Creaking Open That Old Shed Door…

Creaking Open That Old Shed Door…

Why – hello everyone. Are you still here? Are you all really STILL here? Wow! Thank you for sticking around. It’s so wonderful to be able to engage with you again!

If you’ve forgotten, it’s me, Francine LaSala. You may remember me / my words from such quirky novels as Rita Hayworth’s Shoes and The Girl, the Gold Tooth & Everything and as the publisher and co-editor of the anthology A Kind of Mad Courage. (You may also remember me as the author whose book somehow had the same cover as one by Margaret Atwood – my biggest post to date.)

Margaret Atwood's "ripoff" cover.
Margaret Atwood’s “ripoff” cover. (Click on image to read post.)

Actually, you may not remember me at all – or that you even subscribed to this blog – as it’s been so long since I published anything. Since I’ve written anything of my own. Somehow in the madness of the past two years, I have abandoned my poor “Shed” and somehow managed to lose track of my identity as a writer. Very Mina-esque for anyone who gets the reference.

Before…?

Well, no more or that. The past couple of weeks, I’ve been working to whack away the weeds that have grown over the “Shed” (otherwise known as my creativity). I’ve WD-40’d the hinges of the rickety old door and finally pushed it open. It’s a little musty in here, and there are some cobwebs and spiders hanging around, but give me a few weeks and I’ll have it all spic-and-span again.

I’ve already started to redecorate aesthetically – giving the blog a new look. (What do you think?) Now I’m working on “redecorating” content. I don’t think I’ll be able to commit to regular features, like Wassup Wednesday and Five for Friday anymore, but I will try and post regularly.

I still want to hear from you guys as well. While I haven’t been around all that much, I’ve really missed the sense of community having a regular blog gives a gal.

In the time that I’ve been away, I lost my mother. I became estranged from my father, and made my peace with him.

I became a dog person.

The three "musketeers" (or "stooges" - depending on the day/hour).)
The three “musketeers” (or “stooges” – depending on the day/hour).)

I took a couple of winter trips to a California beach house with writer pals Eileen Goudge, Samantha Stroh Bailey, Julie Valerie, Jen Tucker, Meredith Schorr, and Josie Brown and enriched my soul.

I went to France with my ten-year-old daughter and left here there with her grandparents – to fly home on her own. The most terrifying experience of my life, but she was awesome!

Yep, I’ve done a lot of growing these past months. How about you? Please leave me a comment about the biggest thing that’s happened to you in the past two years. (And if you’re not subscribed, do it now – it’s so easy!)

I look forward to welcoming you all back into the Shed again – maybe when it looks like more this…?

The Goal!
The Goal!

Till next time,

Francine

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162762_2662032389151_5076510_nLet’s connect! Find me on Twitter and Facebook, and email me: francine@francinelasala.com.

The Importance of Being Edited

The Importance of Being Edited

I talk about editing on my creative services website today. Come on by!

Francine LaSala Productions

***First published in Louise Wise’s Wise Words – Book Blogger, Revised and Updated***

When I tell people I’m a book editor, they generally reply: “Wow, you must be a great speller!” Well, the thing is, I’m an exceptional editor, but not the best speller. Gasp! How can that be? Keep reading, because I’m going to get into all the aspects of editing and, most importantly, why you cannot, cannot, CANNOT put your work out there without passing it under a set of editorial eyes–or several even. Even if you are able to spell antidisestablishmentarianism without looking it up. Or spellcheck. (And yeah, I needed both for that.)

First, the WHY.

Number 1:

It’s an important part of the process to self-edit, but in all truthfulness, you cannot successfully edit your own book unless you are a robot. It’s impossible for us as human beings to regard ourselves with complete objectivity. I’m…

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“The Joys of Being a Writing Mom,” by Elke Feuer

“The Joys of Being a Writing Mom,” by Elke Feuer

IMG_0725When people find out I’m a writer, they often ask me where I find the time especially with two kids and a full-time job. I tell them:

1) I have amazing kids who go to bed on time every night (mostly) and a very supportive husband.

2) Writing is important to me, so I make time for it.

When I found out I was having my second child, I decided to put my writing career on hold for a short while so I could focus on my kids, after all two is harder and newborns need a lot of time and attention. Thankfully my BFF, Katie convinced me to submit my story anyway. Lo and behold my book was picked up by a publisher days after my daughter was born. As excited as I was, I knew it was going to be a challenge.

