Monday, February 16, 2015

GUEST POST - T. A. WILLIAMS


Can a man write Chick Lit? 
Should a man write Chick Lit?

I’ve been writing for years. I write all sorts, from historical novels to thrillers and, more recently, romantic comedies. Rom Coms aka Women’s Fiction aka Chick Lit are titles aimed principally at women. But I’m a man. Should I be doing this? We writers have to draw upon our imagination as far as plot and characters are concerned, so why not use this same imagination to think ourselves into the heads of our readers?

So just what is Chick Lit? Wikipedia defines it as, ‘…genre fiction which addresses issues of modern womanhood, often humorously and lightheartedly.’ It seems to me there is a potential conflict here. That word issues all too often has nothing to do with humour. We all have issues and few of them make us laugh. Issues can involve work, relationships, health…. You name it, there are issues connected with it. So, as an author setting out to write about issues in a lighthearted way, I knew I would have to tread lightly.
  
The next problem I had to face was to what extent women readers react differently in the face of issues, as compared to men. My own experience tells me that when it comes to the big stuff, our reactions are strikingly similar. I cried when my mum died. I cried when I had to take the old Labrador to the vet to be put down. When my business hit a bad financial patch, my wife and I were equally worried for the future. When our daughter got a place on a round the world sailing voyage, we were both concerned for her well-being. So, I would suggest, we all react the same way as far as the big stuff is concerned. We maybe show it in different ways, but that is as much to do with upbringing and conditioning as gender. The days of the Victorian father who hurrumphs quietly and returns to his newspaper after receiving the news of his son being eaten by cannibals are long gone. Emotions are closer to the surface nowadays for men as well as women.
  
The small stuff is a different matter. I acknowledge that. Shoes to me are things I put on my feet to help me walk. They are not objects of desire to be hoarded and cherished. And we all know, boys like toys. I freely admit it. Take a look in my shed. I still have wetsuits from thirty years ago and enough pieces of bikes to build a new one. But even there, that’s as much down to personality as gender.
  
That leaves the prickly subject of emotions. Women are moody. Women are touchy and neurotic. Men are feelingless, football-obsessed morons. Need I go on? We’ve all heard it before. But I don’t buy it. Stereotypes abound, but that doesn’t mean they are generic. I know some miserable, emotionless women and some soft-hearted men. We shouldn’t assume each sex always reacts as the stereotype dictates.
  
So where does that leave me? My latest book, What Happens in Tuscanyis written from the perspective of Katie, the main female character. She’s just left her job and her relationship. When her whole world feels as if it’s falling apart, she takes a deep breath and gets on with it. I would like to think that her reaction is the same as mine would have been. Does that make her more masculine or me more feminine? I don’t think so. I think it makes us human. That’s what we all are, after all.


Author Bio

T. A. Williams lives in Devon with his Italian wife. He was born in England of a Scottish mother and Welsh father. After a degree in modern languages at Nottingham University, he lived and worked in Switzerland, France and Italy, before returning to run one of the best-known language schools in the UK. He has taught Arab princes, Brazilian beauty queens and Italian billionaires. He speaks a number of languages and has travelled extensively. He has eaten snake, still-alive fish, and alligator. A Spanish dog, a Russian bug and a Korean parasite have done their best to eat him in return. His hobby is long-distance cycling, but his passion is writing.


Book Blurb

From rainy England…

Katie never imagined her life was perfect. But when she finds herself on a rainy street, soaked to the bone and with only a cheating boyfriend and a dead-end job keeping her in town, she knows something has to change. Which is what leads her to Iddlescombe Manor, to be companion to Victoria Chalker-Pyne – the only 25 year old Katie’s ever met who hasn’t heard of Twitter, thinks girdles are de rigueur, and desperately needs an education in the 21st century! 

…to the Tuscan sun!

But it wouldn’t be an education without a summer holiday – and where better than Tuscany? Decamping to Victoria’s family villa, it’s soon clear that the valley really does have it all: sun, sea…and some seriously gorgeous neighbours. The only question is: when the weather’s this hot, the wine is this smooth and the men are this irresistible…will Katie ever want to make the journey home?


Buy What Happens in Tuscany



Connect with T. A. Williams

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Sunday, February 8, 2015

FAIRY TALE FUN BLOG HOP (MAGIC MORSELS)

Congratulations to Katie Watkins, the Grand Prize winner of the Magic Morsels Fairy Tale Blog Hop!

