but lonely.
Lee didn’t know the woman yet he felt as if he could read her perfectly. He stood and watched her, totally mesmerized. A slow heat flowed through him and pooled in his groin—she was arousing him in a way no other woman had. What was there about her that made every muscle in his stomach tie into knots? Made full awareness of her fill his every pore?
Granted, he hadn’t dated in a while because of his stringent work schedule, but still, there was something about this particular woman that had lust rushing through his veins.
Nothing like this had ever happened to him before. He checked his watch. It was getting late, but he had to meet that woman and find out why he found her so captivating.
Anticipation filled him as he made his way off the terrace and toward the elevator bank.
She simply loved it here, Carly thought. Bright lights lit the Strip and each hotel seemed to compete to shine the brightest.
It was hard to believe she had gotten the job of pastry chef at the Grand MD’s Peyton’s Place restaurant a little more than a month ago. The hotel had been gracious enough to give her time to resign from her job in Miami and remain in Florida long enough to pack up her things and attend Heather’s wedding.
Initially, she had missed South Beach and wondered if she would ever get acclimated to Vegas’s dry summer heat. But she had discovered that in addition to being a fun city with its infamous Strip, Vegas was also a nice place to live.
Her house was in a residential area of town not far from shopping. Because she had everything she needed right at her fingertips she rarely came into town on her days off.
Except for today.
Today was her twenty-eighth birthday, and she had decided to celebrate with a night on the town. She had even treated herself to a night at the Grand MD. It had to be the most beautiful hotel she had ever seen. Her room on the fiftieth floor was to die for and the service was excellent.
Carly had stumbled across this particular balcony a few weeks ago while on break. She loved the view, and it had become her favorite. There had been several other couples here earlier, enjoying the view as well, but they had departed, leaving her alone. She didn’t mind. It was the story of her life.
Carly forced the depressing thought from her mind.
After all, it was her birthday and she intended to have fun. So far it had been a beautiful day. Before leaving home this morning she’d gotten calls from Aunt Ruthie and Heather. They had remembered, and they were the only two people in her life that counted.
There was a party going on in one of the ballrooms upstairs. She could hear the music playing, a Marvin Gaye classic. She felt like dancing. What the heck. It was her birthday and she had every right to be silly if she wanted to.
Turning from the rail, she waltzed across the floor. She closed her eyes and pretended she was at a party, celebrating her birthday in style, dancing around a ballroom filled with tall, dark, handsome men. One would come forward, claim her hand and ask—
“May I have this dance?”
At the sound of the deep, husky voice, Carly’s eyes flew open and she stared into the most gorgeous pair of dark eyes she’d ever seen. And there was a very handsome face to go along with those eyes. Where on earth had he come from? She blinked, wondering if she was still clutched in the throes of her fantasy. She had to be.
“Are you real?” she asked, making sure she hadn’t conjured him up in her mind.
He smiled and the sight of the dimple in his chin nearly brought her to her knees. It definitely caused every hormone in her body to sizzle.
“Yes, I’m real. Now, how about that dance,” he said, taking her hand in his. A different song was playing now, this one by Luther Vandross.
Carly nodded her consent and he pulled her into his arms. The man was a total stranger. Had it not been her birthday, she would not have allowed him to hold her. But she had already decided that it was okay for her to act silly today. And it wasn’t every day that such a good-looking man asked her to dance. Not only was he handsome, but he smelled good too. And to top it off, they danced well together. The way their bodies swayed and moved against each other had her fighting a desire she hadn’t felt in close to four years.
A desire that had never been this strong.
She was reminded how it felt to be held by a man, in powerful arms. Every part of her body tuned in to the solid hardness of his. It was staggering; she was mindful of his every movement, the steady sound of his breathing, the way his arms encircled her waist.
Carly looked up at him to find him staring down at her. His predatory look made her insides simmer. Swallowing deeply, she said softly, “Where did you come from?”
He smiled again and she felt a tingling sensation in the pit of her stomach. “From my terrace.”
She nodded. He was a guest at the hotel.
“What about you? Are you a guest here?” he asked.
