Happy New Year

Happy New Year everyone!

I can’t believe another year is ending. On a professional note, 2013 was a banner year for me. I published my third novel, Blogger Girl, in late August and, so far, readers have embraced it. My debut novel, Just Friends with Benefits, was re-released by Booktrope and, much to my surprise, is my best seller. Since it was re-released in September, I’ve sold several thousand copies compared to the several hundred I sold in the entire three years before that. Blows my mind—in a good way! My sophomore novel, A State of Jane, continues to do well and, finally, I am making very good progress on my fourth novel and hope to have it ready for publication in late 2014 or early 2015. Together with Francine LaSala and Samantha Stroh Bailey, I co-founded BookBuzz, a meet and greet for authors and readers, and we’ve already held two events—one in New York City and one in Toronto— and I met so many amazing authors, bloggers and, of course, readers. I can’t wait until the next event.

 On a personal level, it was a tough year for me. I split with my boyfriend of 1.5 years in February; my sister’s dog, Gypsy, passed away in the spring; one of my best friends (someone I think of as the younger sister I never had) moved across the country and while I supported her reasons for going, I miss her dearly;  and finally, one of my best friends in the entire world—my rock, my “work husband”, my comic relief, my sometimes therapist and really, the best man I know— was diagnosed with Leukemia in July and continues to undergo treatments to save his life— treatments that will continue through much of 2014. I know in my heart he will be okay, but I hate that he has to go through this, and I constantly find myself asking “Why him?”

But it’s not all bad! I thank God for all of the blessings in my life— my family, my friends (you know who you are), my day job, my health, my writing and my good looks (haha just making sure you’re still listening) to get me through the darker times and maintain a positive outlook.

I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions but I think I am going to take a page (or several hundred) out of my books. My characters make mistakes; they sometimes have poor judgment. Let’s just say, they fuck up. A lot. And so have I. But my characters always learn from their mistakes and come out on the other side a little bit wiser and a lot happier. That’s all I really want. If I am going to look back at my mistakes, I want it to be because I am learning from them; not because I am kicking my ass over making them in the first place. Like my characters, I want to take risks— even those that put my ego on the line or scare me. Especially those that scare me. Some will pan out and others won’t but a wise man once told me that it is the things we don’t do that we regret the most.  Not even trying is worse than giving it your all and failing.

To paraphrase a line from one of my books: It might take me several rounds of edits, but I’m a writer and I’m going to write my own happy ending.

Happy New Year and God bless you all 🙂

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my favorite books of 2013

At this time of year, when people are putting away their Christmas trees and finalizing plans for New Year’s Eve, many bloggers write posts announcing their favorite books of the year. I was one of these bloggers last year and the year before (and possibly the year before that). 2013 was a record breaking year for me in terms of how many books I read. I was seriously addicted to reading, so much so that it often got in the way of writing. I read every chance I had: whether it was while waiting for the elevator to reach my floor, blow drying my hair, or in line for the ATM machine. If I had two minutes to spare, I spent the time with my head in my Kindle. So far, I’ve read 82 books this year. I say “so far” because we still have almost a full week remaining in 2013, and I am confident that I will complete the book I am currently reading and possibly one more before the ball drops in the Big Apple on New Year’s Eve.

Of the 82 + books I read this year, I enjoyed almost all of them. Seriously, it was a banner year for reading and I only started a handful of books that I was not drawn in enough to complete. (With the multitude of books on my Kindle, I do not force myself to read a book that hasn’t sparked my interest after reading 10% and so if I’ve read and completed your book, you can assume I enjoyed it 🙂 ). Unfortunately, the multitude of books I enjoyed this year made it impossible for me to narrow my choices down to three or even ten favorites. Below are 13 of my favorites, in no particular order, along with the link to my Goodreads review, where applicable:

Zoey and the Moment of Zen – Cat Lavoie https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/712192307

You Knew Me When – Emily Liepert https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/743281068

Fame – Tilly Bagshawe https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/638831487