The best surprise? It was easier than I thought. Having another child brought so much joy to our lives, not to mention I have the best baby in the whole universe (that’s not too biased). Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a walk in the park by any means, but the rewards are worth it.

Having children adds depth to my creativity, and my writing is better for it. My kids and family provide support, encouragement and lots of, “You’re so awesome, mom!” No amount of free time in the world is a better substitute. On days when I so frustrated with my story I can’t see straight, all I have to do is look into their sweet faces or spend quality time with them to be inspired. Who could ask for more?

Rich and our son, Erik can never wait to give me their presents whether it’s my birthday and Christmas time, so sure enough, Mother’s Day I got my gifts a day early. My husband did an awesome job of getting a card from our 10 month old, Zoe that was completely adorable and couldn’t have been more perfect if she’d picked it herself. Erik made me a card at school which was so fantastic that I wanted to cry. My husband’s card said what it always does. I’m so lucky that you married me. He’s right, of course. 

I love being a mom and a writer. It has its challenges, but they’re the best jobs in the world and I’m blessed that I don’t have to choose between them.

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Elke Feuer - Author PhotoABOUT ELKE FEUER

I live in Grand Cayman with my husband and two kids. Reading, spending time with my family, traveling, and meeting people is my joy. Writing is my passion.

My first book, For the Love of Jazz, is a romantic suspense. I stumbled into writing suspense and loved it along with writing about serial killers. I write time travel, historical, and contemporary novels to even out my dark side.

To find out more about me or my latest story, “Deadly Bloodlines,” visit my website, or say hi on Twitter, Facebook or Goodreads. You can’t escape, I’m everywhere. 😉

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Let’s connect! Find me on Twitter and Facebook, and email me: francine@francinelasala.com
Five For Friday: Libby Mercer (and a Special Surprise!)

Five For Friday: Libby Mercer (and a Special Surprise!)

I’m thrilled to have Libby Mercer in the “Shed” today. The editor in me just can’t help but notice this chick-lit lady’s incredible talent. Her books are so compelling and beautifully paced. Of course as a writer, I can’t help but feel a little jealous of how well she expresses her stories. Reading her definitely makes me want to become a better writer!

libby mercer outdoor author photo cropped

Libby and I share a lot of interests but here’s a fun fact I’m sure she won’t mind I divulge: We both have a passion for nerds. She may be the only other woman around my age I know who also has the hots for George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) in It’s A Wonderful Life–something we discovered during a Christmas promotion we did together.

Even if you’re not a nerd (or nerd lover), be sure to stalk Libby on the Web–she loves that kind of thing. Here’s how:

Blog

Twitter

Facebook

Amazon author page

You want to know the number 1 reason I’m delighted to host Libby today? She’s sharing an excerpt from her not-yet-released book, and the cover! Now let’s find out more about this fabulous fiction-ista and what makes her tick.

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1. I loved Unmasking Maya (my review here). Can share with us what inspired you to write it?

I got the idea for Unmasking Maya when I first moved to San Francisco as a single gal. I thought it might be a good idea to look for love in Silicon Valley, given the insane amount of intelligent men with great jobs (and very few women working there) but I soon got wise to the fact that a lot of these guys are so brainy that their interpersonal skills are a little underdeveloped. Not all of them of course. Anyway, I got to thinking that this type of guy would make a great love interest in a book and that’s what got the wheels turning.

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2. Can you explain how your story-making process unfolds? And do you have any special rituals when it comes to writing?

Usually I start with a general idea like the romance with a tech guy or the project I’m currently working on – a girl who opens up an ice cream shop. I let the ideas roll around in my mind for a while and figure out who my characters are. Once I’ve come up with an opening scene, I just go for it. I start writing and find out where the story wants to go. I can’t say I have any special rituals, but I do need silence in order to concentrate. I always have a trusty pair of earplugs nearby in case of noise outside.

3. Did you always want to be a writer? If not, what were you doing before you did? And either way, can you remember your “Aha!” moment?