“Yes.” She wasn’t lying. She had checked into the hotel that day. There was no need to tell him she also worked here. “It’s a beautiful hotel.”
“I think so too. I’m Lee, by the way.”
His smile widened. “Nice meeting you, Carly. Is there a reason you were dancing alone?”
Her face warmed as she wondered if he thought she’d looked ridiculous. “It’s my birthday and—”
“Happy birthday,” he said.
She smiled up at him. “Thanks. I was having my own private party of one.”
He tilted his head. “That’s no fun. A beautiful woman should never party alone.”
He was smooth, she thought. As smooth as he was handsome. And she’d noticed he wasn’t wearing a ring. She knew some men didn’t cherish the sanctity of marriage vows, but she did.
“For me that’s no problem. I’m a loner anyway,” she said.
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CLP is happy to share this excerpt from Miss Kane’s Christmas by Caroline Mickelson today for CLP Blog Tours! Please stop by the tour page for more information and a giveaway!
“Don’t be so melodramatic, my dear.” Santa smiled at his daughter. He hopped down from the driver’s seat and motioned for Carol to join him. When she did, he put his arm around her shoulders and gave her an affectionate hug. He gestured across the moonlit neighborhood of Indian Village. “This is a beautiful place for you to spend your first Christmas away from home.”
Carol looked down on the snow covered street. Each two story home in the cul-de-sac was bedecked with strings of colored lights, nativity scenes, plastic gift wrapped lawn ornaments, and pine wreaths on the front doors. The seventh home just under their feet was the exception to the neighborhood’s festive spirit. A white clapboard colonial with black shutters, it gave no indication that its owners knew Christmas was only three days away.
She fixed a pleading expression on her father but, while his blue eyes sparkled with his love for her, he showed no sign of going back on his decision that she spend her first Christmas with a family of his choosing. It was a Claus family tradition, and Carol, as the youngest child, was over-due for her turn. Still, she made one last ditch effort to change his mind. “You’ve said yourself that no one excels at elf management like I do.”
“True, I said it and I meant it. But your absence will give your brother Nicholas a chance to work more closely with the elves. Besides, you deserve some fun this year. You work too hard.”
“I love every moment of it.” Carol tucked a strand of her dark hair behind her ear. She shared her father’s blue eyes and his love of Christmas. “I’ll miss you, Daddy.”
“I’ll miss you too, my girl. I know this won’t be easy, Carol, but it’s necessary.” He dug into the pocket of his red down jacket and pulled out a sheet of folded paper. “Read this.”
She reached out for the paper. “What is it?”
“Just read it. It’s the reason you’re here.”
Carol unfolded the slightly crumpled sheet of lined paper and instantly recognized that it had been written by a child. Fortunately the moon was bright enough to allow her to easily read the words that had been neatly printed in crayon.
My Daddy doesn’t know I’m writing to you. He would say I can’t write a letter to someone who doesn’t even exist but I know you are real. My Mom told me so before she died. My little brother Patrick doesn’t remember her saying that but that’s only because she was gone before he was even in preschool. I’m not writing to ask for anything for Patrick or me. But Santa, can you please bring my Daddy some happiness? I know the elves can’t wrap it, and it’s nothing you can bring down the chimney but he needs help. I don’t know who else to ask. I know you’ll think of something Santa.
from Hillary (age 8)
p.s. Patrick likes to play with cars and my favorite color is pink
Carol finished reading the letter, refolded it and handed it back to her father. “I take it we’re at Hillary and Patrick’s house?”
Caroline Mickelson loves her family and loves to write. She also loves a good adventure, among her favorites thus far were attending graduate school in a Scottish castle, riding a camel around the Pyramids in Giza, and taking a best-in-a-lifetime road trip to Graceland. Caroline lives in the American southwest with her husband and their four children, affectionately known as The Miracles.