  Willa Tobin, the eldest of the twin heroines in my Chick Lit novel, Twin Piques, is a little bit obsessed with the whole concept of fairy tales. She believes that good will always triumph over evil, Prince Charmings exist (although her history of dating frogs who never shed their warts belies this), and happily ever afters are possible. She's an idealist and a romantic who sees the world through rose-colored glasses much like Giselle, the eternally optimistic protagonist in Enchanted. Both of these ladies are dreamers who spend a lot of their time imagining their bright futures, which will, of course, include the perfect men.


A flair for fashion is something else these ladies have in common. Willa loves girly, retro pieces inspired by designs from the '50s and '60s which she often makes herself. Giselle also favors bright colors and  feminine embellishments, and in a pinch she can make a lovely gown from curtains. I'm sure the two of them would have a grand time shopping together, or hanging out at the park with some of their animal pals. In Andalasia, Giselle counts a variety of woodland creatures amongst her friends, and she appears to be able to summon them to her side whenever she wishes. Willa's constant companion is a scruffy dog named Cicero, and she makes her living as a pet psychic because she believes she can read the hearts and minds of animals.


Unlike her sister, pragmatic Sloane Tobin, who's a forensic accountant by trade, is about as unprincess-y as a woman can be. She loathes the color pink, scoffs at the notion of true love, and thinks a high-yield corporate bond is a better investment than a sparkly diamond (No tiaras for her!) However, she does have a fairy tale counterpart in Princess Isabella Lucia Maria Elizabetta of Valencia, the smart and spunky leading lady on ABC's Galavant.

Isabella is tough, focused, and goal-oriented. She always has a plan, just as Sloane does, and anyone who fouls things up for them can expect to be dismissed out of hand with a disdainful eye roll. Neither of these ladies would ever qualify as a damsel in distress. Isabella can wield a sword just as well as (actually, better than) any man, and Sloane is equally formidable with her sharp tongue and ability to outthink and outmaneuver everyone, be they a rival at work or in her personal life. If Isabella and Sloane's paths were to ever cross, I don't know that they'd become friends, but they'd certainly admire and respect each other's chutzpah. 


Blog Hop Grand Prize


We've got a fabulous prize for all you chocolate lovers! One lucky winner will receive this Congratulations Magic Morsels 48 Gift Box from Fairytale Brownies, which includes a bite-size assortment (Caramel, Chocolate Chip, Original, Raspberry Swirl, Walnut, Cream Cheese) of 48 delicious gourmet brownies that you can share with your valentine. Is your mouth already watering?

This giveaway is open to US residents only.

A winner will be selected at random and announced on Monday, February 16th.

You can enter to win at each stop on the hop, which means you can enter up to 18 times!

How to Enter

Answer the following question in the comments section below. Also, please leave your e-mail address so that we can contact you if you are the Grand Prize winner! Entries without e-mail addresses will not be valid!


Question:  If you were playing a princess in a big-screen fairy tale, who would you cast as your prince? For guys, who would you cast as your princess?    

Click on the links below to hop along to the other sites that are participating in the fairy tale fun. Read more delightful posts and remember that you can enter to win the brownie grand prize at each stop by leaving a comment!

Thanks so much for visiting and be sure to check out my book, Twin Piques, which is on sale for $1.99 right now!

Isabella Anderson       Cindi Madsen
Christine Ardigo         Jennie Marts
Glynis Astie               Robyn Neeley
Heather Balog            Engy Neville
Tracie Banister           Colleen Oakes
Laura Chapman          Katie Oliver
Jayne Denker             Fern Ronay
Whitney Dineen          Meredith Schorr
DelSheree Gladden     

Sunday, February 1, 2015

AUTHOR INTERVIEW - TRACY KRIMMER

Today, I’m delighted to welcome funny and fabulous Women’s Fic/Romance author Tracy Krimmer to Books by Banister. Her new novel, Caching In, has such a unique and clever premise. Raise your hand if you know what geocaching is. I had no idea until Tracy first mentioned her next release on Chick Lit Chat several months ago. I love it when I can learn something new from a book! Here's a definition:  

geocaching (noun) - the recreational activity of hunting for and finding a hidden object by means of GPS coordinates posted on a website. 