I have always wanted to be a writer. I wrote my first story at the age of seven – a picture book entitled “BIG and small.” I still have it and it’s so much fun to look at. Basically I just compared things I observed: “Apartments are big, my dollhouse is small” and “My dad’s hat is big. Mine is only little.” I kept on writing stories all through childhood and my teens and college years too (creative writing major). After college, I worked as a journalist, a shopkeeper and the marketing director of a natural health company. While I was working full-time, I didn’t get much writing done, but I wrote entire novels during periods of unemployment! So no, I don’t have an “Aha!” moment – at least not before I hit the ripe old age of seven.

fashioningaromance smaller

4. Writing the book is only part of the equation when it comes to publishing a book. There’s so much more that goes into getting the word out that many new authors may not know. Can you share some of your process when it comes to launching a new book?

You said it, sister! Marketing makes all the difference in the world. After I’ve got a project ready to go (and this is after finishing all the edits and formatting it for e-readers) I write the blurb for the story. And after that’s done, I start contacting book bloggers to see if they’d like to review. Meanwhile, I’m working with an illustrator to come up with the right cover for the book, and I’m also thinking about ideas for guest posts (or writing them). So I’m constantly in contact with bloggers – sending my book out and arranging guest posts. I also try to tweet, post on Facebook and post on my blog in the hopes of generating a little pre-release buzz, but I’m afraid I haven’t been very good about that lately.

5. And speaking of “sharing” and “new”… Can you share anything with us about your WIP? And how about an excerpt? And…cover….?

Funny you should ask, Francine. As it happens, I’ve got another release coming up next month. Like Unmasking Maya, it’s a romance/chick lit hybrid, but the setting is very different. This one takes place at a wellness center in the mountains of Vermont, or as my hero, Adam, would say, “a nuthouse out in the middle of Nowhere, Vermont.” I had loads of fun writing in his point of view! Here’s the cover:

The Karmic Connection Artwork

What is the universe up to?

Guilty of nothing other than working too much – or so they say – Adam Stowe is dumped at a “wellness center” in the middle of nowhere by a couple of concerned colleagues. When he meets Lorraine, the beautiful and bewitching yoga instructor, his spirits start to lift, but once he discovers what a flighty fruitcake she is, they drop back down to subterranean levels.

For Lorraine Jameson, Luna Wellness Center was a beacon of solace when her life was falling apart, and she can’t stand the way Adam’s toxic energy is poisoning the peace. He embodies everything negative about the life she discarded eighteen months ago. Despite being fiercely attracted to the arrogant man, she’s determined not to let Adam Stowe anywhere near her heart.

Adam and Lorraine couldn’t be more unsuitable as a potential couple… so why is the universe so dead set on uniting these two?

The Karmic Connection is a different kind of love story with a cast of quirky characters and a mystical, magical New Age-y flavor.

BONUS QUESTION: Congrats! Unmasking Maya has been optioned to become the next big summer blockbuster rom-com! (Wouldn’t that be the best thing ever?) You get to pick the cast! Who plays who?

That would be so fabulous! I’ve thought a lot about this and for some reason, I can totally see Michelle Williams as Maya. I’ve always thought there was something a bit haunting about her. Now, Derek is a bit more difficult to cast. To be honest, I’d want Jack Dorsey, the guy who created Twitter, to play Derek because there’s this one photo of him that looks exactly like how I pictured the character. As far as I know, this Twitter guy has no acting ambitions, but you never know… For Lin, I’d would bring Zhang Ziyi on board. I know it’s not her type of role (if you don’t know her, she’s the star of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Memoirs of a Geisha) but I’d love to see her in the role of Lin, the wacky IT girl. And for Maya’s agent, Inez, I’d cast Sofia Vergara. Aside from looking the part, I think she’d really bring a lot of fun to the set.

It was so great chatting with you today, Francine. Thanks for having me!

It was great having you here. Please come again sometime!

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Here’s where to buy Libby’s books:

Unmasking Maya (amazon)

Unmasking Maya (barnes&noble)

Fashioning a Romance (amazon)

Fashioning a Romance (barnes&noble)

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Excerpt from The Karmic Connection 

(The Karmic Connection is coming soon, but you can follow Libby’s release information on Goodreads.)

She walked over and knelt down beside him. “Adam?” she murmured. She touched his shoulder and he lifted his head with a wince. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah. I’ll be all right.” He closed his eyes and when he opened them again, he gave her a wry smile. “I just sat up too fast.”

She nodded in understanding. “How many cups of coffee do you drink each day?”

“Usually about seven. Or eight.” He lowered his head back to his knees. “I don’t suppose you guys have any aspirin?”

