Monday, December 31, 2012

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Pros and Cons of the Publishing World



It’s mind-boggling how much the publishing industry has changed in the last few years. Thanks to the invention of the e-reader, authors can now self-publish their work and actually have a legitimate chance of being widely read. Amazon has really leveled the playing field in that way. For example, my first novel, Following My Toes, has been downloaded well over 20,000 times! This is incredible to me. Of course, I priced it at 99 cents and that has a lot to do with its success. Years ago when I was first published the Kindle had not yet been invented. At that time I thought a successful month of sales was selling a dozen books.

 However, my second full-length novel, Starring in the Movie of My Life, hasn’t sold nearly as well. It’s gotten great reviews, including ones from Midwest Book Reviews and RT Book Reviews. It’s placed well in several contests. It was even featured on USA Today’s book blog, thanks to But for some reason, it doesn’t sell as much as I hoped it would. Is it the cover? Is it that the subject matter is sort of serious? I wish I knew. I wish the formula for how to write a popular book was clear, but it’s not. It’s such a crapshoot.

 Now Amazon is making it more difficult for indie authors to get ahead. With their new policy against authors reviewing other authors, and against people with personal relationships posting reviews, they are taking down reviews left or right, sometimes without proof of their policies being violated at all. Meanwhile, don’t tell me that the major publishers don’t practice nepotism. Yet only the indie authors are being hurt by this, and it’s a harmful policy indeed. Legitimate reviews are being removed for no reason. Furthermore, sites like Pixel of Ink, and Ereader News Today, won’t let you advertise with them unless your book has a review ranking of over 4 stars. That would rule out bestsellers like Gone Girl or JK Rowling’s Casual Vacancy, but they don’t need advertising.

 And still the major publishers continue to exclude newcomers and take few chances on unknowns. Do you know the easiest way to get your book published by a major publisher? Become famous first. Seriously. If Snooki can get a book contract, why can’t I? The answer is simple; most people know who Snooki is, but few people know who I am. That’s too bad for me, but what can you do?

I don’t mean to sound bitter. Actually, I consider myself very lucky, because I can write about what I want and potentially find readers. And, despite their unfair review policies, I’m still deeply grateful to Amazon for leveling the publishing playing field.

 I’m aware that November Surprise will appeal to a limited amount of people. Not everyone loves politics the way my main character, Lucy, does. But I’m confident that the love story will appeal to a lot of people, because who doesn’t love a love story? The political and pop culture references simply add flavor. I had a lot of fun writing it, and I’m aware that a major publisher probably wouldn’t touch it. That doesn’t mean that people won’t enjoy it, though.

This is an exciting time to be a writer. We’re at an impasse, and I can’t wait to see what happens in the publishing industry next. No matter what, I plan to be a part of it!



Thursday, December 20, 2012

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Books, Tragedy, and Life

This Friday I was without daycare, so I stayed home with my two-year-old daughter, Pauline, and I dropped my seven-year-old son off at school. It was the first time all year I've been able to walk Eli into school, chat with his teacher, see his classroom as the kids file in, and catch up with the parents of his friends. I was thrilled at the opportunity, and I love his school. There's such a good, friendly energy there, one which I'm sad to say is lacking at the high school where I teach.

So it made it all the more heartbreaking to hear later that day about the school shooting in Connecticut. I imagined that school to be like my son's school, full of promise and enthusiasm on a Friday so close to Christmas. Like most of the country, I am horrified by the news, feel helpless and terrified at the possibility that it could happen again, yet grateful that it wasn't my kids to which it happened. I was haunted in my dreams Friday night by images of violence and guns; the world became an even scarier place this weekend.

Another thing I've been thinking about is the book Matched, by Allie Condi. Besides being a teenage romance, this is a story about a "perfect" society, where people don't have a choice about anything - not their spouse, their job, what they eat, where they live, or when they die. But everyone is healthy and reasonably happy. Cancer and violence don't exist, except in the "outer provinces", which nobody really worries about. But art and self-expression don't exist anymore either. The society believes that too much choice and stimulation will break down the utopia they have worked so hard to create. Maybe it would.

But is it a fair trade off? Normally I wouldn't think so, but I bet if asked, all of the parents who lost a child this Friday would say that it is.

(And just to be clear, I don't think we need to eliminate choice, art, and stimulation to do something about gun violence. I pray that this tragedy will be the start of stricter regulations.)

I also recently read The Age of Miracles, by Karen Thompson Walker. This is also a story of a young girl, but she is growing up as the world begins to end. The earth's rotation for some reason has begun to slow, and this sets off a chain-reaction that brings about a slow apocolypse. I don't know much about physics, but it all seemed realistic to me, and the story was haunting because it felt so plausible. Yet at the core of this narrative there was a girl who experiencing all the normal roadblocks we're confronted with while trying to become an adult; family drama, trouble fitting in, and young love.

In the end, I reccomend both books because they're well-written and compelling. They will cling to your thoughts after you've finished them, which I believe every good book ought to do.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Rove and Tumble

There's a new post on November Surprises, Lucy's political blog. To read about her post-election life, click here.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Book Review - Night Circus

Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern, is one of the best books I have read in a long time. I was drawn to it last summer when I saw it in the stands at Target, but I didn't buy it because it's not the sort of book I usually read. I'll admit, I like books that draw me in immediately, and this one seemed like it would take a while. I like stories that are more character based, rather than ones that rely on plot and setting, which Night Circus seemed to do.

I wasn't wrong on either count, but this book is special. Once I was past the first fifth of the book I was completley hooked, and the layers and levels to the story became more and more intricate and developed. There are so many allusions and illusions in this book, I feel I need to read it several more times to really understand any of it. However, the story is compelling and suspensful, and it doesn't need to be completley understood on every level in order to be deeply enjoyed.

Here's the basic premise: Magic exists, but very few people believe enough to be capable of it. Two magicians in an epic battle of will and educational philosophy commit their students to a battle/contest. Those students have no choice in the matter, just as they seem to have no choice but to fall in love with one another. The battle plays out in a circus. There are other characters, subplots, and references to the nature of time, fate, and reality, and they're all interwoven with unusual skill and in beautiful prose.