Saving Saffron Sweeting – Pauline Wiles https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/597095356

Three Girls and a Baby – Rachel Shurig https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/645936282

What the Dog Ate – Jackie Bouchard https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15748889-what-the-dog-ate?from_search=true

Arranged – Catherine McKenzie https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/522978604

The Fifth Wave – Rick Yancey https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/633471316

Beautiful Creatures series – Kami Garcia- https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/661857614

That Time of the Month – Emily Shaffer https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/435359917

 On the Island – Tracey Garvis-Graves

 Cocktail Hour – Tara McTiernan https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/638828350

The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/340004209

In addition to these books, I devoured and gave four and a half and five star reviews to many other novels that were equally as deserving and you can read my reviews on my Goodreads page https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/4303919?shelf=read. I chose the above because I truly lost myself in these novels to the point where I was thinking about the stories and the characters even when I was not reading; because I chose reading over sleeping and sometimes even eating in order to finish these books; and because I became so invested in the characters that, for a period of time, their fates were as important to me as my own. What’s especially cool about this particular list, in my opinion, is that some of them were New York Times best sellers which will be (or have been) made into movies and  some were traditionally published books I read with my book club which were written by well-known authors, but many of them were published by small independent publishers or self-published by the author herself. It just goes to show that how a book is published and by whom does not necessarily dictate how high it ranks on a reader’s enjoyability/well-written meter- at least not for this reader :).

I will probably write another post or two before the culmination of 2014; perhaps my New Year’s Resolutions (if I can think of any) or maybe a list of the books I am most excited to read in 2014. If, for some reason, I do not post again in 2013 (too busy at work, too drunk, trapped under a dresser in my apartment, held captive by a sexy romantic hero – the possibilities are endless), I will leave you with my best wishes to you all for a happy, healthy, well-read and well-fed New Year!

Guest Post – Laura Chapman, author of Hard Hats and Doormats!

I’m thrilled to welcome Laura Chapman to my blog. Her debut novel, Hard Hats and Doormats was just released on December 11th and I’ve asked Laura to write a guest post on what inspired her to write the book. Keep reading for an excerpt from Hard Hats and Doormats.

 

When I graduated from the University of Nebraska with a journalism degree in 2008, I expected to spend the next five to 10 years working my way up from being a crime reporter at a community newspaper to covering the local government somewhere fabulous, like Boston, Chicago or Seattle. Or maybe I’d be a page designer – but I’d go the same route: small town America to the big city.

 

In reality, I faced the 2008 job market. It was right after the housing market crashed and right before the big banks had their bailouts. As I watched friends lose their jobs as newspapers downsized to adapt to the economic downturn, I quickly realized I might have to adjust my game plan.

 

That led me to a small niche publication company that specialized in producing employee newsletters for clients, such as Class I railroads, food production companies and so on. I was hired as a corporate journalist. I was told to plan on spending about half of the month on the road traveling from location to location taking photos, conducting interviews and documenting stories. I figured it would be a good way to bide my time until the economy turned around, and I’d get to see more of the country in the meantime.

 

Be prepared for all types of weather when you’re drifting between Upstate New York and the Gulf Coast.

Be prepared for all types of weather when you’re drifting between Upstate New York and the Gulf Coast.

 

 

About six months after I started my job, I came to a few realizations.

  • First: This was a lot harder than it sounded. Spending 10-12 days a month living out of a suitcase and 1,500-2,000 miles behind the wheel was exhausting. Sure I was getting a chance to explore different regions of the country, but I barely had time or energy to enjoy the experience.
  • Second: Everyone I interviewed was speaking another language. In the railroad, humping is a way of sorting railcars, frogs are a switch in the rails and a dead crew is one that is out of hours. I learned all of this eventually, but for a long time I had no idea what anyone was talking about, which made me feel dumb.
  • And third: This was maybe a more permanent gig than I’d expected. The economy not only hadn’t shown signs of improvement, but it seemed to be getting worse.