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A magna cum laude graduate of UCLA, Cassandra Harte never took a test she couldn’t ace. So when her home pregnancy test comes back negative, she’s certain the kit’s defective. Failure has never been an option for Cassandra. She has a well-established career, a handsome husband (Nick), and a lovely home. But there’s one thing Cassandra desperately wants that she doesn’t have: A baby. After trying for months to get pregnant without success, she starts to wonder if she’s finally met a challenge she cannot conquer. Determined to conceive, she creates an ovulation calendar so she can seize that perfect 24-hour window. When that fails, she sends up fervent prayers. But it soon becomes apparent that her inability to become pregnant has nothing to do with timing or faith, and everything to do with Renee, her diabolical, thirteen-year-old stepdaughter.
MARRIED IN THE NICK OF NINE (available on Amazon—Kindle and Paperback)
Cassandra Whitmore is facing yet another Valentine’s Day alone. Her love life is as dry as the Sharpie pen she uses to mark an even more dreadful day on her calendar—her upcoming 30th birthday. Driven by the maddening ticking of her biological clock, Cassandra is determined to meet, fall in love with, and marry “The One” within nine months. When Cassandra accompanies her cousin to a night club, her Type-A quest to meet a man is quickly rewarded by a stranger’s velvety, baritone voice asking if he might occupy the seat next to her. He’s Nicolas Harte, whose good looks leave Cassandra speechless, but not for long. After mustering enough courage to strike up a conversation, she learns Nicolas is everything she wants in a man—smart, successful, and available. There’s only one catch: He’s “GU” (geographically undesirable). Nonetheless, Cassandra falls in love with Nicolas and makes the uncharacteristic decision to move from Los Angeles to New York to be with him. But Cassandra gets a rude awakening when she discovers there’s something rotten in the Big Apple.
Shortly after graduating from USC with a degree in journalism, Alretha soon realized her interest in her major was not heartfelt. Instead of writing news stories, she wanted to write plays and books. Several years later, her church gave her an outlet to fulfill her writing desires through their Liturgical Fine Arts Department wherein Alretha penned twelve theatre pieces—the community response was overwhelming.
This led to plays outside of the church, including Alretha’s “One, Woman Two Lives,” starring Kellita Smith (The Bernie Mac Show), directed by four-time NAACP Image Award Best Director recipient, Denise Dowse. The production garnered rave reviews from critics and audiences.
In between plays, Alretha’s first novel “Daughter Denied” was launched in 2008 and in 2011, Alretha launched “Dancing Her Dreams Away.” Her third novel, “Married in the Nick of Nine” was launched in 2012 and is taking readers and reviewers across the country by storm. “The Baby in the Window,” the standalone sequel to “Married in the Nick of Nine,” is Alretha’s fourth novel.
My second (virtual) child has turned one! Right before Christmas last year, I was giving myself a wonderful gift in publishing my second title, 14 months after the first. It was such a great feeling because after publishing Destined to Fail, the questions were constantly asked: “When’s the next book coming? Are you writing a second book? How much longer until we can read something from you again?” So. Much. Pressure. I learned a lot about publishing in general from the first book, and it was much smoother the second time around – I had formatters and my cover designer lined up well in advance, I had a marketing plan in place, and I now had readers who actually wanted to read my next book. Quite amazing. So a year has passed and I’ve been so thankful for all the reviews, tweets, emails, and comments on The Green Ticket. I’m happy to be celebrating this occasion on your blog, and the support you and so many others have given me not only with this book, but my first, my upcoming third, and Chick Lit Plus and Marching Ink in general is so incredible. Thank you!
College junior Alex Abrams scores her dream job at the ripe age of twenty – manager to a successful salon and spa. Thrilled to finally have a real adult job, Alex enthusiastically jumps into the world of schedules, conference calls, and getting a massage when interviewing prospective employees. What she doesn’t expect are the very grown-up issues that comes with a demanding boss. Kevin Dohlman quickly becomes Alex’s worse nightmare – covering up his affairs, dealing with his enormous ego, and trying to protect her female staff from him becomes a full-time job in its own right. Alex has also befriended Kevin’s wife and co-owner, Dani, and is trying to keep Kevin’s secrets hidden from her. The situation only worsens when Kevin starts paying Alex off to make sure she keeps her insider knowledge to herself.