“I’m afraid not.” Lorraine bit down on her bottom lip. He looked so miserable. Her hands burned to stroke his cheek, to kiss away his pain, and she was mortified by her inappropriate desire. In order to prevent herself from doing something unacceptable, she kept talking. “But I can make you a special tea that will help.”

“Tea. Great.” He closed his eyes again.

Serena looked over from where she was rolling up her yoga mat, concern written all over her wise, old face. “Is he okay?” she mouthed.

Lorraine shrugged and then nodded. He would be okay, although she knew how gruesome he must have been feeling at that moment. She’d been there once.

She felt torn. There was something she could do to help (in addition to the special tea) but it would probably complicate her feelings further.

Stop being a baby, Jameson.

In truth, Lorraine really had no choice in the matter, being bound by oath and all…

“Give me your hand, Adam,” she instructed, sitting back on her feet.

He opened his eyes in surprise and then promptly narrowed them in bemusement. “What for?”

Now it was Lorraine’s turn to close her eyes in irritation, but only for a brief moment. She reopened them and said, “Pressure points. Just do it.”

He gave her a skeptical look, but he relented and offered her a hand.

Lorraine did her best not to notice the perfect shape of Adam’s hand, and she tried to ignore the thrilling sensation that shot through her body as she took that smooth, warm hand in hers. She did her best not to notice the way the candlelight gave Adam’s hand a delicious golden glow, as if it had been lightly glazed in butterscotch sauce, and she tried desperately not to fantasize about licking the sweetness off.

Honestly! She needed to get a hold of herself. She took one deep, cleansing breath after another, and then she balled her hand into a fist, jammed it under Adam’s palm, found the fleshy bit between his thumb and forefinger, and she pressed down as hard as she could with her thumb.

One, two, three, four.

“Yikes, Lorraine. You’ve got really strong thumbs,” he said quietly.

“Mm hmm.” She didn’t look at him. She couldn’t. Why wasn’t he being rude? It really helped her when he was being rude. Where was that negative energy when she needed it? He was so close. He was too close. The scent of him was intoxicating. Most of the men she came across these days smelled like patchouli and sandalwood. Adam just smelled clean. Like rain.

Goddess, forgive me. I just want him so much…

Focus, Jameson! Sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen.

She tried to slow her breathing, but it was no use. Her body was out of control. It felt like each and every one of her nerve endings was waving a sparkler around and a marching band had set up camp inside her heart. As for her belly, it felt like there were two or maybe two-hundred trapeze artists swinging through the air down there.

What was going on?! Lorraine shook her head and peeled her gaze away from Adam’s hand. The studio buzzed with activity. Frank rolled up his yoga mat. Naomi pulled on a pair of warm, woolen socks. Joel waved to Lorraine before he left the studio, and she nodded back at him, smiling goodbye.

Breathe in… and breathe out. Breathe in… and breathe out.

The deep breathing helped. And it also helped to avoid looking at Adam and his hand. She locked her gaze on the candles flickering from the low wooden bench against the wall and focused on her breathing.

Lorraine was so preoccupied with maintaining control that she completely lost sight of the matter at hand. She tried to figure out how many seconds had gone by. Forty-seven? Sixty-two? Seventy-eight? She had no idea.

A gentle squeeze of her shoulder made her jump. Instinctively, she released her grip on Adam’s pressure point and clutched his hand tightly. Also instinctively (probably) he clutched her hand back just as tightly.

The Next Big Thing: Authors Tagging Authors

The Next Big Thing: Authors Tagging Authors

I used to think that the greatest-ever part of writing a book was actually writing a book. Well, I guess I do still kind of feel that way, but something I never imagined has come out of the book experience: Joining a wonderful community of writers. While the experience of writing is solitary, the experience of promotion is anything but. Thanks to the women (and men) I’ve been meeting these past months, via social media, I’ve learned so many things about how there really is “strength in numbers” and that it really does “take a village” to promote a book!

Last week, I was tagged by the amazing Isabella Louise Anderson in her blog for “Authors Tagging Authors”–a fun and creative way for authors to help other authors get noticed. She started a group on Facebook called Chick Lit Goddesses that’s been a wellspring of information and encouragement for me as I launch The Girl, the Gold Tooth & Everything, and I was honored she chose to tag me. At the end of this post are authors who graciously agreed to be tagged by me. Go check them out!

Speaking of checking out, please follow me on Twitter, connect with me on Facebook, and check out my website!

And now without further ado… Here’s the Q&A we’ve been asked to post–the skinny about our next book!

What is the working title of your book?
A Comfortable Madness

Where did the idea come from for the book?
The book is about people making bad choices, mainly romantic ones, and the sometimes tragic ramifications that go along with it. It’s also about how people rationalize and live with these choices, trying to pretend they’re okay with the crazy (i.e. a “comfortable” madness). I have been married for nearly nine years. There was a good 25 years of dating before that. So… Well… Now you know where the idea comes from!

What genre does your book fall under?
I think this one is solidly women’s fiction. Anyone looking for the quirkiness of Rita Hayworth’s Shoes or the kookiness of The Girl, the Gold Tooth & Everything won’t be disappointed, but A Comfortable Madness is probably my darkest work to date.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I’ve been dreaming this one up for a while, so when I started, I saw Reese Witherspoon as Annie and Paul Rudd or Tobey Maguire as Hugh. Though I think by the time this book gets finished, those guys will be way too old! (My characters are all in their early 30s. I think that’s an important age in a person’s romantic development. Old enough to understand what true love should be, but young enough that infatuation and impulse still kind of rule.)

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Bad romantic choices run through generations.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Diversion Books published my first two books and I hope eventually they will be game for this one, too.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I started writing this book in 2001. My most recent draft is dated May 2007. Since then, I’ve carved a screenplay out of it, and am now focusing on making it a novella. (I’m all about re-working what I think is a good idea until I get it right. I’m tireless that way!)

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
If it was compared to The Hours, I think that might be cool.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Initially, pain. Then perseverance. In all honesty, I always develop a great attachment to my characters, and it really distresses me that the ones in this story have been hanging out in some purgatorial waiting room all this time. They deserve to be heard, to have their stories known, so I’m inspired by that to keep going!

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
All of my books can be read on many levels, and touch various nerves emotionally, socially, even politically. So while this book is about the awkwardness and insecurities that can sometimes go along with falling in love, it’s also about living with secrets, some of them dark, that spark that awkwardness and insecurity. If we all walked into relationships as clean slates, how different would these relationships be!

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Please check out the posts for the following authors next week. You will not be disappointed! And thanks for dropping by!

Sara Palacios
Shawndra Russell
Cindy Roesel
Sarah Hitchcock
Monique McDonell

Five For Friday: Richela Fabian Morgan, aka “The Duct Tape Queen”!

Five For Friday: Richela Fabian Morgan, aka “The Duct Tape Queen”!

Welcome to my blog, Clippings in the Shed. Glad to have you here, especially because it’s Friday–interview day! Each week, I’ll introduce you to a cool, kickass woman who lives life well beyond going through the motions. This week: Richela Fabian Morgan, one of the “craftiest” people I know.

Connect with me: on Facebook and Twitter, and learn more about me at www.francinelasala.com. And now–Five for Friday!

Richela and kids… Could you all BE more gorgeous?!

Five Questions With Richela Fabian Morgan
Richela Fabian Morgan is one of the most extraordinary people I know. Not only is she a dominatrix of duct tape, she’s an insanely crafty all-purpose re-purposer. Oh… and she also has a wicked sense of humor and enjoys wine from a juice box. Really, what’s not to like? Some people send their kids to summer camp. Richela spent one entire month of summer vacation with her kids making New York City their camp. Not just Manhattan–all the boroughs. Famous places, holes in the wall. By train, by subway, by car. Read all about it here: Mommy Summer Camp. Just amazing.

Richela’s creative mind knows no limits. She has amazing vision, and she is able to see amazing things even beyond the raising of her two fun and fabulous kids–and even bring them along for the ride. As a fellow mother and fellow creative, I am in awe. You will be, too. Read on!

(Here’s how to connect with Richela: Facebook, Twitter, and, as indicated above, her fabulous blog!)

1. This is not a question, but you are by far one of the most creative and talented people I know. This is a question: Have you always been so artsy – or is this the person you’ve evolved into?
C’mon! Now that is a lie because we know some of the same people. But I appreciate the compliment. Artsy is probably not something I would have called myself when I was a kid or a young adult. I loved art but I can’t draw well or with any originality. But I’ve always been crafty. I liked making all sorts of stuff. Since I couldn’t necessarily create something that had a deeper meaning (i.e. art) I tended to make stuff that was useful. But it really started to take off when I had kids. We would play/create with anything and everything in the house: paper towel rolls, magazine paper, bottle caps, broken crayons. And we loved all kinds of tape, from regular scotch tape to duct tape. When my kids both went off to elementary school, I had a little too much time on my hands! I thought about getting a 9 to 5 job, but then I realized that my skill set had changed. I suddenly had all these crafting skills that didn’t fit into a normal job description. So I created job for myself. I became a crafter and a writer.

101 crazily creative projects!

2. Very excited about your new book, TAPE IT & MAKE IT! Can you tell us how it came to be?
Someone asked me if I could come up with 101 duct tape craft projects. At first I balked—101?? That seemed like an awful lot. But then it occurred to me that I might have made that many or more different duct tape crafts in the past. So I decided to write them all down and in less than 15 minutes I had 101. And about the process of creating 101 crafts with duct tape? I photographed set-up shots while making each craft. This actually slowed down my usual tempo of crafting because I had to think about the next step. Then when the craft was completed I reviewed each shot and wrote accompanying instructions. It worked well.

Who knew the magic this stuff can do?

3. Duct tape isn’t the only incredibly creative medium you’ve used to make beautiful things. Can you tell us about some of the other clever things you’ve done with milk cartons and other re-purposed materials?
I also love working with brown paper bags, half-gallon cartons, and other paper goods bound for the recycle bin. And maybe it’s because I’m a girl, but I tend to make a lot of bags and wallets. Also about your other books? I wrote a book called THE GREEN CRAFTER (Citadel), which contains 52 projects using materials found in and around the home. And I recently contributed a craft to the forthcoming book ALL THINGS PAPER (Tuttle Publishing). It’s a tote bag made from brown grocery bag handles. Yes, it’s a brown bag…bag!

4. What advice can you give a person looking to craft with re-purposed materials?
First, make sure you clean all your materials well whether it’s bits of food or dirt or adhesive. And make sure you have the right tools to work with your material. If you aren’t sure what kind of tools you need, bring the material with you and visit your local hardware store. Tell a knowledgeable salesperson what you intend to do and then ask what type of tools you will need. You might need to go to a craft store, but the salespeople are not as knowledgeable about tools. I guess because what we do is more DIY, but the smaller hardware stores—that’s where you’ll find the most hands-on salespeople—cannot carry a big inventory. Big craft stores can.

5. So what’s next for “Crafty Richela” the Queen of all Duct Tape?
Currently I’m doing library and independent bookstore events in New York. And as I mentioned before, I contributed a brown bag paper craft to the upcoming book ALL THINGS PAPER. It’s due out in the Spring of 2013. I’m also teaching eco crafts at Sheldrake Environmental Center in Larchmont (NY). I’d love to write another craft book and have some ideas that might be great…or not! We shall see.

BONUS QUESTION: After our books take off like rockets, where should we plan to “summer” next year? The Rockaways? The Hamptons? The South of France? (And who’s bringing the juice-box wine?)

The Rockaways, baby! I spent a month there last summer and soaked up the scene (surfers, tacos, fish sandwiches, Italian ices, HIPSTERS!). And guess what? Juice-box wines are a-plenty! No need to bring it.

ANOTHER BONUS! If you’re permitted, can you share a craft from your book here?
Click here to come to my website and I’ll teach you how to make this:

Hair Feather
The hair feather project is one of the easier ones in my book. But don’t be fooled by the simplistic instructions. The resulting duct tape feathers are quite sophisticated. They can be worn in your hair, but they can also be attached to bags and belts for a George-Clinton-funk-meets-Sex-Pistols-punk look that will have heads turning.

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Thanks for sharing your time and talent, Richela, and thank you reader for joining us for the ride. Please follow this blog for more fun and games and connect with me: on Facebook and Twitter, and learn more about me at www.francinelasala.com.

And again: Here’s how to connect with Richela outside the Shed: Facebook, Twitter, and, as indicated above, her fabulous blog!

See you next time!

Five For Friday: Tracie Banister!

Five For Friday: Tracie Banister!

Tracie Banister’s got it going on! Not only has she published TWO books this year, she’s also incredibly active in the online book world. She blogs regularly and even organizes events in which other authors can participate, like blog hops and Twitter chats.

Meet Tracie Banister!

I “met” Tracie when I joined one of her blog hops in May. I had no idea what a blog hop even was (in May, I barely even knew what a blog was…) but Tracie was so helpful and accommodating, answering every one of my awkward newbie questions without making me feel like an idiot. I learned so much from the experience and look forward to more authorial adventures with Tracie going forward!