 

The best part of the job – the funny men and women in the field who cracked me up and kept me on my toes.

The best part of the job – the funny men and women in the field who cracked me up and kept me on my toes.

 

I was still trying to accept these revelations when I was in the middle of a seven-day trip along the Gulf Coast. I was visiting several customers in east Texas and Louisiana, and by day four, I’d already logged more than 1,000 miles on my rental car. I spent part of that day covering a rail-crossing safety event in Natchitoches, La., which was a lot of fun, but exhausting to follow. Back in my rental car, I pulled off my steel-toed boots to replace them with the flip-flops I preferred to drive in. I caught sight of my passenger seat – a mess of maps, hard hats, reflective vests, safety glasses and ear plugs – and I laughed.

 

I must have instinctively known I’d one day write this blog post someday, because I snapped a photo.

I must have instinctively known I’d one day write this blog post someday, because I snapped a photo.

 

“This is my life,” I thought. “It’s all hard hats and flip-flops.” This was quickly followed by another realization. “That’s a good name for a book: Hard Hats and Flip-flops.”

 

It would be about a young woman a couple of years out of college. She’d be at a job she never expected having. It couldn’t be the railroad, because that was too close to home. What would be a job with a similar work environment? One where everyone was nice enough to her, because she was typically the token young lady, but also had some grit. The chemical industry. That would fit nicely on the Gulf Coast, which is where I knew this had to be set.

 

And she couldn’t be in communications, because that was too easy for me to write. Based on the conflicting personalities that are thrown together to work, having to be the person to settle any of those issues had to be tough. That would make her a human resources rep.

 

My main character Lexi said it best: It’s hard to make personal protective equipment look sexy.

My main character Lexi said it best: It’s hard to make personal protective equipment look sexy.

 

What would happen to this chemical industry HR rep who traveled the Gulf Coast – aside from settling disputes? She’d obviously face a lot of confusion, because her workplace was hard to understand. She’d deal with having a career that differed greatly from her original plan. She’d need a couple of friends, some troubling co-workers and a bad boss to up the tension. There should be some kind of romance. Maybe she’d fall in love with one of the men in the field. It would be kind of forbidden and a long time brewing.

 

By the time I reached Lafayette for the night, I had the basic components including the opening scene and finale in my head. Her life was certainly a lot more exciting than mine, and I couldn’t wait to write the book. Granted, I spent the next 20 months not writing the book, but by the time National Novel Writing Month 2010 rolled around, I wrote a first-draft for Hard Hats and Flip-flops, which ultimately became Hard Hats and Doormats.

 

Hard Hats and Doormats

 

About the Author

Laura Chapman mixes her love of romance and humor as a women’s fiction blogger and author. Born and raised in Nebraska – in a city, not on a farm – she is a devoted fan of football, British period drama, writing in bars and her cats, Jane and Bingley. Hard Hats and Doormats is her debut novel.

 

 

Connect with Laura

Website (http://www.laurachapmanbooks.com/)

Blog (http://change-the-word.blogspot.com/)

Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/laurachapmanbooks)

Twitter (https://twitter.com/lmchap)

Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/lmchap)

 

 

About the Book

Lexi Burke has always been a stickler for following rules and procedures. As a human resources manager for a leading Gulf Coast chemical company, it’s her job to make sure everyone else falls in line, too.

 

But after losing out on a big promotion–-because her boss sees her as too much of a yes-woman––Lexi adopts a new policy of following her heart instead of the fine print. And her heart knows what it wants: Jason Beaumont, a workplace crush who is off limits based on her previous protocol.

 

While navigating a new romance and interoffice politics, Lexi must find the confidence to stand on her own or face a lifetime of following someone else’s orders.