While struggling to keep her wits and stay happy with her new grown-up job, Alex is juggling college courses, a new love interest, and keeping up with her close group of girlfriends. When her roommate and best friend Lila gets offered an opportunity to move to Los Angeles and sign with an agent, Alex realizes her life truly is changing, and everyone around her – including herself –– is growing up. Knowing she is faced with some hard decisions ahead, Alex struggles with keeping her job at Blissful. But does she really want to throw away what she dreamed of as a career – or will the secret-keeping for Kevin become too much to handle? The Green Ticket is a story about morals versus money, and how one young woman navigates the shaky line between the two.
Samantha March is an author, editor, publisher, blogger, and all around book lover. She runs the popular book/women’s lifestyle blog ChickLitPlus, which keeps her bookshelf stocked with the latest reads and up to date on all things health, fitness, fashion, and celebrity related. In 2011 she launched her independent publishing company Marching Ink and has two published novels – Destined to Fail and The Green Ticket. When she isn’t reading, writing, or blogging, you can find her cheering for the Green Bay Packers.
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Merry Chick Lit Celebrate the Season with Six Sassy Shorts
In the spirit of giving, six chick-lit authors “present” a charming collection of seasonal shorts sure to inspire holiday cheer-plus love and hope throughout the year, with all proceeds donated to Rocking the Road for a Cure! Featured authors & stories include:
In “Santa’s Gift,” journalist Jessica thinks Santa’s just a silly myth for children, so when he asks what she most wants for Christmas she tells him the one thing she knows he can’t deliver–true love. Or can he…?
In “The Christmas Lights,” one competition pits two families against each other…who will win this war?
Pretty Izzy knows exactly what she wants for Christmas: hunky sales manager Jake Harrington wrapped up with a shiny silver bow–and nothing else. Except Santa may have other plans in “Carol of the Belles.”
Nikki Mahood In “Spinster Christmas,” Cara’s looking forward to spending Christmas alone until she learns her old–and she believes very gay–crush needs a place to stay. Though it soon becomes clear that while still hot, Ronan isn’t gay after all…
Ella’s dreams of making a better life for her and her daughter seem further away than ever in “Iced Dreams.” But as Christmas approaches, and she wishes for a fairy godmother to wave a magic wand to fix her life, things begin to change in ways she never imagined!
In “The Mermaid,” Allie’s content to spend Christmas by herself at a vacant beach house to make good on a promise made to her true love lost, Jeff. Until Jeff’s gorgeous college roommate Tim crashes in on her with his own promise to keep…
Information on the charity:
Rocking the Road for a Cure
Rocking The Road For A Cure is tickled PINK to be selected as the recipient of proceeds from your purchase of Merry Chick Lit.
We are a growing 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in the New York City/Long Island area, dedicated to improving the quality of life of people undergoing the often energy-depleting and emotionally draining treatments for breast cancer.
Our name came from our founder and President, Dawn Frey, a musician, who learned through personal experience that “it takes a village” to get through the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer, and not every individual has the support network they need. Rocking The Road For A Cure provides free, in-home housekeeping, health and wellness services to restore strength and confidence, and to rebuild spiritual, emotional and physical well-being.
So, when you settle back and relax to enjoy reading Merry Chick Lit, please know that you have helped us help a breast cancer patient to also settle back and relax…and heal.
Rocking The Road For A Cure http://www.rockingtheroadforacure.org
Four authors from Christmas anthology Merry & Bright share their favorite childhood holiday memories.
Lauren Clark: My favorite childhood Christmas memory would have to be making cookies with my mother and two younger brothers. I adored the process—mixing the ingredients, rolling out dough, choosing cutout shapes, and the delicious scent that floated through the house once the cookies turned golden brown in the oven. I am certain that my brothers and I made a terrible mess, but we loved tinting frosting in shades of bright green and cheery red and decorating cookies in the shape of trees, bells, Santa, and stars. The stars have always been my favorite, and I took extra care to dot them with silver nonpareils, glittery sugar sprinkles, and iced dots and swirls. We enjoyed the treats in our pajamas with cups of cocoa while snowflakes fell outside our front window, covering the lawn with a blanket of white.