I can't reccomend this book more.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Balancing Act (Or How I Got Scammed By Lifetime TV)

First, let me say that I love Lifetime Television for Women. I’ve spent hours watching movies like Mother, May I Sleep With Danger? Anything starring Tori Spelling, Melissa Gilbert or Shannon Doherty gets an “A” in my book. Even after what happened, I’m still a fan. I’ve seen every episode of Drop Dead Diva. It’s a great show.

 So it makes the sting of betrayal more painful, coming from them. Imagine being tempted by a good friend, only to be slapped in the face when you try to say yes. The heat of the hand that hits you is all the worse when it come from someone you like and trust.

 But I should backtrack and tell the story of what happened.

 I’m an indie author. There are tons of us, and we’re all trying to get our books noticed. One method I’ve used with a bit of success is entering contests. Most recently my second novel, Starring in the Movie of My Life was an award-winning finalist in both the Indie Excellence Awards and the International Book Awards.

Well, last winter I’m visiting my best friend in a remote suburb of Des Moines when I get an email from Gregory Fake, of The Balancing Act, the morning talk show on Lifetime Television. He noticed my book had won this award, and wanted to talk to me about appearing on their show.

 I was beyond thrilled. Me, on a national morning show? On Lifetime? Hadn’t my friends told me my book would make a great Lifetime movie? This was so cool. I emailed him back, and he said he’d call the next day.

The next day when he called I was on the road back to Minneapolis, pulled over at a rest stop. Even though I was on roaming, I took the call because I was so excited and wanted this so much. Twenty minutes into the call, he tells me that I’d have to pay a licensing fee to the tune of seven thousand dollars just to appear. But I could pay it in two installments.

I know. I should have told him where to go. But I said I’d think about it. Of course there was nothing to think about, but I wasn’t ready in that moment to let go.

 Several hours later when I arrived home, I found an email from him, reneging on the offer. It was just a case of the right fit at the wrong time, he said. Again, I should have told him where to go. But I didn’t reply at all.

 A Google search informed me that I was not the first to fall prey to this scam. And in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a big deal. I didn’t lose any money, except for twenty minutes worth of roaming fees. I didn’t lose anything at all, unless you count dashed hopes. But any indie author, or actually anyone who works hard and dreams of success, can tell you that dashed hopes suck.

 I find it ironic that they call their show The Balancing Act. My life is a balancing act – like so many women, I try to balance work, family, responsibilities, and dreams. Sometimes I’m a success and sometimes I’m not, but I’m always up on that tightrope, trying not to fall. I find it insulting that a show that’s a scam presumes to understand this concept. And I can’t believe their representative is actually named Gregory Fake. But hey, what’s in a name?

 So this is my attempt at closure. Thanks for letting me vent and tell the story. And the next time someone tricks you or lets you down, remember that we all experience disappointment, we all occasionally fall for the Gregory Fakes of the world, and we’re all players in the great balancing act of life. If you ever need a break from it all, I recommend watching some television. No, scratch that. Read a book instead. I have some titles I can recommend…

So, it's been over two years, and this by far the most popular blog post I've ever written. I'm happy to say that I'm still writing novels and pursuing my dreams. On that note, my latest book, The Standout currently has a campaign on Kindle Scout. If it's picked,  it will mean increased visibility and the opportunity to reach more readers, and I'm sure you know just how important that is.
Please consider nominating my book! It's easy, free, and you won't get a bunch of spam email.
Thank you for helping me pursue my dream!

To nominate The Standoutclick here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Mirror Bound Blog Tour

Today I happy to be a part of Leanne Herrera's blog tour for her new novel, Mirror Bound. Read on for a description of the novel and an interview with the author herself!

She came home to settle her great grandmothers affairs and figure out her own life. Finding out that her grandmother left her everything including magic powers she forgot to unbind before her death. Anna finds someone to love amidst the war against the woman that was supposed to love her and her twin sister. The mother goddess helps her gain her magic. Can Anna stop her mother before her mother stops her?

Click here to purchase on Amazon.


LO: I like to do ten-word posts on my blog. Can you describe the story of your book in exactly ten words?

LDH: She came home, fell in love, and fought a war.

LO:  What is the theme or the message of your novel, and how did you incorporate it into your writing?

LDH: I want to make women realize that no matter how sheltered your life has been, or how many things you have suffered through (abuse, death, trauma etc…) that you can stand up for yourself and beat the bad things in your life. Women should feel powerful and realize that each of us has a little something special deep inside of themselves.


LO:  What did you enjoy most about writing this particular book?


LDH: I loved sharing my great grandparent’s farm and some of their personalities came through in the characters. It was special for me because it meant sharing them with everyone who reads Mirror Bound.


 LO:  If your book was going to be made into a movie, who would you cast as the main characters?

LDH: Oh wow, that is a hard question. I think Anna could be played by Olivia Wilde, John would have to be Bradley Cooper and I think I would make someone like Kate Winslet play Anna’s mother.


LO: What inspired you to become a writer? Are there any favorite authors or books you can name?

LDH: Have you ever sat down with someone a lot older than you and listened to them spin a tale from pretty much nothing? I have known several people in my life that had that ability. They inspired me to tell stories. I started writing them as a teenager and had shared them with friends and family until this past summer. I had several people read a story that I had just written and they all said I should get it published.


I have several authors that are my favorite: Chloe Niell, Dean Koontz, and Kim Harrison are just a few. My absolute addiction right now is The Chicagoland Vampire Series by Chloe Niell.














Saturday, November 10, 2012

My 10 Favorite Authors

Disclaimer: I teach high school English, so I have this notion that my favorite authors ought to be literary. However, I’ve been a reader longer than I’ve been a teacher or a writer, and most of what I’ve read is not considered fine literature. There are a few literary authors in my faves list, but most of them are popular fiction.