BUY LINKS:

Amazon –  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00H7OME88/ref=cm_sw_su_dp
Barnes and Noble – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/hard-hats-and-doormats-laura-chapman/1117661135?ean=2940148851479
Kobo – http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/hard-hats-and-doormats
Marching Ink – http://marchingink.com/buy/hard-hats-and-doormats/

 

EXCERPT

 

Chapter One

 

Alexis Burke @theLexiBurke

Can a person refer to employees as Jackass 1 & 2 in an official report? Asking for a friend. #HRProblems #ThisIsMyLife

The universe keeps telling jokes and I’m the punch line. #IHaveProof

Okay, seriously. When did this become my life? Can I get a mulligan? #ObscureGolfAnalogyForLife

 

 

In kindergarten Sunday school, Lexi Burke imagined Hell as a fire-ridden, hate-filled pit below Earth’s surface. On a mighty throne of blackened steel and skulls, Satan preyed on the souls of the damned for eternity.

Twenty years later, she discovered a new version of Hell. It was a windowless conference room on an oil platform off the coast of God-only-knew-where Texas in the middle of May. The devil took form in two men, both middle-aged and madder than a hornets nest. Despite the sweat building on her neck, she shivered.

When did babysitting old guys become my job?

How mad do hornets get, and what does their nest have to do with it?

Where did I come up with that analogy?

Solving those mysteries had to wait. Casting a glance at the figures gathered around the badly chipped table, she considered the situation at hand. The two men, their union reps, and a team of local managers were going yet another round in their verbal sparring without a semblance of resolution. The representatives wanted the men to go back to work. The managers wanted to give them pink slips.

As the HR manager assigned – albeit at last-minute – to the investigation, she wanted to keep everyone from killing each other. Not an easy task, considering the two men under investigation already gave murder their best shot.

According to the initial report, the incident happened over the weekend. The men engaged in a particularly heated discussion about college football. The man to her right apparently took offense to the one on her left using derogatory names to describe his beloved team.

She grimaced at the list of profanities. Three or four of them merited HR intervention on their own. Then again, others struck her as downright creative. Note to self: Use “dag nab ass backwards pile of swamp waste” in a sentence later today.

The fight escalated when Mr. Right expressed his displeasure by raking his broken glass across Lefty’s face. A few days later, the wounds swelled red and blotchy. Her stomach churned when she examined their faces closely.

His opponent fared no better. Lefty managed a couple of solid jabs with a shard from a shattered plate. His cheek and eyebrow were held together with the help of twenty-two stitches.

How did these men still have jobs? Surely trying to kill your co-worker violated the Employee Code of Conduct. But because they had no previous violence on their records, the company’s agreement with the union guaranteed them the right to an investigation – this investigation.

“I told ‘em to back off and leave my Tigers alone,” Idiot Number One shouted. “But he started waving around his God-damned glass. I had to grab hold of something to protect myself. A man’s got a right to defend himself and his pride.”

“What the hell are you talking about, son?” Moron Number Two chimed in. “You were the one bent outta shape in the first place. He’s pissed because my Hogs’ll beat the hell out of this pussy lover’s team next year.”

Hogs? Tigers? Did these men seriously put their jobs and lives on the line over the Arkansas and LSU football teams? Did Lexi have to take team allegiances into consideration when she hired new employees to avoid catastrophe? Were SEC fans this torn up about football year-round?

Will we have full-on riots come September?

She struggled to recall the last two football seasons, but nothing came to mind. In her early days at Gulf America, she’d spent most of her life adjusting to the heavy travel schedule of a field HR representative. Current events, sports, and anything unrelated to HR dealings never entered her mind. She instead concentrated on getting through each day, never mind remembering what happened in the rest of the world.

What kind of fights should she expect when the Big 12 schools in Texas started beating up on each other in the fall?

God help us all.

Pulling her shoulder-length brown hair off her neck, she longed for a breeze. Not the kind from men yelling at each other, but a real, honest-to-God breeze.

She sighed and stared back at her notes. Even if the investigation proved the men deserved firing, she wouldn’t make the decision. Her worthless boss would be using whatever recommendations she gave him.