Go on now and click here to CONNECT with her on Facebook and FOLLOW her on Twitter. You can also find her Books by Banister blog by clicking here. And be sure to check out her books, Blame it on the Fame and In Need of Therapy!

And now… Meet Tracie!

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1. I ask this of all writers, but I’m always so intrigued by the answer: Did you always want to be a writer? If not, what were you doing before you did? And either way, can you remember your “Aha!” moment?

I never thought about becoming a writer because I always was a writer. It was just something that came naturally, and I enjoyed sharing my work with others. I wrote plays that my class performed in elementary school and continued on with essays, multi-part stories, and literary analyses all through my formative years. I had dreams of one day publishing my work, but I also had dreams of marrying a prince and starring on a soap opera. None of those dreams seemed very likely to happen, so I did what sensible people do when they grow up and got a real job (administrative work). I took a stab at writing a historical romance novel in my early twenties just to see if I could do it, but got distracted by real life and never finished it. For the next decade or so, I kept my creative juices flowing by penning a lot of genre fan fiction that was well-received online.

I guess that my “Aha!” moment came when I lost my job as a personal assistant after 12 years. My friends and family encouraged me to follow my bliss and devote myself full-time to writing a novel. The thought of chasing a dream was pretty scary, and I honestly didn’t know if I had what it took to not only complete a novel, but submit it to agents and editors. Rather than spend the rest of my life wondering, “What if?” I decided to commit myself 100% to getting my work published. I’m happy to say that despite a lot of ups and downs, it’s been a really rewarding experience and I’m proud of myself for going after what I wanted.

2. Lots of writers tend to rely on similar conventions from one book to the next, but your two novels, Blame It On The Fame and In Need Of Therapy, are so different. One is a high-glam diva-licious tale about five women vying for the same prize; the other a story about a woman finding herself in her “crazy” world. Can you share what inspired you to write each of them?

Writing books is a very time-consuming process, so I stick with settings, characters, and themes that will sustain my interest for the year or more I will have to spend with each of them. I’ve always been fascinated by Hollywood and the lives of celebrities, so writing a novel about the five (fictional) actresses nominated for the Oscar seemed like a no-brainer to me and I had a blast playing around with all of the Hollywood stereotypes (girl-next-door, snobby British thespian, hard-partying trainwreck, second-generation actress, middle-aged star trying to make a comeback) in Blame It on the Fame.

Back in the day, I toyed with the idea of becoming a therapist myself, so I took several Psych courses in school and read Psychology Today religiously for years. Even now, I’m a very analytical person who enjoys listening to people’s problems, dissecting them, and giving advice. So, when my mother off-handedly said, “You should write a funny book about a female psychologist,” a light bulb went off over my head. It just seemed like such a great idea that was rife with possibilities (What does a psychologist really think when she’s listening to her patients’ problems? How does her shrink persona translate to her personal life? Is there a downside to being caring and empathetic?)

3. I used to have all these rituals when it came to writing, but as most of mine is done within the chaos of working full time and raising two kids, I’ve sadly relaxed on nearly all of them. What about you? Do you have any special rituals when it comes to writing? 

I am a creature of habit, and things have to be just so in order for me to be able to concentrate and write. So, yes, I have quite a few rituals. I always write at my desk in my office (I loathe laptops!). I must wear my special “writing sweater,” an Old Navy cardigan, even if it’s 100 degrees outside. And it’s essential that I have a glass of Lemon La Croix water nearby (I’m convinced that the carbonation stimulates my imagination!). I burn eucalyptus oil in my office a lot as there’s something about the aroma that I find soothing and now I associate that scent with “creative time.” Oh, and I always touch the head of my Shakespeare paperweight every day before I start writing. For inspiration, for good luck, I have no idea; it’s just part of my crazy routine!

Shakespeare!

4. Different writers have different methods for getting from the beginning of a story to the end. Some like to write in order, making sure each paragraph is perfect before moving on. Others also do a total run-through, not looking back until they get to the end. Some start with narrative and weave in dialog; others (like me) start with dialog and build a narrative around it. Can you explain how your story-making process unfolds for us here?

I am not a stream-of-consciousness writer. I carefully consider every word I put down on the page and edit as I go, so I am one of those writers who can’t move on until a paragraph is perfect. The upside of that is that I don’t end up with a rough draft that requires major editing or revising. I just have to do several rounds of proofreading and clean up minor continuity issues then I’m done.

My writing process differs depending on the book. For Blame, I had to write five stories that ran parallel to each other and intersected at various points throughout the book. So, although I wrote each heroine’s story in chronological order, I would jump back and forth between the heroines, working on whichever character arc was calling to me. I didn’t even number the chapters as I couldn’t put the pieces of my story puzzle together until I was done. That’s when I pulled out my dry-erase board and multi-colored post-its (each heroine was assigned her own color) to figure out how to arrange the chapters in keeping with the book’s timeline.

For Therapy, my process was much more linear. I started at the beginning and worked my way through to the end. I find outlines very stifling, so I don’t do detailed plotting before I begin work on a book. I always know where I want my stories to start and where I want them to end. How the characters get from Point A to Point B happens organically as I’m writing. I always say that the best bits in my books are the things I didn’t plan!

That’s a lot of stories to keep straight!

5. I could totally see either of your books becoming films (even In Need Of Therapy becoming a TV series). When you write, do you ever imagine actors in your mind playing your characters to move the story along, or is about telling the story first and then recognizing your characters in actors?

There are usually one or two characters in each book whose physical description will be based on an actor/actress. For instance, I envisioned Gerard Butler when I wrote for Scottish bad boy Miles McCrea in Blame It on the Fame. And Josh Holloway was my inspiration for Mitch in In Need of Therapy. Sometimes an actor or actress will spring to mind while I’m working on a book as Eva Mendes did for Pilar in INOT. I enjoy doing “casting” posts on my blog when I release a new book so that I can tell readers who I’d like to see play my characters if they ever make it to the big screen.

BONUS QUESTION: Imagine your books have become runaway bestsellers and a producer has decided to make a movie about your life! Who would play you and why?

I like this fantasy! Okay, if my life story were turned into a movie, I’d pick Reese Witherspoon to play me as she’s petite, blonde, Southern, and sassy and I am all of the above.

Thanks so much for having me on your blog today, Francine!

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Thank you for visiting with us in the Shed, Tracie!

And thanks, readers, for visiting! If you’re new here, please stick around and read through some of the other posts here. And if you like what you see, please sign up–and invite friends. The more the merrier here in the Shed!

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Again, here’s how to find Tracie:
Books by Banister Blog
Twitter
Facebook

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And here’s more about her books!

In Need of Therapy
Lending a sympathetic ear and dispensing sage words of advice is all part of the job for psychologist Pilar Alvarez, and she’s everything a good therapist should be: warm, compassionate, supportive. She listens, she cares, and she has all the answers, but how’s the woman everyone turns to in their hour of need supposed to cope when her own life starts to fall apart?

While working hard to make a success of her recently-opened practice in trendy South Beach, Pilar must also find time to cater to the demands of her boisterous Cuban family, which includes younger sister Izzy, an unemployed, navel-pierced wild child who can’t stay out of trouble, and their mother, a beauty queen turned drama queen who’s equally obsessed with her fading looks and getting Pilar married before it’s “too late.” Although she’d like to oblige her mother and make a permanent love connection, Pilar’s romantic prospects look grim. Her cheating ex, who swears that he’s reformed, is stalking her. A hunky, but strictly off-limits, patient with bad-boy appeal and intimacy issues is making passes. And the sexy shrink in the suite across the hall has a gold band on his left ring finger.

When a series of personal and professional disasters lead Pilar into the arms of one of her unsuitable suitors, she’s left shaken, confused, and full of self-doubt. With time running out, she must make sense of her feelings and learn to trust herself again so that she can save her business, her family, and most importantly, her heart.
Purchase In Need of Therapy!

Blame It on the Fame
A power-trippin’ bitch, a has-been, a skanky ex-model, a press-shy indie queen, and a British stage actress no one knows – this is how the Best Actress hopefuls in this year’s too-close-to-call Oscar race cattily describe each other. Which of them will win the much-coveted gold statue and what price will they be forced to pay as they travel the red carpeted-path to Hollywood glory?

Amidst all the press-schmoozing and angsting over which designer gown to wear, these Oscar contenders feud, commiserate, and face a succession of personal crises – scandalous secrets come to light, marriages implode, accidents land two nominees in the hospital while another receives news that could derail her career, all culminating on Tinsel Town’s biggest night when anything can happen, and does.
Purchase Blame It on the Fame!