My 10 Favorite Authors in no Particular Order:

  1. Beverly Cleary – I read all the Ramona books when I was little, and it was like reading about my own thoughts and my own life. When I was twelve I read Fifteen and it was the best book I’d ever read. I went on to read everything by Cleary, except for the books with male main characters. However, I’ve read all of those now too, because I read them aloud to my seven-year-old son. Beverly Cleary really stands the test of time.
  2. J.K. Rowling – When speaking of books “meant for children” the Harry Potter series has to come to mind. I was definitely no longer a kid when I read them, and like most of the world, no series has left me so enthralled. I’ve read the first three books to my son now, but we’re holding off on the fourth, because he’s a little young yet for something so dark.
  3. Suzanne Collins – I read The Hunger Games as assigned reading when I was taking a course on writing young adult lit. I couldn’t put it down! Collins blends action, suspense, romance, and satire seamlessly. God, I wish I had written it myself.
  4. Betty Smith – She wrote A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Joy in the Morning, both of which I read when I was kid. Something about them really struck a cord; they’re both female stories of self-discovery, which is what I like to write myself.
  5. Melissa Bank – Her novel Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing is one of the pioneers of the chick-lit movement, and her writing style is amazing. I could read and reread this novel endlessly.
  6. Emily Giffin – I always read whatever she publishes.
  7. Jennifer Weiner – See above.
  8. Curtis Sittenfeld – See above again.
  9. Douglas Coupland – I actually haven’t read that much by him, but his short story collection, Life After God made me cry because it was written so beautifully.
  10. William Shakespeare -  I love his plays. I don’t sit around and read them in my spare time, but every year when I teach my 10th graders Macbeth I discover something new about it myself. It’s simply amazing.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


It's the last post by Lucy about the 2012 campaign on November Surprises blog! Click here to read.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Voices in My Head

I really like reading books that are written in the first person, because it gives me a chance to get inside someone else’s head. I think it’s the most intimate sort of reading experience. So, it only makes sense for me to write in the first person as well. It’s what comes naturally for me.

The problem is, it’s limiting. One main character has to be in every scene in the book. The only way around that is to write from multiple character perspectives.

That’s what I did for Starring in the Movie of My Life. It was difficult at first, but it never occurred to me to do it any other way. The story always belonged to both Samantha and Melody. Since I love writing in first person, alternating their points of view was pretty fun. The most exciting chapters to write were the ones where the two of them were together in the same room. I loved observing Samantha through the Melody’s eyes, or vice-versa.

However, most of the chapters featured only one of them. At times it was easier for me to write for Melody, and at times Samantha’s chapters came easier. I guess I sort of went through phases. However, I always enjoyed developing both of them, trying to make them real.

I started by giving them a heroic quality. Samantha was extremely compassionate, and Melody was the ultimate survivor. I know a lot of readers found Melody to be pretty unlikeable, but in a weird way I’m protective of her.  However, I guess Samantha is my favorite because she has such a big heart and potential strength. Of the major characters, I’d have to say Nathan is my least favorite. It’s not his fault, but I don’t think he grows over the course of the story the way the others do.

Anyway, the most difficult part was attention to detail; how do I make Melody and Samantha sound like two different people through word choice and response to conflict? In the end I’m not sure how good I was at it, but I haven’t gotten any complaints, so I’m hoping I did okay.

The book I’m working on now, November Surprise, is written in the first person, but there’s only one character who narrates. However, it’s told in vignettes, and takes place over the course of twenty years. So I’m trying to be cognizant of how Lucy will change over time, her maturity, her perspective, etc. Also, what will stay the same? In some ways this is more difficult than having two narrators. But I’m a writing geek, so I love the challenge.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Intangibles

There is a new post by Lucy on November Surprises Political Blog. To read about Lucy and her mother-in-law finally seeing eye-to-eye, click here.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

I Love my Husband but I Really Love Nate Silver

There's a new post by Lucy, on November Surprises political blog. To read about her dysfunctional love for Nate Silver (and about other her other love relationship too) click here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Polls and Changing the Furnance Filter

There's a new post on November Surprises, Lucy's political blog. To read about her obsession with the polls and finally changing the furnance filter, click here.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Blog Tour - Between Boyfriends - Review and Author Interview

Today I have the pleasure of being a part of the Between Boyfriends blog tour. Author Sarka Miller graciously agreed to answer my interview questions. Read on for the interview, and my review of her hilarious new novel!


Me: I like to do ten-word posts on my blog. Can you describe the story of your book in exactly ten words

Sarka: Brokenhearted 20-something Jan Weston learns about self-sufficiency, independence and friendship.

Me: What is the theme or the message of your novel, and how did you incorporate it into your writing?

Sarka:   My novel, Between Boyfriends, is about finding yourself and making a life independent of relationships, expectations and your past. My main character, Jan, did not receive love and support as a child. She did see plenty of examples of materialism and judgment from her wealthy parents. In her teen and early adult years, she acts spoiled, competitive and rude to everyone except her boyfriends. With boys, she becomes weak, needy and vulnerable. She jumps from relationship to relationship looking for fulfillment.

Many young women follow this path, making poor decisions with men and blowing off their friends, their careers and their own needs while forcing relationships. This never leads to happiness. Between Boyfriends explores a better way.

Me: What did you enjoy most about writing this particular book?

Sarka:   I loved getting inside Jan's head and exploring what made her tick. I had a lot of friends who were boy crazy, never single for more than five seconds. It was really fun to not only figure out why this happens but how to evolve this thinking. Plus Jan is hilarious with her crazy mix of naivete, hope, negativity, compassion, pain, insecurity, and desire to change.

Me: If your book was going to be made into a movie, who would you cast as the main characters?

Sarka:  I think Blake Lively or AnnaLynne McCord would make a great Jan. AnnaLynne would be an amazing Nichole too. It is hard to find any redeeming qualities in the book version of Nichole, but I think she could be more likeable in a movie version. Sarah Paxton would be hilarious in that part as well. Alexis Bledel would be a sweet Lisa. I see someone like Renee Olstead as Becki, or maybe Christa B. Allen. I have no idea who I would cast as Juan. I have a very clear picture in my head of what Juan looks like and I just can't quite match that up with an actor.

Me: What inspired you to become a writer? Are there any favorite authors or books you can name?

Sarka:   I always loved reading when I was a kid and writing short stories. As I got older, my love of writing never went away. I preferred to read fantasy when I was younger. I lovedThe Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. I adored theChronicles of Narnia and still do. As an adult, I still read fantasy, particularly series with a strong female protagonist, such as the Merry Gentry series and the Sookie Stackhousenovels. I love chick lit too. I, like most of the world, was introduced to the genre by Helen Fieldings' Bridget Jones books. I then fell in love with Sophie Kinsella's Shopaholic series and since have read most any chick lit book I can get my hands on.