Laura Chapman: My family decorates our Christmas tree Thanksgiving weekend, and it’s always a fond memory for me. My mom tells me my love for Christmas trees started early. “When you were eighteen months old, we put you down for a nap, and while you were sleeping, we put up the Christmas tree and decorated it,” she said. “When you woke up, we brought you out and your eyes were as big as saucers. You kept turning around in circles looking at it. You were very amazed and very cute.” I’m still amazed when I see an exceptionally beautiful tree.
Nancy Scrofano: I don’t remember exactly how old I was, but when I was a kid, I desperately wanted a new bicycle for Christmas. I had my eye on a bright yellow “big girl” bike, so I asked Santa for it, and I waited and waited. Finally, Christmas morning arrived. I remember racing down the stairs to the family room, and there in front of our Christmas tree was that yellow bike with a giant red bow on it. I screamed so loud that I woke the rest of my family up. I’ll never forget that exciting moment.
Isabella Louise Anderson: Who doesn’t love presents, especially at Christmastime? Being the eager child that I was, one Christmas Eve, I was too excited to sleep because I knew Santa was coming. After waking my younger brother up, I convinced him to go downstairs with me to see if we had any presents. Seeing nothing yet, we went back to bed, and couldn’t sleep the rest of the night. We stayed up talking about what we hoped we’d get—he wanted a Nintendo Game Boy, and I wanted a cash register. Santa was good to us that year.
Merry & Bright Book Description
Sip your eggnog, linger under the mistletoe, and make a Christmas wish. Merry & Bright brings you six tales of Christmas cheer, featuring stories of budding romances, Southern charm, lost loves, heaps of humor, and lots of pie by authors Isabella Louise Anderson, Cindy Arora, Laura Chapman, Lauren Clark, Libby Mercer, and Nancy Scrofano. From sunny Los Angeles to the Rocky Mountains to the Deep South, Merry & Bright will take you on a heartwarming adventure you’ll love to visit again and again. Wrap yourself in holiday mirth and prepare to be swept off your feet.
Writing the Second Draft
New writers are often encouraged not to worry about editing themselves when they first sit down to put words on paper (or on computer screen). The first draft is “the vomit draft,” they are told. Just get it down, that’s the important part. Let the words flow, write down whatever it is that comes in to your head, just keep going till you get to the end. Then put the work in a drawer (some kind of metaphysical computer drawer) for a few weeks or months, so you can edit it with a clear head. Or something like that.
The problem with this advice, as good as it may be, is that it assumes two very important things: One, that writers are able to recognize problems with their own writing simply by putting the work away for a few weeks, and, two, that writers will be able to come up with solutions to those problems and make those necessary changes.
Friends, those tasks are a lot harder than they sound. There’s a reason that publishing houses employ professional editors; there’s a reason indie writers are strongly encouraged to hire freelance editors; there’s a reason that even professional Hollywood screenwriters are often kicked off of projects that began in their own head. I’m not saying this to scare you away. I’m telling you this because if you’re at the editing stage, and you’re feeling stuck – that your book is possibly the worst thing ever written in the history of man – it’s completely natural. (If you think your first draft is perfect right down to the semi-colon on page 173, that’s an issue as well.) It’s probably not as bad as you think, but you’re right – it’s not ready to be evaluated by agents or publishers, or uploaded to Amazon if you’re going directly indie. (Even indie authors are obligated to make their work the best it can be.)
I highly advise you to hire a freelance editor once you’re convinced you can’t make the work any better on your own. Before that step – or in lieu of it, if you’re short of funds – try to get as many beta readers as possible to read the book and offer constructive feedback. You don’t have to listen to everything that everyone says, but if a few of the readers are saying the same thing, that’s advice you should probably take.
Before that, though, you do need to take a crack at the manuscript on your own, as frightening as that may sound. Where to start? It’s incredibly difficult to pinpoint the exact problems in our own work. Often, we read it and are left with the disquieting feeling that something’s wrong, that things need to be changed, but clueless about exactly what the problem is and how to fix it. Fortunately, like happy families, problems in works of fiction tend to fall along similar lines. Here are the obvious things to check for and fix when evaluating your first draft:
- The story is too episodic. Your protagonist has a goal, and the novel is the story of the steps she took to reach the goal. Either she wants to better her life, or she’s experienced an upheaval and just wants things to get back to normal (or a little better.) Each plot point gets her closer or further from her goal. In an episodic novel, however, the protagonist doesn’t have a goal. Things happen for no particular reason; events are disconnected from each other. Some plot points can be removed completely without affecting the end of the book. (It’s okay to have sub-plots, but they are called sub-plots for a reason… they need to impact the main plot.)
How to fix this: Tape this sentence onto your laptop: My protagonist wants X, but Y keeps getting in her way. Then do a strong rewrite to strengthen everything that deals with X and Y but jettisons all the other letters in the alphabet. Yes, this is a heavy, frustrating rewrite, but you’ll have a better book as a result.
- Your protagonist is passive. This can be a difficult one to diagnose, because passive in this case doesn’t mean inactive. Is your protagonist in charge of her own life, or does she just react to things around her? Some degree of reacting is inevitable, but referring to the point above, your protagonist has a goal. She must take actions to achieve that goal. If all the actions are happening to her – she wins the lottery; she’s chosen at random to be a Bachelor contestant; a Hollywood agent plucks her from a drugstore stool – she is a passive character. Your heroine has to act and set in motion the things that happen in her life.
How to fix this: Rearrange events so that she acts to make them happen. Maybe she follows home that Hollywood agent and blackmails him; maybe she bribes a Bachelor producer. This fix isn’t really that tough – once you develop an eye for seeing what’s active and what’s passive behavior, it’ll become a habit.
- The narration violates the rules of point of view. Briefly, if you’re writing in first person, your narrator can’t describe events that happened when he wasn’t there or thoughts of people other than him. This is also true for third person that is limited to the protagonist. The most complicated point of view is when the writer decides to include several characters’ view points. If you chose to do this, please check out a book that describes how. It’s too easy for your book to end up a confusing mess of different characters shouting for their stories to be heard.
How to fix this: The easiest way to avoid this problem is to write in first person from your protagonist’s point of view. If you must have more than one protagonist, alternate chapters and points of view. Never switch point of view in a paragraph.
- Your supporting characters are unbelievable. Supporting characters are the stars of their own lives. They don’t know they are trapped in a book about someone else. Too often newbie writers create supporting characters – the mom, the best friend – that exist solely to give the protagonist advice. This leads to boring, conflict-free scenes.
How to fix this: Create a compelling life and back story for these characters. These events don’t necessarily have to make it into the book, but they will enrich the character. And have them disagree with your protagonist, often and vehemently. Conflict is the backbone of a scene, not coffee and a sympathetic shoulder.
- Your tone is inconsistent. In today’s publishing climate of genre-mixing, just about everyone is adding comedy or horror or salsa to a standard women’s fiction drama. Comedy, it seems, is the most popular seasoning, and the most difficult to mix in with heavier fare. Sometimes a person is making jokes when they fear for their life and it works because that’s the character’s defense mechanism; other times it just comes off as strange. Janet Evanovich can have Stephanie Plum cracking wise when her car blows up, but it’s a challenging skill for the rest of us to develop.
How to fix this: The easiest fix is to keep your comedies funny, your tragedies tragic, your dramas dramatic and your mysteries mysterious. If your main character insists on being funny, be strict about making sure that humor does not leak into the narrative voice.
Keep these points in mind while you go through your first draft. Read it quickly, take notes but don’t start making changes until you have a plan in mind. Everything’s easier with a plan.
But wait… I didn’t say anything about proofreading, finding typos, copy editing, sentence structure, or the serial comma. Please don’t worry about any of those issues until you’re ready to tackle your very last draft. There’s no point in worrying whether a sentence takes a comma or a semi-colon if you switch points of view three times in the same paragraph.
Remember, someone once said that writing is rewriting. Then they crossed out the last word and changed it to “editing.” There are people who think the editing stage is actually easier than the writing (the words are already there!) and people who’d rather chuck the whole thing and start over with a new story.
Finish your project. Dive in and do the hard work. Not only will your writing be better for it, but that sense of accomplishment will carry forward to other aspects of your life.
KEEPING SCORE is in sale this week for 99 cents!
When her son wanted to play travel baseball, Shannon Stevens had no idea the worst competition was off the field…
When her son Sam asks to try out for a travel baseball team, divorced mom Shannon Stevens thinks it’ll be a fun and active way to spend the summer. Boy, is she wrong! From the very first practice, Shannon and Sam get sucked into a mad world of rigged try-outs, professional coaches, and personal hitting instructors. But it’s the crazy, competitive parents who really make Shannon’s life miserable. Their sons are all the second coming of Babe Ruth, and Sam isn’t fit to fetch their foul balls. Even worse, Shannon’s best friend Jennifer catches the baseball fever. She schemes behind the scenes to get her son Matthew on the town’s best baseball team, the Saints. As for Sam? Sorry, there’s no room for him! Sam winds up on the worst team in town, and every week they find new and humiliating ways to lose to the Saints.
And the action off the field is just as hot. Shannon finds herself falling for the Saints’ coach, Kevin. But how can she date a man who didn’t think her son was good enough for his team … especially when the whole baseball world is gossiping about them? Even Shannon’s ex-husband David gets pulled into the mess when a randy baseball mom goes after him. As Sam works to make friends, win games and become a better baseball player, Shannon struggles not to become one of those crazy baseball parents herself. In this world, it’s not about whether you win, lose, or how you play the game… it’s all about KEEPING SCORE.
About Jami Deise…
A lifelong resident of Maryland, Jami Deise recently moved to St. Petersburg, Florida, along with her husband Tom, son Alex, and dog Lady. A baseball mom for over 10 years, “Keeping Score” is her first novel. Jami is an associate reviewer at www.chicklitcentral.com and a generalist reader for an NYC-based literary agency. Along with women’s fiction, she loves all things horror and watches too much TV.
Keeping Score is on sale for 99 cents this week!
on Amazon (Kindle/paperback): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00E6GHQYM
on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/340759
The Green Ticket is turning one! To celebrate the big day – December 3 – I am offering up a week of fun! During the week of December 2, I am looking for bloggers to host me and the book. I can write guest posts, answer interview questions, or even just a birthday announcement or giveaway post will be much appreciated. If you would like to review the book, an eBook copy can be sent to you for that. A giveaway will be going on all week, with the winner scoring the following prizes: The Green Ticket ink pen, Marching Ink post-it notes, Marching Ink stress ball, and a print copy of Marching Ink’s latest release, Zoey & The Moment of Zen by Cat Lavoie! If you would like to review the book, host me, post about the book’s birthday or even just the giveaway, please fill out the form below! Thank you so much to everyone who has supported me, my books, and Marching Ink throughout the years. It is much appreciated!
Thanks to Where the Pink Houses Are author Rebekah Ruth for letting CLP interview her today!
I’ve always been a lover of stories. One of my favorite childhood memories is when my mom would tuck me in at night and make up a story on the spot. Sometimes, she asked me to fill in the details and we always ended up with a grand adventure. That love of story stayed with me and caused me to be a voracious fiction reader. But I love fiction so much that I was actually afraid to try my hand at it, in case I bombed. It took pushing past that fear to write my first book. I honestly wasn’t sure if writing was for me until I finished that first book. Now, I’m hooked!
How would you describe your books?
Currently, my favorite thing to write is a love story with chops. A story that speaks to people in some way, that helps us understand ourselves, those around us or God a little better. But it’s tied up in a really pretty package (the love story) that keeps us interested. That’s what my first book, Where the Pink Houses, is. And the second in that series is the same kind of story but with different themes and characters. In this one, they travel to Africa, which is a place that’s very close to my heart. I’m excited to tell some of the story of the people there.
Why was Where the Pink Houses Are, a book you wanted to write?
I wanted to tell a story about people who are flawed and make mistakes (because we all are and do) but who learn to be more real about who they are. Shame thrives in secrecy and I think so many people are walking around wounded because they are afraid to open up to anyone about what their struggles are. Where the Pink Houses Are is a story about taking the messiness of life and turning it into something beautiful.
What is the hardest part of the writing process for you?
Finding time! I’m convinced if I could lock myself into a cabin somewhere I could write a book start to finish. I don’t usually struggle with writers block. It’s more like a struggle with life getting in the way of writing. “Really? You want dinner again? I just fed you yesterday!”
I have four kids and a husband who works from 1pm-12am. So, I am the sole getter-upper, lunch-maker, taxi-driver, sports-attender, dinner-maker, most of the time. But as my kids are a little older now (the youngest is 9) I’m finding it easier to schedule solid blocks of time for writing each week. But they still insist on being fed several times a day. The nerve.
What are your favorite genres to read?
I love Fantasy (Tolkien, CS Lewis, etc.). Getting lost in a different world is a wonderful way to spend a rainy afternoon. I also love Historical Fiction/Romance and Modern Romance/ChickLit. What can I say…I’m a sucker for a good romance.
I want people to know that no one has made too many mistakes or is too far gone that they can’t find forgiveness, healing and a new way of life. So much of our personal stories are unwritten yet and regardless of what the written chapters look like, we can decide what each chapter holds from this day forward.
How important do you think social media is for authors these days?
I think social media is not only important but I think it’s a wonderful asset to authors. Have you ever finished a book and thought, “I wonder why the author wrote it that way.” Or, “I wish I could ask the author about ____.”
Well, years ago, there was no real way for readers and authors to connect. But with social media, the world is a much smaller place and connections happen every day. Technology, in general, has made my job better. I attend a number of book clubs every year as a guest author, but I can only travel so far and still be mom and wife. So, I have been able to Skype book clubs around the world. I would never have had the opportunity to chat with readers in Great Britain or Nebraska or anywhere else outside my area, without the advances in technology.
Most importantly, I love it that my readers can contact me on Facebook or on my blog and I can answer their questions or even get their feedback for future stories.
What would be your advice to aspiring writers?
It probably sounds cliché, but write, write, write! The more you do it the better you will become. And don’t just write in your journal. Join a writer’s group and get other people reading and critiquing your work. It’s scary, and sometimes painful, to have someone else edit what you’ve labored over, but there is extreme value in collaboration…seeing things through someone else’s eyes.
Also, read, read, read. I do not have a degree in literature. I am not a trained writer. But I have been reading fiction for so long that I believe that was my most important writing teacher. I know what works and what doesn’t because I’ve been immersed in fiction for as long as I can remember.
So the fact that I could write a novel that ended up being listed on Kirkus Indie’s Best of 2012 List as one of the top five in the Romance/Chick Lit category, without having any official training as a writer…I can only attribute to some good instincts and lots of reading.
What is your favorite part of the writing process?
By far, my favorite thing and the thing that surprised me most, is when the characters take on a life of their own. I am not an outline kind of girl. I just don’t think that way. I liken my writing process to getting driving directions online. I can put in my destination and a couple stops along the way, but I still have multiple options of which routes to take. When I write a story, I know some of the points I want to stop at along the way. And I hopefully have a good idea of the end point. But so many times, I’ve sat down to write a scene one way and the characters say or do things that I don’t expect and I end up adjusting my “course” as a result. I love that.
What is the best advice you’ve received on writing fiction?
I had the idea for my story for years but never knew how to start. Then I heard a successful writer say that she always writes her favorite scene first. That unlocked it for me. I started with a scene where my two lead characters meet and went backward and forward from there…finishing the first draft in just a few months.
What is your favorite thing that you’ve heard from readers?
Truly, all feedback is appreciated. But my favorite thing to hear is, “I couldn’t put it down.” My favorite stories are ones that keep me saying, “Just one more chapter…” so to hear that my book has that effect on someone is the ultimate compliment. (And when they say that in an Amazon review, it’s that much sweeter!)
Connect With Rebekah:
My blog- Rebekah Ruth Rambles www.rebekahruthbooks.com
Kirkus’ Starred Review: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/rebekah-ruth/where-pink-houses-are/
Amazon Kindle Edition of Where the Pink Houses Are (many reviews are available there): http://www.amazon.com/Where-Pink-Houses-Are-ebook/dp/B006K8XPYO/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=