Dale seldom left his office during the work day. Unless he heard an ice cream truck. Then he raced out the door with a dollar in hand. Why bother leaving for something important–– like his job–– when he had minions like her to do his dirty work in the field? He reserved his energy to sweep in at the end when he took credit and – by all appearances – saved the day.

This time, he didn’t even have the courtesy to make his decision before dawn. In her eagerness to please – the department had a promotion up for grabs – she overlooked the faux pas that sent her straight to hell. Sure the Assistant Regional Director job would be more work, but it came with a healthy salary increase and less travel. And at twenty-four, she’d be the youngest director at headquarters.

The shouts escalated.

Is a promotion worth this?

Another realization hit Lexi like a ton of bricks. Damn, another random metaphor. This dispute would have long-term implications impacting more than her chances of promoting within the company. The safety department would surely ban glass cups and plates from company premises before the end of the week. The idiots had proven breakables were a liability Gulf America would no longer risk.

Out of the corner of her eye, she caught sight of one man knocking his coffee mug to the floor. Damn. Another dish casualty. The shattered mug brought Lexi’s attention back to the present. One of the local managers sent her a silent plea. Clearing her throat, she filled her lungs with the heavy air weighing on her chest.

“Excuse me, gentlemen,” she began, in her sweetest drawl. A Midwesterner by nature and nurture, she spent the past two years cultivating her fake accent. It was useful in tense situations like this one. “I appreciate you sharing your perspectives. I’m sure both of your teams value loyal fans like you. But I need you both to take a few deep breaths and listen to what I say.”

She politely glared at the men. Their chests rose up and down in suppressed fury, but their mouths stayed shut.

“Violence is never the answer. It has no place in the sports arena or at work. Remember, you come from the same conference. Y’all should treat each other with the mutual respect your fine teams deserve.”

She paused for dramatic effect. She used a variation of the speech at least a dozen times in the past month alone. In her experience, a few well-timed beats of silence struck fear into the hearts of men better than a million words.

After giving her words room to settle uncomfortably, she continued. “Y’all need to treat each other respectfully. Not only because you’re co-workers and conference mates, but because you’re both good men with families who depend on you. Consider how you’d want someone to treat the people you love most. That’s how y’all should treat each other.”

The men had the good grace to bow their heads in shame. She mentally patted herself on the back for not flinching when she said “y’all.” Three times. When she moved to Texas after college, she swore she would never pick up the strange jargon.

It only took a month for the Southern slang to find its way into her vocabulary.

Sensing the men had finished their moaning, Lexi nodded at one of the managers to begin his end of the investigation. Leaning back in her chair, she scribbled on a copy of the report. She bored easily when her mind wasn’t constantly engaged. Doodling helped her maintain some focus on a situation without actively paying attention. As an added bonus, writing on paper gave everyone else the illusion she was busy.

On this day, she found paying attention to the investigation exceptionally difficult. Her afternoon meeting back at Corporate Headquarters would determine her future with Gulf America.

She made a note to dust off the training video about respectful language. More than likely, the oil rig’s crew would moan about having to sit through thirty minutes of bad acting. They’d also likely ignore the message, but she had to try.

For the men, she added a few suggestions for her boss to consider. They at least needed anger management counseling. Offering them a buyout in exchange for early retirement would satisfy the union and the company.

With her work done, she turned over her notes to doodle a picture. She drew two donkeys. One held a glass, the other a plate. Leaning back in her chair she admired her work, both the drawing, and the much more relaxed atmosphere in the conference room.

Damn she was good.

 

 

Booktrope Books and Bubbles Binge Giveaway!

BB&B

Together with fellow Booktrope authors Gale Martin and Laura Kilmartin, I’m excited to offer this fantastic giveaway to one lucky winner:

A signed paperback copy of my novel Blogger Girl, Gale’s novel, Grace Unexpected  and Laura’s novel, Next Year I’ll be Perfect (a brief synopsis for each book can be found below), lavender chamomile bubble bath, relaxing lavender foam bath, and patchouli and sweet orange foam bath, a lush lavender bath scrubbie, and a $10 Amazon gift card. Total value is $95–all mailed to you by December 25th.

prize

Instructions on how to enter follow my post below on my favorite ways to unwind!  