Between Boyfriends is a very tightly written and witty novel. Sarka Miller has a very irreverent sense of humor, and I mean that as a high compliment. She is not afraid to write about flawed people, and her main character Jan is the perfect example. I once read that it's okay to make your characters unlikeable as long as they are compelling, and Jan is definitely compelling. She is selfish and spoiled, but underneath that is a genuine desire for self-improvement, and a heart that grows with affection for her friends. And by the end of the book Jan is likeable as well, she just needs to undergo her journey of self-discovery, and face hardships like (gasp) having to get a real job and being without the wealth and privelege she has been accustomed to her entire life. Jan's friends, Lisa and Nichole, are also complex and compelling. I especially enjoyed reading about Lisa, who was born a middle child but lost both of her siblings in a car accident. This is an example of how even in a funny novel, Sarka Miller wasn't afraid to mix in darker subjects of loss and heartbreak.

Although the title would suggest this is a book about finding a man, it's really a story of finding yourself, and doing so with the support of female companionship. If you've been waiting for your next chick-lit read, look no further! Between Boyfriends is just waiting for you!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Romnesia and a Binder of Blunders

There's a new post on November Surprises, Lucy's political blog. To read about Romnesia, the second debate, and Monty's return from Ghana, click here.

*Meme originally posted on

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Going Demo(Crazy)

There's a new post on November Surprises, Lucy's political blog. Lucy is depressed about Obama's slide in the polls, but at least she stood up to her mother-in-law. Read about it here.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Stitch Blog Tour - Review and Author Interview

Today Samantha Durante, author of Stitch (click to buy on Amazon) is here to answer some questions and promote her book. Read on for an interview and a review!

Stitch, by Samantha Durante, is a truly unique story that will keep you guessing and wanting more. Alessa is a college freshman who lost her parents in a tragic car accident nearly a year before the story begins. She is still struggling with her grief and feelings of displacement as she begins college, so the adjustment is harder for her than it is for most freshmen. She joins a sorority, hoping that it will feel like a home. It doesn’t, but something interesting does happen.

It turns out the sorority house has a history, and part of that history includes a ghost named Isaac. At first Isaac only shows up for seconds at a time. Alessa can see him but he can’t see her. She is drawn to him, and she experiences powerful emotions every time he is near. In addition, Alessa is having strange dreams. Is Isaac involved? What’s their connection? Is Alessa simply processing her grief over her parents, or is this real? Is Isaac even is a ghost, or is everything the reader has assumed so far actually wrong?

All of these questions and more are answered in Stitch, which I definitely recommend to anyone who enjoys YA lit, especially tales like The Hunger Games or Divergent. Unlike these books, Stitch is written in third person rather than first. I tend to prefer first person because I like a close connection to main character. However, if that connection is lacking in the first few chapters, it becomes more developed later on, and Durante’s attention to mood and setting are very well done.

At only $2.99 you can’t go wrong. I definitely recommend giving Stitch a try.


1.) I like to do ten-word posts on my blog. Can you describe the story of your book in exactly ten words?

Alessa sees a ghost, but not really! Sci-fi twists abound…

2.) What is the theme or the message of your novel, and how did you incorporate it into your writing?

Though Stitch starts out as a paranormal romance, at its core it’s really a dystopian story. However, this first book was mainly about world-building and getting to know the characters, so the dystopian themes will be explored in more depth throughout the later books in the series (it’s planned to be a trilogy).

In this first book, I’d say the main themes were about people being who they are, regardless of circumstances, and (this sounds so cheesy but I can’t think of another way to say it) the power of love and how your feelings for another person – romantic or just love for a family member or friend – can enable you to do things you never thought possible.

I can’t give too much detail about how I worked these in without giving away spoilers, but in vague terms, I established who each of the characters were – and the depth of their relationships to each other – before writing any of the story, and I tried to stay true to those definitions before and after the twist. No matter where you find this character, you’ll see that some things about them will never change, and their motivations are usually clear because they’re mostly driven by the need to protect their loved ones in a dangerous world.

3.) What did you enjoy most about writing this particular book?

Revealing the twist! I shared a few chapters a week with my beta readers as I wrote the story and it was so much fun to see their predictions each week of what was going to happen as the direction of the story changed. I could not WAIT to get to the chapters where I finally revealed the twist, and they were just totally knocked over the head with it - no one saw it coming! And the best part was that they all totally bought into it and loved the way the story changed and took on a new urgency once they knew what was really happening. Now that the book is published, most readers are having the same reaction and it’s been so much fun to talk to people about their experience reading Stitch and what they thought of it. It’s definitely a different kind of book and I’ve been so thrilled to see so many people reacting so positively to it. :-)

4.) If your book was going to be made into a movie, who would you cast as the main characters?

I actually did a guest post on this topic a little earlier in the tour, and I’m SO excited about the actors I chose! Emmy Rossum for Alessa, Alex Pettyfer for Isaac, Willa Holland for Janie and Robbie Amell for Joe – check out the photos over at Kindred Dreamhart!

5.) What inspired you to become a writer? Are there any favorite authors or books you can name?

I just absolutely love to read, and I especially loved to read trilogies or long series where you’re just sucked into this epic journey in an amazing new world and can stay there for hours and hours at a time. Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Twilight, Eragon, The Hunger Games, and Game of Thrones are some of my favorite series and definitely inspired me to try to create something immersive and fun that readers could really get into. Stitch is my very first novel and my main goal was to write something that I (as a reader) would love, so that’s what I set out to do! Hopefully other readers will feel the same!

Thanks so much, Laurel, for hosting the Stitch Blog Tour!! Anyone who’s interested in following along can find the full schedule here and I’m also posting daily updates to my author and Stitch Facebook pages! So excited to share Stitch with readers!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Big Bird and Staying Off Message

There's a new post on November Surprises, Lucy's political blog.  To read about Obama's lack of focus since the debate, and the mixed-message emails she got from Monty click here.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Obama and the Worst Fight We've Ever Had

There's a new post on November Surprises, Lucy's political blog. To read about Thursday's debate, and the worst fight Monty and Lucy have ever had, click here.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Undecided Voters and My Mother-in-Law

There's a new post on November Surprises, Lucy's political blog. To read about undecided voters, and Lucy's crazy week with her mother-in-law, click here.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Songs to Inspire


I’ve always been a huge geek when it comes to music. When I was growing up I listened to show tunes. Cats. Evita. A Chorus Line. Les Miserable. I had every single song from these musicals memorized. I could probably still sing most of the songs, if I could sing, that is.

When I got to college and found that a bunch of the other theater majors also loved show tunes (we even played them at parties) it was a relief to know there were others like me. Over the years my music tastes have changed, and as my devotion to the theater has diminished, so has my obsession with some of these soundtracks. Even still, most of the music I listen to tells a story. I’m one of those people who will actually download a song that I like after hearing it during an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. I’ve found some of my favorite songs that way.

I guess it makes sense then, that for me, there’s a huge connection between music and writing. When I was writing Starring in the Movie of My Life there were two songs that really inspired me. The first is by The Killers: “When You Were Young.” The message of the song is there’s this guy who is basically perfect, and he reminds you of your youth. But underneath it all there are flaws, because nobody can completely save anyone else. That song is perfect for Samantha, who is looking for Nate to be perfect and to save her from herself.

The other song is Brandi Carlile’s “My Song.” This song is about someone who is young but bitter, strong but damaged. I love how the narrator is so self-aware. She knows that she should be a nicer person, but she just can’t make herself be. That song is totally appropriate for Melody, who has it in her to be a good person, but life and circumstance isn’t on her side.

A couple of years ago I took a writing class, and the instructor recommended putting together a song list to play while working, to inspire my story. I tried, but it didn’t work so well because it was too soon. I didn’t yet know enough about the plot and characters to choose songs for them. There’s a lot of discovery that comes with writing a novel. It doesn’t always go the way I think it’s going to, and sometimes my characters act in ways that surprise me. I think I need to find the songs accidentally, and let them influence me however they may.

Music can be so full of emotion, and its power lies in being to express so much through so little. Think about it. A three minute song can tell us just as much about the world as an entire, 300 page novel can, if it’s done well. So I guess what I’m going for with my novels, is to have them communicate as much as a song.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Mitt Romney, Richard Nixon, and Me

There is a new post on November Surprises, Lucy's political blog. To read about legendary political gaffes, daycare crises, and Lucy's mother-in-law, click here. Also, don't forget to enter the November Surprise blog tour giveaway. Just look to the side bar for more information!

Friday, September 21, 2012

My Life as a Movie

I watch a lot of movies. I like drama, suspense, political thrillers, and comedy the best. Just recently I saw Contagion, and I had to ask myself, “What is it about watching a bunch of people die from a deadly virus that I enjoy?” It even took place in my home town of Minneapolis, which made the whole scenario seem that much more realistic.

            In any movie there’s going to be conflict; without it, there’s no story. But while some movies we watch for escape – pretty people doing fairytale like actions, other movies, like Contagion, we watch so we can be horrified without being at risk ourselves. It’s the equivalent to riding a scary rollercoaster: all the thrills, minus the danger.

            So I ask myself, if my life was a movie, what sort of movie would it be? It could be a gritty urban high school drama, like Dangerous Minds or Freedom Writers, because the high school where I teach has a high poverty rate, and also a lot of minority students. But I’m not nearly as inspirational as Michelle Pheiffer or Hillary Swank, and when I watch those movies I laugh cynically at how unrealistic they are.

            Besides, while I have my fair share of trials and tribulations, I’m pretty lucky when it comes right down to it. I have a wonderful husband, two beautiful, healthy children, my parents are still kicking around and doing great, and there are no nasty people stalking us or threatening our livelihood. That rules out both drama and suspense. In addition, there are no ghosts, spirits, or demons inhabiting our house (that I know of), and we’ve never been visited by aliens, although my seven-year-old son still claims that he is one. Still, I think I also need to rule out horror and science-fiction.

            I’m not nearly important enough to be the center of a political thriller.

            And while I’m happily married, I’ve been married for ten years, and I’m no Julia Roberts, Meg Ryan, or Jennifer Anniston. So I’m pretty sure my life wouldn’t qualify as a romance.

            Unless I’m forgetting a genre, I believe that leaves comedy. My kids can say and do some pretty funny stuff. The same is true for my high school students. My husband has a wicked sense of humor, and I like to believe the same about me. So yeah, my life would have to be a comedy, but it wouldn’t be a slap-stick, Bridesmaids sort of a comedy. It would be more like an independent film, quietly funny, where the actors aren’t as good looking as normal, big screen stars. Think Away We Go with pregnant Maya Rudolf and John Krasinski with a beard. It’s a comedy, but it’s all about where they’re going and what they’re doing next. It makes you laugh, but there are serious moments too. Not everything is wrapped up at the end, but that’s a good thing. The soundtrack is full of artists you’ve never heard of, but maybe you’ll download it from itunes later.

            In the end, that’s a lot better than having my life be like Contagion. It may not be watched as much, and there may not be all the big-name stars. But Gwyneth Paltrow doesn’t die in the beginning either. And that’s saying something.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

47% Sure that Everything Will be Fine

There's a new post on November Surprises, Lucy's political blog. To read it, or to find out where you can buy a copy of the above t-shirt, or for a full tour schedule for the November Surprise blog tour, click here.

Don't forget to enter the November Surprise blog tour giveaway for a $30 Amazon gift card!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Book Blogger Hop - What is Your Favorite Recent Review?

My favorite recent review is of Groom and Doom, by Theresa Braun. Not only is the novel intelligent, funny yet profound, and very unique, the author herself is super cool! I had fun getting to know her, both by interviewing and reading her book, which was semi-autobiographical. It's only $2.99 on Amazon, so check it out!

Book Blogger Hop

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Murder, Mirrors, and Money (and Jimmy Carter)

There's a new post on November Surprises, Lucy's political blog. It's highly dramatic times, and Obama's being compared to Jimmy Carter! Read about it here.
And don't forget to enter the November Surprise blog tour giveaway!

November Surprise Blog Tour Begins Today!

It's the beginning of my blog tour and I'm celebrating! Visit Andi's Book Review for my first stop by clicking here. Then come back and comment on any of my posts at Laurel's Open Page or at November Surprises - Lucy's Political Blog. Commenting will give you one to win a $30 Amazon gift card! Or, purchase your copy of November Surprises and forward me the reciept at, and you'll get ten chances to win!

Friday, September 14, 2012

More than a Novel

 I’m not good at committing to one favorite book or author; I’ve loved so many books and authors over the years, all for unique reasons. I guess I’m something of a book whore. However, when it comes to what influenced me while writing Starring in the Movie of My Life, one book comes immediately to mind.

I Know This Much is True, by Wally Lamb, is not my usual type of read. It’s a little too dark and edgy to fit my tastes. It was given to me by husband’s cousin. He used to work in publishing, so he had access to tons of free books and he strongly recommended it.

I decided to give it a whirl. Early on I wasn’t sure I would stick with it. The story was a little slow, and the characters weren’t very likeable, and it was pretty dark. Then I took my car in to be serviced and I brought it along to read.

I held it when I went to the counter to pay, and the girl who was working there commented. “Oh my God,” she said. “I Know This Much is True is one of my all-time favorite books! By the end I couldn’t put it down!”

So I’ll admit it; my reaction was a little snobby. I thought, “If the girl who works at the Saturn dealership can finish this book, I can finish this book. I do teach English, after all.”

I committed to finishing it. It took a little while, but halfway through this 891 page book I was hooked, and like the girl at the Saturn dealership, towards the end I could not put it down. This was before I had kids, and I remember coming home on a Friday afternoon, sitting on the couch and reading well into the evening. Then I resumed reading Saturday morning, and I didn’t stop until the late afternoon when I was done.

I cried at the ending: partly because of the beauty of the writing. Lamb somehow managed to incorporate all the themes and meaning of his brilliant book into one final paragraph, and he ends with the title. It’s not at all forced; instead it’s organic and complete. I can say that of all the books I’ve ever read, I Know This Much is True has the most well written, satisfying ending.

 I also cried when I finished it because it was over. You know that feeling when you’re dying to know what happens but you don’t want to be done? Lamb switched back and forth between sub-plots and created such marvelous suspense that every time I finished one chapter I was compelled to begin the next. Eventually these stories converged, and when they did, it was amazing.

So that’s what I attempted to do with Starring in the Movie of My Life.  There are two storylines, Melody’s and Samantha’s, and I tried to end each chapter at a high point of interest, urging the reader to continue on until Melody and Samantha finally join together at the end of the book. I also chose to make redemption a major theme. Wally Lamb’s main character, Dominick, endures heartbreak and loss. He makes mistakes and becomes bitter. Yet by the end he finds redemption and closure, in a way where he can move on with his life. I wanted that for Melody and Samantha.

I’m not implying that Starring in the Movie of My Life is in any way equal to I Know This Much is True. Ultimately, these two books are very, very different, and I realize I have a lot to learn before I can even approach being the writer that Lamb is. However, if there is one book that has inspired me as a writer, one book I modeled my own book after, it is his.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Ann Romney and Creating Spin

There's a new post on November Surprises, Lucy's political blog. To read all about spin, Lucy's daughter Abby, and Lucy's connection to Ann Romney, click here.

But Perfect is Boring

When I read something for fun, it’s important to me that the main character is easy to relate to – the sort of person I’d want as a friend. This doesn’t mean the character can’t be flawed. In fact, I find perfect people as boring in real life as I do in fiction.  So when I’m writing my own characters, I always create people who make mistakes and who have room to grow. Personal growth is always a major theme in anything I write.

            In Starring in the Movie of My Life, Samantha is far from perfect. She is probably the more likeable of the two main characters, because Melody is manipulative and calculating. Conversely, Samantha has a lot of love for all the people in her life; she’s giving and guileless. Yet I actually find both of my main characters likeable, because they both have strengths in addition to their flaws. Melody is smart and tough; she’s a survivor. She does what she has to do to get by. Samantha doesn’t have that skill. She does what she has to do to take care of others, but she’s never really learned to take care of herself.

            That’s partly because she’s never had to. Unlike Melody, Samantha was raised by conscientious parents who sheltered her from the uglier parts of life. Samantha has been able to live with a consistent safety net surrounding her, and it’s affected her relationships and her work ethic. Now she’s at a critical point; she’s going to have to finally grow up and fend for herself. The question is, will she?

            There is a lot of emphasis in my book about the difference in ages between Melody and Samantha. Melody is so much younger, but in many ways she’s a lot wiser because of everything she’s had to deal with growing up. However, while Samantha is still sort of stuck in a delayed adolescence, she has the emotional maturity that Melody lacks. Samantha can relate to her husband as an equal, while Melody can only play games and tries to control people.

            In the end, I was satisfied with the journey both characters took over the course of the book. I read an interview once with Ann Tyler, and she said she knows her books are done when her characters don’t have anywhere new to go emotionally. I felt like both Samantha and Melody reached that point by the end of Starring in the Movie of My Life. Now, it’s up to the reader to decide if they agree!



Monday, September 3, 2012

Eastwooding For Eden

There's a new post on November Surprises, Lucy's political blog. To read about the RNC, Clint Eastwood and Monty leaving for Ghana, click here.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Book Review - Me and You

Me and You by Niccolo Ammaniti is a book I found in the library. It's pretty short (I'd actually call it a novella) and it got rave reviews, all of which say that Ammaniti is devastatingly talented. So I thought I'd read it and see what the fuss is about.
The story is about this kid named Lorenzo, a loner who has no real desire to connect with anyone, except for his mother, and perhaps his grandmother, who is very ill. Spring break is upon him, and he gets stuck in a lie, telling his mother he's been invited on a ski trip with some classmates. She's so excited he actually has friends that he can't break her heart and tell her the truth. Instead he hides out their cellar for a week, which has a bed and other creature comforts. Everything goes great until his drug-addict half sister shows up, and she's going through withdrawl. Lorenzon is forced to finally care for someone other than himself.
I did enjoy this book, but I had a problem with the ending. I shouldn't have been surprised, because Ammaniti even states in his novel that endings shouldn't matter so much. The middle is actually more important. True, but there were a lot of questions left unanswered, and I felt like it was a cop-out. Still, if you run across it at the library I'd give it a try. It won't take longer than an afternoon to read, which is why I wouldn't pay nine bucks for it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Book Review and Author Interview - FROST by Kate Avery Ellison

Frost, by Kate Avery Ellison, is one of those cool stories where you can't tell if the genre is fantasy, dystopian, or both. Lia and her siblings live in this super cold place where it's dangerous to be outside, especially after dark. There are monsters that lurk in the forest, but that's not the only threat. There are also the "farthers" - people who live in a society that's far away. Their civilization is more advanced than Lia's is; they have technology. But according to the town elders, they can't be trusted. However, Lia soon learns that everything she thought she knew about her world needs to be questioned, and when she saves and falls in love with a farther, she no longer knows whom to trust.

If the plot sounds complicated, don't worry about it. This is a really good book, but it's hard to describe. Once I got into it (like, from the second page on...) it was hard to put down. There's romance and suspense, and plot twists that I didn't see coming. There were some similarities to Hunger Games, in that the main character needs to be strong and take care of her family, and she's growing up in a place where adults can't be trusted. But I thought the similarities were a good thing. Avery-Ellison has written in a genre that's admittedly very popular, but she brings something new and unique. For $2.99 you can't go wrong. This is a really good book.

So when I contacted Kate Avery Ellison, she graciously agreed to answer my interview questions. Keep reading!

LO-  I like to do ten-word posts on my blog. Can you describe the story
of your book in exactly ten words

KAE - Oh, I had to do one of these before and I forgot what I wrote. Hmmmm....let's see. "Orphaned girl risks everything for love in a dangerous world."

LO - What is the theme or the message of your novel, and how did you
incorporate it into your writing?

KAE - I think the theme is a mixture of things--the importance of love, the dangers of prejudiced thinking and how it's easier to hate and fear things and people that you don't understand or know personally, and the way people can become insular and fearful in a way that ends up warping them.

LO - What did you enjoy most about writing this particular book?

KAE - I always enjoy seeing where the story takes me, because the characters tend to surprise me and do things I don't expect. And I loved exploring the setting for this story. It's all murky blue light and icy landscapes and stone with little bits of steampunk and sci fi. I love it.

LO -  If your book was going to be made into a movie, who would you
cast as the main characters?

KAE - Tough question. (Interesting fact about me--I never picture faces when I'm writing because I have a hard time visualizing facial features in my mind for some reason, so I don't really have much of a "look" in mind for any one character beyond their hair color and general complexion). But I answered a question like this in a interview I did on the launch day, and I suggested these actors for several of the characters:

Lia: Hannah Marks
Gabe: Jeremy Sumpter
Ann: Sarah Gadon

But again, it's hard for me to pick actors sometimes.

LO -  What inspired you to become a writer? Are there any favorite
authors or books you can name?

KAE - I've wanted to write since I was about six years old--I loved reading, my mother explained that authors were people who wrote books, so I decided I wanted to do that someday too (when you're six, people are always asking you what you want to be when you grow up). And I think my mom really inspired me because she always believed that I'd do it. She always said things like "Someday when you're an author..." when I was a little girl. There never seemed to be any doubt in her mind, and that confidence meant a lot to me.

My favorite/most influential authors are Robin Mckinley, Megan Whalen Turner, John Green, Maureen Johnson, Sharon Shinn, Daphne du Maurier, Agatha Christie, and Flannery O'Connor (quite a diverse group of genres and styles, I know).

Thanks so much for having me, Laurel!


Friday, August 24, 2012

Review and Author Interview - Groom and Doom

Groom and Doom by Theresa Braun, is not your typical chick-lit, wedding story. That’s not to say that chick lit or wedding stories are automatically formulaic, but this book is not what I was expecting. Ms. Braun has her master’s degree in English literature, and you can tell how vast her knowledge is as she weaves in classic allusions and figurative language into her narrative. But she does so in a way that is unintimidating, merely adding flavor, rather than pretention, to the story.
And – side note – as an English teacher myself, I really appreciated her description of the plight of the high school teacher. It was spot on!
Anyway, the story of Groom and Doom is about a romance between Angela and Starvos and the trouble that ensues when they plan their perfect Greek wedding. Angela, among other things, is a fortune teller, and she has had her own tarot cards read many times. Most of the readings tell her wonderfully positive things about her wedding and her future, yet she can’t seem to relax and let go. There are constant nagging feelings of doubt about where she is headed, especially when it comes to her teaching career or her masters, but also when it comes to her personal life as well. But she knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that she loves Starvos.
Will that love be enough to withstand a domineering father-in-law? Will Starvos be the “Greek God” Angela has imagined him to be? You’ll have to read it to find out. But know this: any obstacle or insecurity Angela must face is written with realism and gravity. That’s what I mean when I say this book isn’t typical. Angela’s story and her problems feel real, as if they were happening to the readers themselves. Because of this, her triumphs feel all the more vivid as well. I highly recommend this unique and charming novel!
Keep reading for an interview with the author, Theresa Braun!

LO - I like to do ten-word posts on my blog. Can you describe the story of your book in exactly ten words

TB - Greek wedding fairy-tale gone wrong with a quirky family cast.

LO - What is the theme or the message of your novel, and how did you incorporate it into your writing?

TB - The theme has to do with dusting oneself off after life’s disappointments.  Even though things might not go as planned, we need to try to learn something and move forward.  I strongly believe that and put it in the story.  Angela, the main character, struggles with this during the novel. 

LO - What did you enjoy most about writing this particular book?

TB - I loved finding the humor in things and tried to let that come through while writing.  There were parts of the story that sort of took on a life of their own—like the ghost stories and sightings of the father-in-law in Venice.  That was a lot of fun to write.

LO - If your book was going to be made into a movie, who would you cast as the main characters?

Drew Barrymore as Angela.

John Corbett as Stavros.

Richard Dreyfuss as Georgius.

LO - What inspired you to become a writer? Are there any favorite authors or books you can name?

TB - My English teachers were always such interesting people who made literature come alive.  I was also fascinated by the writing process and what inspired those authors.  The idea of creating something that people could enjoy or get something out of was something I wanted to do.  There are so many authors I love.  I’m a huge fan of gothic lit like Frankenstein and Dracula, but I also enjoy Vonnegut’s satire.  And I try to keep up with some more contemporary writers.  I enjoyed Lolly Winston’s Good Grief and Kathryn Stockett’s The Help.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Legitimate Rape, Sex, or Love?

There's a new post on November Surprises, Lucy's political blog. To read about Todd Akin's comment and Jack's affair, click here.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Blog Hop - What's the One Genre You'll Never Read?


Book Blogger Hop
As part of the Book Blogger Hop, I'm answering the question - What's the ONE genre you'll never read?

Well, call me a prude, but I really have no interest in erotica. That's why I'm staying away from 50 Shades of Grey. I like my books to be about something. While I'm sure there's erotica with good character development and theme, come on. We all know what those books are ACTUALLY about, and it's just not for me. I also like having some stuff left to the reader's imagination.

Joe Biden, Villains, and Lies

There is a new post on November Surprises, Lucy's political blog. To read about Joe Biden, villains and lies (and more about Jack's divorce), click here.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Mocked By Destiny - Book Review and Guest Post

Mocked By Destiny by Michele Richard, is a story about young love and having to grow up too fast. Stella lives in the tourist town of Virginia Beach. She has never had a strong male presense in her life, because in her family the men always leave. Although she's been raised with love and values, both her grandmother and her mother got pregnant at an early age. So Stella is determined not to follow in their path.
Then she meets Stefan. The attraction between them is immediate, and the fact that Stefan will be leaving soon only intesifies their feelings for each other. After some major family drama from Stefan's dad, Stella and Stefan end up having sex, and Stella winds up pregnant. But that's only the beginning of the story.
I thought the writing in this books was very tight and vivid. I liked that the point of view switched between Stella and Stefan's voices, giving the reader insight into what they both were thinking. I did find it hard to believe that a good looking guy like Stefan had never been kissed before Stella, but that's a minor detail.
Most of all, Richard painted a very detailed picture of how someone like Stella might react to getting pregnant based on her past experiences and family life. Stella was smart and ambitious and I was glad that didn't change despite her unplanned pregnancy. Mocked by Destiny is the first book about teen pregnancy that I have read in a while that tackles the complications and messiness of the issue. But it's also an enjoyable, romantic read.

Keep reading for a special guest post by the author, Michele Richard and an excerpt from Mocked By Destiny.

Thank you for letting me stop by! I’ve been running none stop this month. Mocked by Destiny was my first release and my first re-release under Renaissance Romance Publishing. Moving publishing houses has been an adventure and not a bad one. Now with Mocked by Destiny being in its second edition, I had opportunities I didn’t before. It’s really wonderful. So here’s a bit about Mocked by Destiny:


For Stella Richards, life in the charming town of Virginia Beach is not as magical as one would think. Sun, fun, and sand only guarantee one thing: unwanted visitors. Stella learned long ago to never befriend anyone visiting the beach. They're here; then they're gone, drifting in and out as the tide ebbs and flows. She vowed to never connect with anyone vacationing in Virginia Beach - until spring break. Stefan changed everything.

Stefan Sterling lives life never knowing where he will end up next. Bouncing from one Military base to another has hampered his ability to connect to those around him. That's what happens when your father is in the military. Raised in a world of discipline, control, and strangers, Stefan never expected to find anyone he'd want to be close to - let alone love.

A family curse verses a loving abnormality promises to keep Stella and Stefan on their toes. Was it an accident or could it be destiny? Will they be able to survive their families? And, is there ever a time when you can fully let go of the person who awoke your soul?

I was hit with the idea for this book while I actually sat on the beach it was set in. Too eager to allow the idea to slip away, I grabbed my daughter’s notebook and started filling the pages. Half the book was finished before I returned to Boston. I’d never inspired to a published author. In fact: I’d hidden my writing from everyone who knew me, including my family. My insecurities about being accepted almost held me back from sharing. It took a friend from NY to talk me into sending it into a publishing house. You can imagine my surprise when it took second in a contest and was wanted by The Writer’s Coffee Shop. It’s found a new home at Renaissance Romance Publishing.

With so many wonderful reviews it’s hard to pick one favorite, but having it described as raw and realistic has to be my choice. I didn’t want to glorify it, I wanted to wake up teen minds and have them say, “NO! I don’t want that.”

With that said, don’t look for me to put it down either. It’s a hard situation for a teen and the family that supports them. My intent was always just to present with the facts in a fictional character that they could relate to. I feel I have them justice in what they had to go through. I’ll leave it up to you to decide.


“Stella, I leave tomorrow, but we still have tonight. Please, let’s spend our last few hours alone?” he pleaded, his hair still dripping, the droplets glimmering as they rolled down his cheeks.

“I would like that,” I admitted, breathless. My body tingled as he stroked my arms.

He didn’t hesitate to drag me through the house and upstairs. I pointed out the door to my room with my trembling hand. With our hands clutched together, he spun to face me and kissed me desperately until I felt like I would pass out from oxygen deprivation.

“Stella,” he moaned, cupping my face in his hands. “I’ve never felt like this before with anybody. I need you in a way I’ve never needed anyone.” He whimpered into my mouth.

Stefan started rubbing his cold hands across my wet clothes. His clothes clung to his firm physique, making him look even more defined. His chest heaved against mine, making me want to be as close to him as possible. Our shared body heat started to warm our cool, damp skin. No amount of denial could hide the effect our closeness caused. 

“Stefan, this isn’t a good idea. I don’t want to be like my mom.” My mind said no, but my body was screaming yes.

“I promise I’m not like your dad. I’ll be back on August twenty-third, when my parents can’t stop us from being together,” he vowed with total confidence.

“I love you. Can’t we wait until then?” I chewed my lip, nervous.

“I love so much, I feel like my heart will explode. I want to show you by giving you the one thing they can’t stop me from giving you: me!”

There was no fighting it anymore. He wanted it, I wanted it, and that was the moment my dreams died. Whether I knew it or not at the time was irrelevant. At that moment I sealed my fate.

Thank you again for letting me stop by! Hope you will check out Mocked by Destiny!

Michele Richard