Keep reading for more interesting info about Tracy and this latest addition to her publishing portfolio.


1) Can you give us a brief overview of Caching In?  

Caching In is a romance centered around Ally, who has had enough of her boring life and wants to do something different. She meets a couple that is out geocaching, and after researching the pastime, she tries it on her own, and meets Seth.


2) What's your favorite quality about your heroine/hero? 

Her sarcasm. I feel like my answer should be something deep and meaningful, but I’m a sarcastic person by nature, and brought that out in Ally.


3) What made you want to write Caching In?  

A friend of mine geocaches all the time, and I have gone with her a few times. It’s a lot of fun, and I wondered how you could bring romance into a hobby such as geocaching. Also, I haven’t seen a romance book focusing on geocaching. Most I come across are mysteries. I wanted to do something different.


4) How long did it take you to write Caching In? What is your writing process like?  

It took me about a week to get the first chapter done. I wanted it to be perfect before I moved on. I don’t normally work that way, but I needed to do it this way to see if I had a story. Once I completed that, it took a good seven or eight months. When I write, I use Evernote a lot and dictate through my iPhone or iPad. I get much more done that way instead of typing.


5) If Hollywood comes calling and asks you to sign over the movie rights for Caching In, who would you like to see play Ally and Seth on-screen?  

When I write a story, I need to have a visual of the characters. I picture Ally as Jennifer Lawrence, with the long hair, and Seth as Jake Gyllenhaal. Putting them together on screen would be interesting, I think!



6) How did you decide on the title for Caching In?  

Actually, the title came first. On a trip to the grocery store, the title Caching In on Love popped into my head. After I had the title, the storyline just came to me. I knew exactly what was going to happen the second I had the title.


7) Tell us about your cover art design. How did you come up with the concept? Did you execute it yourself or have a professional do it?  

After much too much time on stock photo sites, I found two images. The one I fell in love with is the one on the cover. After first I utilized Fiverr. I liked what came back to me, but it didn’t feel right. With the help of Chick Lit Chat HQ, an awesome online meeting space for chick lit authors, the cover you now see was born.


8) The fiction market is so competitive now. How did you find an audience for your work? What do you think are the most effective ways an author can promote herself?

This is a very difficult question. I am not sure if I have found the audience for most of my work. Caching In definitely has an audience, but reaching them is proving quite the challenge. With an extremely limited budget, I rely on Facebook, Twitter, and great friends to spread the word about my books. I hope one day I can reach more people by way of newsletters and ads.


9) What are your thoughts on love scenes in books? Do you prefer to read/write sweet/romantic encounters between your hero and heroine or spicy ones?  

Honestly, I think these scenes are hard to write. I have written both. My first book, Pieces of it All, is a coming-of-age novel and has a few vivid scenes. Caching In is the complete opposite and everything happens behind doors. I have fun writing the spicy scenes, but the sweet romance leaves so much more to the reader’s imagination, and, as a reader, I prefer that.


10) What are you working on now?  

Mid-January I began revisions on my next book, which could be considered a sequel to Caching In. Seth and Ally are not in the book at all. It is a stand-alone featuring Ally’s best friend, Chelsea. I have no idea when it will be ready for publication, so stick around to find out!


11) Who are the authors who inspire you?  

This is always a hard question to answer. I don’t want to leave anyone out. The author that got me writing is R.L. Stine. Yes, completely different genre. As a young kid, I devoured his books. My reading has evolved greatly, but I look up to authors such as Jodi Picoult, Laurie Halse Anderson, Gillian Flynn, and Mary Robinette Kowal. I also adore all the authors in the Chick Lit Chat HQ group!


12) What genres do you like to read? Do you stick to one or are you eclectic in your reading tastes? 

Years ago, I only read thrillers. Over the past four or five years, I began reading many more authors, and while I enjoy romance the most, I also will pick up fantasy or science fiction here and there.


13) If you could be plopped down in the middle of any book, which one would it be?  

Wow. Based on the books I read, I don’t want to deal with any of their issues! I would much prefer to be in the middle of something less stressful. I’m going to have to go with a simple book, like Goodnight Moon. I mean, this way I get to take a nap, right?



14) If you could invite any five people (living or dead) over for a dinner party, who would they be and why? 

