Sunday, August 31, 2014

Flourishes & Flowers

Writing is hard. Crafting the perfect first chapter followed by a compelling (and not mind-numbing) middle and an ending that ties everything up in a nice bow is probably one of the hardest things you'll ever do. Until you start editing and questioning every choice you ever made, that is. 

The process of draft to print is a combination of awful and delightful.

Last week, I received the publication proof for Becoming Beauty. As usual, I let it sit in my inbox for a day, because like a Howler from Harry Potter, one never knows how bad it might be. These days with I want my moooooooommmmm! ringing in my ears, there isn't much peace of mind or creativity left at the end of the day. However, after several chocolate chip cookies, slices of pizza, and a healthy helping of Netflix, I was ready to tackle it.

I've come to expect direction on major and minor changes to my manuscript which (I remind myself) make my story stronger and clearer. Instead, what I found was the result of collaboration between me and the designers, professional editors, and proofreaders at Cedar Fort. Basically, I'm having the most delightful time running through it and savoring each little formatting surprise I find. 
What a great reward for several years of hard work! Something as lovely as I could have hoped for full of flourishes, flowers, and cuteness. How exciting is that? And seeing that all the suggestions and gut instincts I've followed have made the end product much stronger really does make me trust myself and my team more.

Take it from me: your hard work is worth it. Please friends, don't give up. Dump the blood, sweat, tears, sleepless nights, fat pants, bad snacks, and crappy social life into your work. It will pay off in the end. Because after all the hard work, this is fun!

* * *

For more about my journey from draft to print, read Death By Autocorrect or Just a Taste. Thanks for stopping in! And now back to proofreading! 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Barbie's Dream Boat

Fine. I'll admit it. I have some pretty strong perfectionist tendencies. Because of that, having a variety of projects going at the same time keeps me from fixating on any one, deciding it's complete rubbish, and bagging it. Sam James is one of several stories I wrote early on and decided to rework when my writing skills improved. As I fiddle with it in between my main projects, I'll continue to post chapter excerpts for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!

Chapter Three:
Barbie's Dream Boat

Samantha emerged butterfly-like out of her cocoon of drab clothing and footwear and drew the attention of eligible bachelors like moths to a flame. Perhaps a wealthy oil tycoon searching for true love and adventure, or a sexy bad boy bent on ruining every woman in his path would succumb to her charms. After a mad, passionate rumble, the selected swain would abandon his wicked ways and beg her to be his.
At least, that was the plan. 
However, with all the changes she had undergone, one thing remained constant: next to Vanessa Sumers, Sam was invisible. Sam propped her cheek on her palm and sighed inwardly as the attractive-looking businessman seated beside her at the table leaned over her to vie for Vanessa’s attentions. The athletic-looking fellow seated beside Vanessa was fighting equally hard. 
Well, Sam thought, caught in a flirting maelstrom in which she played no part, this is what I get for letting myself daydream.
As always, Vanessa had secured one of the best tables in the ballroom for the evening’s entertainment, set alongside the stage itself.Tonight’s program boasted a ballroom dance review. Sam knew little about dancing, but she admired the skill and grace required and wished she had any type of coordination. As group after group took the stage, she continued to be impressed by the talent and poise of the on-ship entertainers. Finally, one duet remained. The Paso Doble.
The lights dimmed and the audience hushed as one dancer stepped onto the stage.  Illuminated by a spotlight, he stood tall, erect, motionless. As the music began, his feet tapped out a complicated rhythm so quickly Sam could hardly keep track of them. He sauntered, spun, and slid across the stage, performing the intricate movements that reminded Sam of a bull fight. Only when he paused, arm outstretched, waiting for his partner to join him did Sam realize she had been holding her breath. As soon as their hands met, they were off again, twirling across the stage until the music reached its finale. The room fell silent, the dancers frozen in a passionate embrace. Before she realized what she was doing, Sam was on her feet, clapping wildly, her eyes still riveted on the dancers.  A gentle touch on her arm pulled her from the magic of the moment.  She looked down to see an uncommonly soft smile lighting Vanessa’s face. With a wave of the hand, Vanessa reminded her to take her seat. 
As she did so, Vanessa leaned forward to speak furtively in her ear, “You know, I used to be a dancer.” Sam lifted her eyebrows in surprise. “I was quite good too, but as usual a man got in the way.” Vanessa sighed half-regretfully. Sam imagined her buxom boss as a dancer, but found it impossible to visualize anything that didn’t include a pole. 
Vanessa continued, oblivious of Sam’s train of thought. “That doesn’t mean you can’t live your dream,” she said. Before Sam could reply, Vanessa raised a hand and motioned to the nearest waiter. He scuttled to her side, an inquisitive look on his brow. “My friend,” she said, gesturing toward Samantha, “would like to learn to dance like that,” she gestured toward the now empty stage. 
Sam envisioned herself as a young and awkward Frances (A.K.A Baby from Dirty Dancing) paired with the male from the last number as the hunky bad boy Johnny.  Coincidentally, his partner would be incapacitated for the rest of the cruise and he’d be forced to train her instead.  (What was unclear was why he wouldn’t select a partner from the 50-some-odd other well-trained dancers on hand, but why mess with a tried and true plotline?)  Through many clandestine training sessions he would transform her ungainly movements, and finally during the formal ball on the last evening of the cruise they would flout convention and display her new found dancing prowess and their undying devotion for one another.  She could hear the words, spoken in a husky tone, “Nobody puts Sam in the corner.”  
“I’m sorry ma’am,” the waiter replied politely, interrupting Sam’s reverie, “those services aren’t offered on this cruise.  But I’d be pleased to give your compliments to the dancers.”

* * *

Thanks for dropping by!  For more on the adventures of Samantha and Vanessa, Finding Myself in LiteratureHostile Makeover, Dealing With Divas, and Diva Depressed. And the one where Samantha comes face to face with her dreamboat: The Meet-Cute.

Its Playtime!

As a teacher I have to rationalize why much of what we do in kindergarten--building with blocks, doing puzzles, and dramatizing stories--looks like play. My professional response is:

Play fulfills a wide variety of purposes in the life of the child. On a very simple level it promotes the development of sensorimotor skills, or skills that require the coordination of movement with senses, such as using eye-hand coordination to stack blocks (Frost et al., 2005; Morrison, 2004). 
But what I'd really like to say is:
Adults need playtime as much as children.  With all the hubbub of adult responsibilities, we lose who we are beyond our professional and family roles.

For this reason, my summer break is sacred. A summer full of deadlines (self-imposed and otherwise), family drama, and more schedule than I'm accustomed to, wasn't exactly what I hoped for. Luckily, I reserved plenty of time for playtime. And when I say playtime, I mean actual plays. As an escape, I scheduled four plays within three weeks at the end of the summer.That's right, I'm a genius! 
This summer, I attended Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors, Austen's Sense & Sensibility, Mary Poppins, and Wicked. Between SuperCaliFragilIsTicsExpiAlidocious and Shakespeare my soul was fed, my heart was touched, my funny bone was tickled, and my imagination was set free. 
Play is important.  As adults, we need to spare a moment to nurture the child within each of us.   Finding time to do what we love reminds us of who we are, lightens our hearts, and keeps us going.  If you need an excuse, tell your significant other, boss, or children that your kindergarten teacher said to do it.  I'd be pleased to take the blame.  

What activities keep your mind fresh? I'd love to hear about them. Leave me a comment!

For more on my summer of fun, read Sun, Surf, & Solace and Unexpected Sweetness.  Thanks for stopping in and go forth and play, my friends! 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Where Life Takes You

This week, it's my pleasure to introduce you to a lady who is not only a gifted author, but a lovely individual.  I became acquainted with Claudia Y. Burgoa on Twitter where as a newbie with only a few followers, I learned of her sweet and giving nature. Since then, I've had the chance to come to know Claudia better on Facebook and I can't say enough about what a wonderful person she is.

Born on the mystical day of October 30th in the not so mystical lands of Mexico City, Claudia grew up with a childhood that resembled a caffeine-injected  soap opera. Seventeen years ago she ventured to the lands of her techie husband—a.k.a. the U.S.—with their offspring to start a new adventure.
She now lives in Colorado working as a CFO for a small IT company, managing her household filled with three confused dogs, said nerd husband, two daughters wrought with fandoms and a son who thinks he’s the boss of the house. To survive she works continually to find purpose for the voices flitting through her head, plus she consumes high quantities of chocolate to keep the last threads of sanity intact.

Claudia's Blog Tour and Giveaway are ongoing throughout August and I'm pleased to be a part of it!
For me, a great cover is the difference between a book I'm interested in and one that won't even make it off the shelf. The story of Claudia updating the cover of Where Life Takes You to better reflect the essence of the story was so intriguing that I chose Where Life Takes You to review and present to you. Here's my take:

Dealing with the affects of a childhood marked by parental neglect, violence, and extreme abuse, making it through day-to-day life is difficult enough for Rebecca Trent. But when she must re-establish contact with her mother, stepfather, and stepbrother who rejected and abandoned her years before, Becca must face the demons of her past. Only best friend and lifelong guardian angel Daniel Brightman provides the unfailing love, support, and protection Rebecca needs to help her find the truth about her family and the death of her stepsister and discover the path toward healing.

Claudia Burgoa weaves together the raw pain of a brutal past with hope for healing in this steamy and thoughtful romance. I appreciate Burgoa's ability to tell the story of a woman as damaged as Rebecca who finally learns her own worth as she begins to see herself through the eyes of those who truly love her.

Since the books I typically write and review are for young adults, let me remind you that Claudia writes adult books with themes that may not be suitable for all audiences.  Now that I've said that, here's more info on Claudia's other books and where you can find them. (The bargain hunter in me is dying to share the fact that they are all priced below $3 on Amazon Kindle. Check it out!)

Find Getting By at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

And Next To You, the sequel to Where Life Takes You, also available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Don't forget to enter the giveaway below.  To get to know the beautiful and delightful Claudia better, connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, or on her website.   I promise you'll enjoy her as much as I do. Congratulations, Claudia!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Jot it down, DANG IT!

We all have those random thoughts, weird dreams, and moments of inspiration that spurn good (and bad) ideas.  As another author stated on his site recently, the muses don't always arrive at convenient moments. Instead, they like to pop in when you hop in the tub, are soundly asleep, can't fall asleep, or are involved in something else. Particularly helpful, if you ask me!
The trick is to get it down!  My bedside table is littered with scraps of paper with everything from full story ideas to tweaks in plot, setting, and character traits.  I'd love to say I'm the author who plans out every detail beforehand, but that's not the case.  In life and literature, I'm more of a let's see where this leads us kind of gal.  So having these little moments of inspiration help me move the storyline in the right direction. Usually.

My advice?  Keep a notebook, notepad, or sticky notes nearby when you're home and install Notes apps on your digital devices for when you're away from home.  This won't solve the problem of getting a great idea when you're all soaped up in the shower (unless you happen to own a fancy shmancy water-resistant phone) but that should cover just about anything else.  Oh, and please alert your friends, family members, and random people standing in the market next to you:
Should we make t-shirts? Leave me a comment to tell me what you do when the muse calls.  And as always, thanks for stopping in, friends!