I get stressed out often. I think I might have been born with anxiety! When I was younger, I worried about my grades in school, whether the mean girls would be nice to me in class, if a certain guy would talk to me etc. These days, I stress over how much I need to do and how little time I have to do it. How can I keep up with my full time job while trying to write a fourth novel and promote three others?  When am I going to have time to exercise, spend time with friends, catch up on sleep, run my errands etc.?  And I’m single and very much hoping to find that special someone to spend my life with and I worry that I never will or that I already did and lost him. Calgon, take me away!

Ok, I probably just gave away my age, but let’s just agree that I do not live a stress-free existence. But, really, who does? It’s just not possible in this day and age and so all we can do is manage our stress and take time to decompress whenever we can. These are some of my favorite ways to wind down:

Sleeping – Sometimes the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning is when I will be able to get back in bed! I cherish those nights when I get cozy under my sheets, curl myself into the fetal position and close my eyes for as long as my body requires it without the necessity of setting my alarm.  There is something so special about having nowhere to be in the morning and knowing that I can stay in bed the entire next day if I want. I usually don’t, but having the option is simply fantastic!

Writing – believe it or not, writing is my best escape from my real life issues. I get so lost in my characters that I truly forget my troubles.

Running – Running truly clears my head and when I get in my groove and achieve a runner’s high, it’s glorious.

The above are some of the ways I like to unwind but my absolute favorite is a “me night” involving me, a glass (or 2) of wine, take-out or delivery from my neighborhood sushi restaurant and “girly” television/movies. I particularly enjoy watching the series finale of Sex and the City on DVD or a marathon of Felicity or one of my favorite chick flicks like Bridget Jones’s  Diary, When Harry Met Sally or 13 Going on 30.  It’s especially awesome after writing 1000 words of my WIP, running 11 miles and knowing that I don’t have to wake up early the next morning  🙂

sushi

SATC

For your chance to win the amazing prize described above, enter the Rafflecopter drawing here:

The contest is open from December 5th-December 15th!

About the books:

Blogger Girl – Kimberly Long has two passions: her successful chick lit blog and Nicholas, her handsome colleague down the hall. But when her high school nemesis pops onto the chick lit scene with a hot new book and eyes for Nicholas, Kim has to make some quick revisions to her own life story.

Grace Unexpected – When her longtime boyfriend dumps her instead of proposing, Grace vows the sexless Shaker ways. She appears to be on the fast track to a marriage proposal…until secrets revealed deliver a death rattle to the Shaker Plan.

Next Year I’ll be Perfect – Sarah’s discovery of a list her younger self put together outlining what she wanted to achieve by the age of 30 turns her world upside down.

booktrope

Cover Reveal – Love Illusion by Chineka Williams!

I am excited to reveal the cover of author Chineka William’s debut novel Love Illusion which will be released on February 3, 2014!

 LoveIllusion

ABOUT THE BOOK

Lucy is a confident PR professional, who is fearful of her troubled ex-boyfriend Charles. He is in denial about their breakup. With issues of alcoholism and abandonment, he spirals out of control.

Meanwhile, Lucy’s best friend Jade has found love and is about to get married. She is a loyal friend who is there for Lucy every step of the way.

Feeling trapped, Lucy is determined to fight back against Charles, but it won’t be without complication. After great debate, she optimistically accepts a new job offer miles away. Lucy soon embarks on an uncertain journey all connected to love.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chinekawilliamsphoto

Chineka Williams found a love of reading and writing early on as a child. She is a graduate of North Carolina Central University with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism. Books and Stilettos is the blog that she maintains for all things women’s fiction and writing updates. Outside of reading, her hobbies include baking, playing the clarinet, and photography. She can always be seen with a cup of tea close by. Love Illusion is her debut novel.