You really know how to ask impossible questions! This is one of those questions that would have a different answer every day. First, my grandmother. She passed away when I was very young, and she was extremely young as well. I would love to spend time with her. Second, Drew Barrymore. She overcame a lot as a child actress in Hollywood and has become a great woman. Cesar Milan. Can he please tell me what my dog is thinking? Maya Angelou because her poetry was amazing, and she was as a human being. Fifth, I have to go with Mindy Kaling. She’s hilarious and I think she would be so much fun to hang out with.


Fast and Flirty

Favorite scent?  Lavender and coffee. But not together.
Favorite color?  I am all about PINK. Love it in every shade.
Favorite food?  Popcorn. I eat a bag every night.
Favorite word?  Love
Favorite article of clothing?  Lounge pants or a hoodie. It’s a tie.
Dream vacation spot?
 
Anywhere warm where I can read.
Favorite time period in history? The 80s for the music. The present because I’m loving life.
Favorite girl's night out drink?  Coffee – I know, what a prude.
Favorite date night activity?  One that I can mention here? Okay, a movie then, but at a theater, preferably one that serves dinner.
Favorite song?  This changes. Currently "Blank Space" by Taylor Swift.
Celebrity hottie on your laminated list?  Come on, Tracie. You know this. Justin Baldoni. <Blogger's Note: We'll have to timeshare him.>



Book Blurb: 

Can a compass lead you to love?

Broken-hearted Ally Couper has had enough with her ridiculous life. Her job at the bank is going nowhere, and her love life might as well be non-existent.

Determined to try something new, Ally becomes absorbed in the world of geocaching. The high-tech driven scavenger hunt introduces her to Seth, and she realizes the game isn’t the only thrilling part.

Ally’s bad luck may finally be changing, until the past threatens to halt her future with Seth. Can they find happiness together, or is love the one cache Ally can’t find?


Buy Caching In

Amazon (US)
Amazon (UK)



Author Bio

Tracy's loves of writing began at nine years old. She wrote stories about aliens at school, machines that did homework for you, and penguins. Now she pens books and short stories about romance. She loves to read a great book, whether it be romance or science fiction, or any genre in between, or pop popcorn and catch up on her favorite TV shows or movies. She's been known to crush a candy or two as well. Her first romance novel, Pieces of it All, released in May 2014 followed in December with Caching In, a romance mixed with the hobby of geocaching. She also has written several short stories. Sign up for her newsletter so you won't miss out on any new releases.


Connect With Tracy

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

CHARACTER INTERVIEW - STACEY WIEDOWER

My special guest on Books by Banister today is RomCom
author Stacey Wiedower. Her debut novel, 30 First Dates, came out of the gate strong last week (58 Amazon reviews and a 5-star average in just 10 days!), and I'm sure there are more great things in store for this funny and talented lady. I loved Stacey's short story in the holiday anthology, Cozy Christmas Capers, and can't wait to dive into 30 First Dates. Be sure to grab your own copy of the book while it's being offered at an introductory price of 99 cents!

Read on for Stacey's interview with the heroine of her novel, romance-challenged Erin Crawford . . .

*   *   *   *   *


The main character of 30 First Dates, Erin Crawford, is going through a bit of an existential crisis … though she doesn’t know it yet at the start of the story. A few months prior, she’d broken up with the potential love of her life because he was in love with someone else. When her current boyfriend becomes ex-boyfriend material, she hates the pattern she sees emerging. And that’s where I’ll start this interview. Consider this a conversation with Erin just as she’s launching her blog, which of course is named “30 First Dates!”

Me: How was the idea for 30 First Dates born?
Erin: Out of a drinking game, really. (Laughs.) I was goofing off with some of my friends, and my roommate Sherri suggested we all write a bucket list. The last item on my bucket list was to start a blog.

Me: So it was that simple? How did the dating portion of the blog come into play?
Erin: Well, I was mulling over my bucket list one night, which is actually a list of 30 things I want to do before I turn 30. But I had no idea what to blog about. A few weird coincidences put the idea of applying for “The Bachelor” into my head, and instead of doing that I decided I’d create my own dating reality show on my blog.

Me: You were engaged once. What happened to end that relationship?
Erin: I got engaged my senior year of college to Mathew, who I met at the start of sophomore year. The short answer to this question is that I found out he was fooling around on me, but the more complicated answer is that I was too young, totally scared and in no way ready to get married and settle down. I don’t think we’d have made it, so all in all I’m grateful things worked out the way they did.

Me: What about your ex-boyfriend Noah? You’ve referred to him as “the love of your life.” How did he become the one who got away?
Erin: The crux of the problem with Noah was that while I thought he might be the love of my life, I was not the love of his. It became clear to me while dating Noah that he wasn’t over his ex-girlfriend, Amelia. I could have seen a future with Noah, but in it I was always going to be second best. That’s why I broke up with him.

Me: Let’s talk career for a bit. You’re a teacher. Was that a lifelong dream?
Erin: You know, it wasn’t. I think like many entering college freshmen I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. In high school I was good at several different subjects and I really liked my senior calculus class – I had a teacher who made it interesting and even inspiring. That’s what pushed me in the direction of choosing math as my major, and probably what led me into teaching. If I could reach one kid the way she reached me, how cool would that be? Once I made my choice, I stuck with it all the way through graduate school and into Teach for America.

Me: If you could go anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice, where would you land?
Erin: Paris. No question. It has this romantic quality about it that just seems so exciting, like by being there anything could happen. I’ve never been out the country before and haven’t seen much beyond the American southwest, but I have a strong feeling that’s about to change. That’s another impetus behind my 30 by 30 bucket list and 30 First Dates.


Me: How would you sum yourself up in five words?
Erin: Wow, only five? Anybody who knows me knows I talk a lot, and often before I’ve thought through what’s coming out of my mouth. But I’ll give it a shot: Outgoing, fun, hard-working, loyal and, if I’m being completely honest, a bit hard-headed.

Me: Where do you see yourself in five years?
Erin: I have absolutely no idea. That’s the exciting part about 30 First Dates, and it’s also the reason I started the blog in the first place. I wanted a new adventure, something to drive me to change things up in my life and maybe figure myself out in the process. I was tired of “floating.”

Me: You’re an only child. How do you feel that’s affected you, especially when it comes to relationships?
Erin: I grew up with parents who wanted me and made me feel loved in a neighborhood surrounded by other kids, including my best friends Ben and Hilary. So I won’t give the expected answer about feeling lonely. And my parents’ relationship gave me a good model for how I want my own family and home life to look one day.

Me: Does that mean you want to have an only child, too? How do you feel about having children?
Erin: (Laughs.) I get this question a lot, probably because I’m the girl who flees the room when the conversation turns to child-bearing and parenting and such. The whole process terrifies me, if you want to know the truth. I feel like I need to have a better plan in place for my life before bringing someone else into it who depends on me to have it all together. But just to get it on record, I do want children someday. Or a child. I wouldn’t be opposed at all to having just one, because like I said, it wasn’t a bad experience for me.

To find out how Erin’s adventure turns out, check out 30 First Dates! It’s available here as an ebook and in print. And thanks so much to Tracie for hosting me on Books by Banister!


Book Blurb

30 dates, 30 wild ideas, total media frenzy… but only one Mr. Right.

Erin Crawford is a relationship blogger with a bucket list and a vendetta. After having horrible luck in her own relationships, she decides to start a blog called "30 First Dates." Her mission: go out with 30 men before her 30th birthday. It's her quest to find a non-jerk in 30 dates or less. As she blogs about her sometimes humorous and sometimes just sad dates, she also begins to cross off her bucket list of 30 things she wants to do before she turns 30—killing two birds with one stone by completing the items on her dates! In fourteen months she skydives, skinnydips, crashes a wedding, travels to multiple cities and lives way outside her usual comfort zone. The only question is, as her birthday approaches and her list grows smaller, will Erin be able to find love? Or is she destined to be a first-date-only kind of girl? 

Author Bio

Stacey had barely blown out the candles on her 21st birthday cake when she took her first job as a reporter at a daily newspaper. She later followed her passion to interior design school and spent three years working at a firm with bizarre similarities to the set of Designing Women. Today she funnels that experience into her work as a full-time freelance writer, penning everything from magazine articles to website copy to a bi-weekly column called Inside Design. She also writes romantic comedy, and the zany characters she's met poke their heads into her stories from time to time. Stacey lives in Memphis, Tenn., with her husband, also a writer, and a son who's inherited their overactive imaginations.

Connect With Stacey: