Tag Archives: book giveaway

Write Strong Women and Marry Your Best Friend: An Interview About Romance With Author Roni Loren

As part of my To Be Read Challenge, I included a (signed – squeee!) copy of Crash Into You by erotic romance author, Roni Loren (@RoniLoren). I met Roni at DFWcon 3 years ago and have attended her sessions on writing realistic romance scenes. She is fabulous.

So are her books.

*****

Crash Into You

Sometimes the past can bring you to your knees…

Brynn LeBreck has dedicated herself to helping women in crisis, but she never imagined how personal her work would get, or where it would take her. Her younger sister is missing, suspected to be hiding from cops and criminals alike at a highly secretive BDSM retreat—a place where the elite escape to play out their most extreme sexual fantasies. To find her Brynn must go undercover as a sexual submissive. Unfortunately, The Ranch is invitation only. And the one Master who can get her in is from the darkest corner of Brynn’s past…

 

 I am very pleased to welcome Roni to the Happiness Project!

*****

Describe yourself in three words.

Perfectionistic, Introverted, Curious

What drew you to writing erotica? What do you love about your genre?

It was a genre I loved to read, of course. But I was really drawn to the fact that it had very few boundaries. Like I could write suspense in my story but it didn’t have to fit the restrictions of a romantic suspense. And it could be contemporary but the romance didn’t have to be light and airy. All I needed to make sure I had was a happy ending and a lot of steam (which is fun to write.) So it allows for a lot of freedom in my stories, which makes my muse happy. 🙂

I write nonfiction about my family and they all want pseudonyms. 😉 How did your friends and family respond when your first book came out?
I’ve been lucky. My family is hugely supportive and not hung up on the fact that I write the sexy stuff. My mom even reads my books (even when I told her not to, lol) and tells her friends to buy my books. I don’t hide what I write from anyone because I’m not ashamed of it. If they ask, I’ll tell them. Though, people are usually surprised when they find out because I’m the quiet, mom-next-door type. I think some people expect erotic writers to fit some outrageous image. But the people writing it (and reading it!) are every day women (and men, for that matter.)

That’s awesome! What are you reading right now?

I just finished Outlining Your Novel by K.M. Weiland because I’m a pantser with plotter envy (and am obsessed with writing craft books.) But fiction wise, I’m reading Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare (YA Steampunk Paranormal) and rereading The Shining by Stephen King.

Oooh, nice picks!
Settled in for the night after conferencing, reading Roni's book

Settled in for the night after conferencing, reading Roni’s book

I read Fifty Shades of Gray, and hated it. The main character is pretty flat – quite literally, actually, she’s tied down and having sex so much. Your lead female in Crash Into You (Brynn) is really 3-dimensional. Her mother works in the sex industry, Brynn is a sexual assault survivor, she works in a social work setting with other domestic violence victims, and she struggles to claim her own sexual identity despite her past. In what ways do you think Brynn is a champion for women, and what do you think are her shortcomings?

It’s important to me to write really strong women, particularly because of the power dynamic I use between the hero and heroine. In Brynn’s case, I wanted to show how tough and smart she is because even though she has this urge to be sexually submissive in the bedroom, she’s an independent, brave woman in her every day life. She’s driven to help others, and ultimately, she learns to help herself. The theme in all my books usually comes back to healing and self-acceptance, so I think Brynn is a prime example of that. No one fixes her problems for her. She has to learn to move through her fear, heal, and then embrace who she is.

I’m getting married in 2 months. What’s your advice for keeping the passion alive?

Yay, congrats! 🙂 I’ve been married for almost 13 years, and it still feels like we just got married (so I guess that’s good!)

 

That’s wonderful! Congrats to you, lovebirds!

 

I think the key is to marry someone you have a deep friendship with, who gets you, and who makes you laugh. That takes care of a lot of things. But with keeping the passion alive specifically, I think it’s important to develop a level of trust that you literally can talk about anything (including fantasies, likes/dislikes, etc.) with no judgment or expectations, so that you can keep things fresh. When I hear that some husbands don’t like their wives reading romance novels, I want to bonk them on the head because—hello, that’s just going to give her new ideas of what she wants to do with/to you, lol. Buy her stacks!

 

Great advice! I know you love to watch Reality TV, what are your guilty pleasures right now?

 

I just finished American Idol, of which I’m a faithful follower. And now I am so ready for Big Brother. It’s the one reality show that I can convince myself I’d have a shot at winning (ha!) unlike shows like Survivor or Amazing Race where I’d last 3.2 seconds. But there’s something about watching all those intricate human dynamics that I can’t look away from.

 

If you could host a Romance Award ceremony, who would you bestow a trophy to for the following:

 

Hottest Big Screen Actor: Oh, so many. Bradley Cooper is always a fave. And recently I’ve developed a crush on Jimmy Fallon (though, not technically a big screen actor) because funny is hot.
Best Couples Getaway: I like cold places since I live in TX, so a mountain cabin in Lake Tahoe maybe.
Most Decadent Dessert: Cheesecake

Sexiest Thing About Women: Our brains.

What’s next for you? What can readers watch out for?

In August, I’m releasing a novella called BLURRING THE LINES that is separate from my Berkley series. It will be sexy contemporary romance with a paranormal twist and is part of a multi-author continuity series called Invitation to Eden. (I’m thinking of it like the show Lost but with more sex and happily ever afters, lol.) Then in September I’m releasing a novella, FOREVER STARTS TONIGHT, and in November, my serial novel, NOT UNTIL YOU, is being put into an omnibus edition. So lots of things coming up! (In other news, I won’t be sleeping until next February, lol.)

We’ll be watching! Thanks Roni for joining us. Always a pleasure learning from you and I love your advice (and characters) about being strong, independent women with PASSION!

RoniLorenAuthorHeadshot2

Roni wrote her first romance novel at age fifteen when she discovered writing about boys was way easier than actually talking to them. Since then, her flirting skills haven’t improved, but she likes to think her storytelling ability has. Though she’ll forever be a New Orleans girl at heart, she now lives in Dallas with her husband and son.

If she’s not working on her latest sexy story, you can find her reading, watching reality television, or indulging in her unhealthy addiction to rockstars, er, rock concerts. Yeah, that’s it. She is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author of The Loving on the Edge series from Berkley Heat. Website: www.roniloren.com

*****

E-BOOK GIVEAWAY!!!

One lucky commenter will be receiving an e-copy (Nook or Kindle U.S.)
of Roni’s book Still Into You!

Random drawing will be held on Wednesday @ 5pm CST,
winner announced on Thursday’s blog!

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Interview & Book Giveaway w/ Amber West

Today I’m thrilled to welcome A Day Without Sushi blogger and author of The Ruth Valley Missing, Amber West to the Happiness Project!

*applause, applause ~ cheering crowds*

Amber is here to answer some really important questions on the meaning of life* and whether dogs or cats make better pets.

Note* ~ Amber will not really define what the meaning of life is. The owner of this publication sincerely apologizes for any inconvenience.

Bonus!! One lucky commenter on this post will win a FREE copy of Amber’s book, The Ruth Valley Missing, along with a cd playlist of music that inspired the story!

Share this post via Twitter or Facebook and receive a bonus entry in the drawing! Winner announced on Friday, December 13, 2013!

AmberWest-TheRuthValleyMissing-200x300 Click here to read about The Ruth Valley Missing!

Jameson Quinn is sick of trying to find herself in the big city. After a gallery opening ends in a trip to the ER and an argument with her self-involved boyfriend, she decides to take off for the peace and quiet of a small town — Ruth Valley.

The small town has everything Brooklyn lacked: simple people, peaceful surroundings, and a feeling of safety. Jameson even finds the perfect house to rent from the town’s most eligible bachelor, Sheriff Jack. Life is finally headed in a promising direction.

But something isn’t right. A young man is mysteriously injured, then disappears — and Jameson finds he isn’t the only person to suddenly vanish. The suspicious behavior of an abrasive nun and a creepy priest set her off on an investigation of what’s really happening. Will she figure out the secrets of Ruth Valley before she’s the next to go missing?

Take it away, Amber!

*****

Getting to Know You:

1.     Share three words that describe you. 

Loyal, generous, weird.

2.     Share three words you wish described you. 

Confident, comfortable, organized.

Pick a book.AWest Quote3.     What is your favorite book?

It’s actually a play, but being that it’s a book on my shelf that I’ve read more than any other, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is at least worthy of a mention. When my husband and I were dating, he gave me the book Myst (yes, like the computer game) and I actually really loved the story.

Having said that, I’m not very good at picking a favorite book. It’s like asking me to choose a favorite food – there’s so many factors involved. What’s my mood? What am I craving?

4.     What are you most grateful for today?

Family. I happen to be fortunate enough to be close to my parents and several of my siblings, which means always having people in your life you can rely on.

5.     If you could live in any time period, what one would you pick and why?

So, I’m going to totally cheat here and say that I would just travel with the Doctor in his TARDIS. Then I don’t have to choose! I can just travel anywhere I want to go.

The trouble with choosing a time in the past is that, being a woman, there’s so much I could end up giving up. And then I feel like I’d have to specify, “well, I’d live in time period X, but only if I was wealthy and married to a man of status who also happens to be a nice dude who loves me”.

That’s kinda boring. The Doctor it is.

6.     Favorite social media hangout?

I flip between Twitter (@amberwest) and Facebook the most. Facebook is where more of my family and friends I’ve had from before social media are, and it lends itself to more lengthy group discussions (like the most recent thread I’ve got going there that has 170+ comments). However, I love interacting with people I’ve met on Twitter. It’s a faster pace there, and clever (at least, the people I interact with are).

About Your Book:

1.  Tell us about your book in one sentence.

It’s mystery and silly banter and a touch of romance all rolled into one.

Absolutely Horrible.AWest.Quote2.  The Ruth Valley Missing has a big twist in it. What are your favorite books or films that shock you at the end?

Is it absolutely horrible that I can’t remember the last time a movie or book shocked me with a twist? I tend to figure things out way ahead of time. Having said that, the show Scandal has surprised me in its ability to throw out some shockers in the story.

3.  Is there a real Ruth Valley? What inspired you to set the story there?

Ruth Valley is definitely fictional. The town feel is very much meant to be like a small town in North Carolina, but it’s a made up town.

I set it in in NC for a few reasons. As you know, there is a Catholic church in the small town. Small town North Carolina isn’t exactly where you’d find a dominant Catholic population. I wanted to separate this little church community from the larger religious group, so intentionally putting them somewhere out of the way, and realistically out of place accomplished that.

From my experiences in various small towns in North Carolina, I knew I wanted to set the story in a sort of amalgam of various places I had been there – places where the community is tight knit, charming, but also a bit odd for someone used to the city.

4.   What actors would you cast to play the lead roles of your book?    

Dylan – Ryan Gosling. It’s a small role, but he was the type of guy I pictured when I started writing him. It should be noted that I don’t have the same love for Gosling that created the “Hey Girl” meme. Ha.

Father Mike – Kyle Chandler. This may have something to do with watching a lot of Friday Night Lights when I was working on the book.

Jack – I personally went with Nathan Fillion for this one. If you’ve seen his role in Waitress, think more that than his current Castle role. I’ve had a few readers recommend Blake Shelton. I’m not a country music girl, but I can see the appeal.

Jameson – Ruth Wilson, more for her look than her voice, considering she’s a British actress. She does seem to be good at quirk, though, so if we can just get her some American accent lessons…

Sister Marjorie – Susan Sarandon. I don’t remember how she came to mind for the role, but once I thought of it, I couldn’t see anyone else.

5.    What’s next for you? Can we expect another thriller?

It’s funny. I never set out to write a thriller or mystery. I’m a dialogue junkie, so I think in a way I’m probably more of a women’s fic writer at heart. But, this story just sort of developed from my first NaNoWriMo attempt and I found I just had to finish it. While I never thought of writing mysteries or thrillers, I find I like having that extra something as part of a plot. (And I should give a huge shout out to Jen Kirchner and Tiffany White, writers who told me that I had a story worth finishing and publishing – writers encouraging writers are the best!)

I have three different books I’ve been working on, all with a substantial amount of words written, but I think the one I’ll focus on finishing next is a follow up to Ruth Valley Missing. While RVM definitely works as a standalone, I wrote the ending somewhat open, mostly because I like open endings.

The response to the book has been overwhelming – beyond anything I ever expected. (I mean, Stephen Colbert hasn’t called to give me The Colbert Bump or anything, but it’s been good.) Among the many responses I’ve received from readers is the desire for more Jameson, as well as some other characters, so I have been working on a story that gives everyone more of what they want: banter, and Jameson stumbling into mysterious situations she can’t help but stick her nose in.

About Life in General:

1.   Dogs or cats? Coffee or Tea? Book or Kindle?

I have both, but I am more of a dog person. If I had a large piece of land and the funds, I’d be adopting dogs left and right. (I’m a total supporter for adopting from shelters – so many dogs need homes! Always check shelters when considering adding a new pet to your family.)

Tea v Coffee? At the moment, tea over coffee, since I’m pregnant. I love a good cup of coffee, but if I had to be tied to one, I think I would still choose tea. There’s greater variety!

Book or Kindle? The traditional girl in me so badly wants to say “book”. But, the mother of an active four year old with one on the way yelps “kindle!” (or more accurately, kindle app on the ipad). The only way I get any reading done nowadays is when the lights are out and the kid is asleep, so the Kindle app is the way to go.

2.     Best parenting tip?

On Parenting.AWest.QuoteYikes. I so don’t feel qualified. I guess I’d just say, be informed, then follow your instincts and enjoy your kid. There is so much pressure now, I think even more than in my parent’s era, to create the perfect child. So many benchmarks to be met, so much comparing, so much fighting over what you should and shouldn’t do.

I feel like the areas where we’ve made great progress with our kid have been from following our instincts (I read a ton, so those instincts are informed, mind you), and just enjoying being with our kid.

3.     What’s worth watching on TV these days?

I watch everything online via Hulu, Netflix, and so on, so I’m sure there are shows I’d leave out strictly due to accessibility. Having said that, among the newest shows, Blacklist is one that’s really pulled me in. I just cannot resist a show with James Spader in it.

Not on your TV, but worth checking out on Hulu, is The Wrong Mans. It’s a British show that follows two guys who get caught up in this whole crime/conspiracy thing. It’s exactly what I love – humor and kind of regular people caught up in a crazy story. And it’s only six episodes, so it’s worth taking the time to check it out.

4.     Favorite piece of advice you’ve received?

I think I’ll share some advice that I found particularly encouraging when it comes to pursuing creative things (though it could be applied to a lot of things). The advice came via Wil Wheaton’s blog, from Shane Nickerson:

“If I’ve learned anything in my shaky life as an artist, it’s that you must stop talking and spinning and whining and start making your thing today. Pick up a camera. Pick up an easel. Open your laptop and turn off your Internet connection while you write. Find a starting point. Ignore the voices. Ignore the critics. Reward yourself for having ideas by valuing them enough to believe in them.

Failure does not exist.”

And then this extra bit from Wil Wheaton:

 “…Failing at one thing does not mean you fail at all things and that’s the end of it. Failing at something can often be the beginning of succeeding at another thing.”

I think the fear of failing, particularly at something we love can be so crippling, so these bits of wisdom have helped me when I get in that “sad writer” rut.

*****

tennantandmecrop_SnapseedAmber West is a Northeastern transplant dodging rodent sized bugs and sweltering heat in the jungles of Central Florida. When she isn’t battling the urge to pass out, she’s busy being a wife, mother, geek, photographer, and writer, in no particular order. You can read her ramblings at http://www.withoutsushi.com or find her on Twitter (@amberwest) where she abuses hashtags and makes people laugh. Or at least, makes herself laugh.

Don’t forget to chat with Amber in the comments below and you could take home your own copy of The Ruth Valley Missing and a correlating cd playlist!

Thanks Amber!

Have you entered the Halloween photo contest yet?

Fall is my favorite time of year because it contains my three favorite holidays!  Christmas, of course, is a time for gift giving and family get togethers.  You may think I’m crazy, but I love wrapping presents!  And Thanksgiving is very special to me as my family is related to two of the pilgrims that crossed over on the Mayflower.  But Halloween is where it starts and this past weekend many of you may have held parties, attended parties, perhaps even entered a costume contest!

I’m here to remind you it’s not too late to enter Marcia Richards and my Halloween contest for The RedhotsTwo redheads.  Two opinions.  Always keeping it interesting.

Recently, we interviewed Young Adult Paranormal writer, Fabio Bueno, about his new release, Wicked Sense.  Fabio has graciously offered to giveaway not just one, but six copies of his book to six lucky winners who submit their favorite Halloween photos!

I’m so happy I could faint!

Oops, how’d my Rapunzel picture get in here?

Here’s what you need to know to enter:

1. There are three categories you can enter one time each:

  • Costume – your best ever, be it scary, cute or funny
  • Outdoor decorations – your scariest or most creative
  • Party room decor – you can include your Halloween tablescape, your unique pumpkin carving, and your room decorations

See? Someone MADE this totally clever costume of the Planters’ Mr. Peanut!

2. Post your pictures, up to 3 only, at our Twitter hashtag: #TheRedHots or on our Facebook pages between October 19th and October 30th. The winners will be announced on Halloween!

3. For extra chances to win, you can choose to do the following:

  • “Like” Marcia’s and my Facebook pages
  • Tweet about the contest three times between the 19th and the 30th linking to our posts
  • Subscribe to our blogs

Boys, be reasonable! There’s room for everyone to play!

The prizes:

  • Grand prize will be an autographed print book by our indie author plus a Halloween Goody Bag.
  • 5 bonus prizes of a Kindlegraphed ebook from the author

Happy Halloween, Everyone!  And good luck!  I’ll be watching for your photos!

Author Interview with Michael Perry and Book Giveaway

It’s finally here!  The day has arrived!  Michael Perry is interviewing with me and I’m thrilled to introduce him to you guys!

Michael is a Wisconsin native, born and raised in the midwest.  If I could describe his writing style, it would combine side-stitching stories of humor in one paragraph with the most heartfelt tales of humans and their ability to love in the next.  His voice is unique and humble, descriptive and personable.  Can you tell I’m a huge fan?! 

Michael’s previous works are his memoirs Population: 485 – Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time, Truck:  A Love Story, and Coop: A Family, A Farm, and the Pursuit of One Good Egg.  I was introduced to his writing through Population: 485 when my library did a memoir discussion series.  Population recounts Michael’s years as an EMT in his small town of New Auburn, WI going from accident scene to accident scene while sharing stories of the eccentrically warm individuals in his town.  Truck chronicles his days refurbishing his beloved vehicle and meeting the woman who would become his wife.  And then in Coop, Michael and his wife have taken over her family’s farm and are raising one daughter, with another on the way.

Visiting Tom

His newest release, Visiting Tom, came out August 21st and he is graciously giving away 3 Hardcover copies to 3 lucky commenters on this blog!  Thank you, Michael!

You can check out more about his books and his blog at his website SneezingCow.com!  Or find him on Twitter @SneezingCow.  Or Facebook.

Check out the book trailer for Visiting Tom to peak your interest!

Without further ado, please welcome Michael Perry!

Describe yourself in three words. 

Want more words.

What three words do you wish described you?

Consistently reverent husband.

 You’ve been a busy man.  You’ve completed nursing school, spent a few years as an EMT, started up a farm with your wife and 2 daughters, released two humor cd recordings, sing and play guitar in the band The Long Beds, and you’re a writer.  Did you always want to write, or was it something that found you along your journey?  Oh, and when do you sleep?

Apart from some Crayola-based short stories and the usual naive college-aged noodling driven by a quagmire of angst at least a quarter-inch deep, I didn’t set to writing with any purpose until I was out of college and working as a nurse. Even then I didn’t have any particular direction. I just wrote about my experiences as a cowboy and a hitchhiker and a farm kid. Then a local magazine showed interest in one of my essays. So then I went to the library and got a book about how to be a writer. Then the real work began. Years of writing everything and anything, from used car ads to pizza commercials and brochures for legal seminars. I slowly wangled my way into the magazine world with essays and nonfiction pieces. After a decade or so I had wedged my way into a few national titles. Then an agent in New York read something I had written and tracked me down in Chippewa County, Wisconsin. That eventually led to my first book deal. But even that took several years and many more false starts.

I am blessed with the ability to sleep pretty much anywhere and in any position, and I am also a big fan of the post-prandial nap. You have to get what my wife and I call “the dip”; a short nap where you just dip beneath consciousness and resurface refreshed. If you sleep so long your face gets mashed, then it’s not as helpful. Frankly, years of not getting enough sleep is catching up with me and I can’t recommend it although I don’t regret it.

You also host a program called Tent Show Radio which features live performances from Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua and is sponsored through Wisconsin Public Radio.  What’s that been like?  Who have your favorite guests been?

Most of all I love how the radio show introduces people to the tent itself. It’s a wonderful place to see a show, no matter the act. A blue tent on a green hill overlooking the Apostle Islands…the setting is unusual in the nicest way. And there’s something about gathering beneath the canvas that amplifies the shared experience between the audience members and the performers. I love to perform up there myself, and will be there September 8 with my band. (Editor’s note: Due to the show format and scheduling Mike’s portions are usually recorded during the editing process – meaning he’s not actually hanging out with Steve Earle).

You typically write memoirs.  From Population: 485 chronicling the colorful characters of your home in New Auburn, WI to Truck: A Love Story, which simultaneously shares its pages with the budding romance of your would-be wife.  And in Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs, and Parenting you recount your own childhood with how it compares to becoming a father yourself.  Do you think you’ll write children’s books now that your girls are getting of age?

I am currently working on a two-book Young Adult series. Or Middle Grade series. I’m not clear on the difference, it seems to be shifting some. It’s been a challenge. I love the storytelling aspect, but I am a respecter of genres, and I don’t assume that I can successfully jump from one to the other. Plus, mine have no talking unicorns. But I’m enjoying it. And the main protagonist is a girl roughly the same age as my oldest daughter, so yes, there is some “in-house” research happening.

Do you keep a journal?  And if not, is that why you include so many disclaimers about your memory in your books?  You’ve even made a blog category called Oops! that allows readers to send in any discrepancies they find.  Is your mother your biggest caller?  😉

Nope. I write ever day, but I don’t journal. I think journaling is a terrific tool for many writers, but I’m just too scattered. I journal informally, constantly jotting down notes and observations and stuffing them in my literal and figurative pockets, but lack the discipline to journal on schedule. Also, I have maudlin tendencies, meaning the few times I have kept journals and gone back to read them I found myself incapacitated with ineffable longing for things irretrievably passed. This leads to pensive gazing, intellectual paralysis, and banal prose and I’ve already got more of that than I need.

The “Oops!” thing is just a straightforward attempt to maintain the trust of readers. Despite my memory disclaimers and my all-too-scattered nature, I go to great lengths to get the verifiable facts right in my nonfiction work. And yet, I make mistakes. And it seems the only thing to do in this day and age is get those mistakes right out there. To set the record straight. I just got two emails saying I made a factual error in “Visiting Tom,” and although I’m on tour right now, driving from town to town, I’m going to follow up on those as soon as I can and add them to the “Oops!” category.

Your new book Visiting Tom shares the intimate story, albeit an eccentric one, of your neighbor.  How did you first meet?

It had to do with the woman I was dating at the time. I’d been a bachelor for 39 years. Our first visit to see Tom changed that. The rest of the story is in the book. As you can see I am currently in promotional mode.

 What does Tom think about you writing his story?

I asked his permission first, and he gave me his approval contingent on my changing his name. I spent many hours with him and his family, fact-checking the book. During that time he said I got things right. But then he grins and says since I changed his name he’s telling everybody it’s fiction. Of course at this I nearly had a seizure in light of all the controversies in the genre. But he has this wicked grin when he says it, and that’s Tom in a nutshell. Bottom line? I was over to visit him again right before book tour, and we just sat and visited. I wasn’t a writer, he wasn’t a subject, we were just neighbors again. And that’s my favorite role. Being his neighbor.

When you write about the people in your life, you have a way of making them get off the page and walk down the sidewalk in front of the reader.  You really hone in on details about people.  When you meet someone for the first time, what are the stand out traits that interest you?

I don’t think there’s a standard answer to that one. I will say that when I’m profiling someone – whether for a magazine piece or a book – I prefer to spend a lot of time with them before asking them a single interview question, because when you ask questions first, two things happen: 1) you ask questions that can be better answered through observation and natural conversation, and 2) the subject tends (rightly or wrongly, and usually wrongly) to read some sort of direction into the questions and tries to give “right” answers.

Met any interesting literary figures on your travels?  Who’s been the most inspiring to you?

Because I live in rural Wisconsin I really don’t spend much time in literary circles. I have one editor I’ve worked with for ten years and we’ve only met in person once, for a short lunch. I’ve only ever met my book editor twice. Most of my writerly friendships have been developed through chance meetings at conferences and the like. For instance, I’ve become email/Twitter friends with Christopher Moore because we wound up huddling beneath the same potted plant at a high-tone event in L.A. We were both dressed poorly for the occasion and thus bonded forever. One thing I want to make clear, however: I am not poor-mouthing literary circles. I have had wonderful experiences at places like Bread Loaf, I have benefited immeasurably from writers far more academic and artistic than I who took the time to talk writing with me – either in person or via electrons. Anybody who is writing – whatever the genre, whatever the level – has much to teach me, and I welcome all shop talk.

Maybe I’ll come at this from another angle. About 6-8 years after I started typing with intent, I read my first book by Jim Harrison, and it changed my writing life. I owe him so much. On book tour one year I had the chance to meet him for ten minutes in the back room of a bookstore. I thought it over and passed, leaving him a note instead. I realized that it was his work that changed my life, and in ten minutes on the fly I would likely just mumble things I’d spend the next three days wishing I’d said better, and also, having been on book tour myself I knew he’d probably prefer ten quiet minutes. I don’t know if it was the right decision or not, but I think so.

Do you have any superstitions or habits when you sit down to write?

Nope. As a freelancer I am driven by deadlines and house payments, so I write whether I’m in a Super 8 or sitting in my favorite coffee shop or the room over my garage. But the good news is, I get up every day as hungry to write as I was 20 years ago. And because I never saw this coming, the main thing I feel when I sit down to type is gratitude.

That said, a cup of fresh-ground snobby coffee doesn’t hurt…

What’s your opinion on the changing face of publication?  Are you a fan of e-books and blogs?  Tweets, Likes, and Pins?

I don’t think it’s a matter of being a fan, it’s a matter of navigating reality. I owe my existence to independent bookstores and hand selling, and I still try to focus my tours and my thanks and my sales accordingly. But I also know I have to keep the boat afloat wherever the river flows. The tricky part is balancing all the bloggy/tweety/likey stuff (which is an invaluable way of keeping in touch with and thanking readers) with the writing that is at the center of it all. I don’t always get it right.

What’s your favorite book of all time?

I don’t like to narrow things down that way. I’m omnivorous. In “Coop”, however, I do talk about how “All Quiet On The Western Front” changed my worldview in third grade and why I’ve re-read it so many times.

What’s your favorite thing about Wisconsin?

Again, I just don’t care for the favorite thing. Not being cranky, it’s just that today it might be deep-fried cheese curds, tomorrow it might be a black-and-white cow in a green field beside a red barn, and then Friday night it might be the cotton-candy scent of burnt racing fuel at the dirt track races.

Best place to go in our state?

Home.

What do your daughters think of what you do?  What family member is your biggest fan?

I come from a blue-collar family. Farmers, loggers, nurses, truckers. I reject the idea that being a writer is any more special than any of those things. I always say I’m a writer with a small “w”, and I figure most critics and people would agree. My family is just as interested in my writing as they are interested in my brother’s corn crop or my sister’s factory job and that’s how it oughta be. My daughters know their dad is self-employed and gone a lot, but they also know that truckers and soldiers are gone a lot more and under much tougher circumstances. I love what I do, I’m grateful to do what I do, and it may be a calling, but it’s not a HIGHER calling.

Growing up you were raised with a number of foster kids in the house; some were legally adopted by your parents.  Coop shares a lot of that story, but for readers here, what impact do you think it had on how you parent now?

Well, it makes me feel a little bit guilty, because I simply haven’t demonstrated the ability to take in children the same way my folks have (and still do). That said, I think the greatest impact is that my children have come to understand that health and a happy home are the greatest gifts and never to be taken for granted. Also, because my Mom and Dad still care for some profoundly challenged children, my daughters are growing up with a sense of compassion and are not fearful of children who are “different.”

What’s the best parenting advice you’ve been given?

Not a “best” but to synthesize all the good advice I’ve been given, I’d say it comes down to “Stand firm, take the long view, and prepare to pray no matter the state of your faith.”

Best advice about relationships?

Best? Dunno best. But try this: Look in the mirror regularly and see if you can maintain eye contact. Not as easy as it sounds, and reminds you what the other person is dealing with.

LOL.  Ok, best writing advice?

OK. Finally I can give you an absolute “BEST”!

Do exactly what Neil Gaiman says you should do: Read. Write. Everything else is just circling the rug.

*****

Michael, thank you so much for being on The Happiness Project!  It was a pleasure having you, and sharing a favorite local author of mine with my readers!  I gotta give Wisconsin cheers when I can!

Michael Perry is a humorist and author of the bestselling memoirs Population 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time, Truck: A Love Story and Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs and Parenting, as well as the essay collection Off Main Street.Perry has written for Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, Outside, Backpacker, Orion and Salon.com, and is a contributing editor to Men’s Health. He has performed and produced two live audience humor recordings (I Got It From the Cows and Never Stand Behind a Sneezing Cow) and he performs regularly with his band the Long Beds.  Perry lives in rural Wisconsin, where he remains active with the local volunteer rescue service. He can be found online at www.sneezingcow.com.

Raised on a small dairy farm, Perry equates his writing career to cleaning calf pens – just keep shoveling, and eventually you’ve got a pile so big, someone will notice. Perry further prepared for the writing life by reading every Louis L’Amour cowboy book he could get his hands on – most of them twice. He then worked for five summers on a real ranch in Wyoming, a career cut short by his fear of horses and an incident in which he almost avoided a charging bull. Based on a series of informal conversations held around the ol’ branding fire, Perry still holds the record for being the only cowboy in all of Wyoming who was simultaneously attending nursing school, from which he graduated in 1987 after giving the commencement address in a hairdo combining mousse spikes on top, a mullet in back, and a moustache up front – otherwise known as the bad hair trifecta. Recently Perry has begun to lose his hair, and although his current classification varies depending on the lighting, he is definitely Bald Man Walking.

Perry has run a forklift, operated a backhoe, driven truck, worked as a proofreader and physical therapy aide and has distinguished himself as a licensed cycle rider by careening into a concrete bridge completely unassisted. He has worked for a surgeon, answered a suicide hotline, picked rock in the rain with an alcoholic transvestite, was a country music roadie in Switzerland , and once worked as a roller-skating Snoopy. He can run a pitchfork, milk a cow in the dark, and say “I don’t understand” in French, Greek and Norwegian. He has never been bucked off a horse, and contends that falling off doesn’t count. He is utterly unable to polka.

Don’t forget to leave a comment and enter for a chance to win a Hardcover copy of Visiting Tom!  Comments must be in by Saturday, September 29th, midnight.  

Guest Post by Timothy McKinney: Can Money Buy You Happiness?

Happy Friday Everyone!  We’re taking a change from guilty pleasures to talk about happiness.  Specifically, that age old question, Can Money Buy You Happiness?  Please welcome the author of The Power of Happiness, Timothy McKinney!

Plus:  He’s offering 3 lucky commenters a chance to win an e-copy of his book!  Leave a comment on today’s post to enter, or double your chances by also leaving a comment on my book review of The Power of Happiness here. All comments must be in by Sunday, September 16th 5pm to win!

*****

Can You REALLY Buy Happiness With Money?

“Money, if it does not bring you happiness, will at least help you be miserable in comfort.”

-Helen Gurley Brown

This past month, American cultural icon Helen Gurley Brown passed away after a lifetime of helping people challenge their beliefs. And, her quote about money really captures the age-old question, “Can money buy happiness?”

The answer to this question isn’t as simple as one would think. To illustrate the challenge, let’s look at two people—one with money and one without. To keep as many things constant as possible, let’s imagine that these two people are twin brothers, Bill and Bob. They are, of course, the same age, have the same parents, and grew up in the same environment. They have the same level of health and are both in sales. They’re both married and have two children each. The main difference between the two brothers is that Bill made an investment when he was in college that made him a lot of money. Bob invested the same amount in a different company and didn’t see a return on his investment.

Bill and Bob have a sister, Bonnie. One day, Bonnie comes to her brothers and tells them that her husband has left and taken all of their money. She’s got young children and doesn’t know how she’ll make the rent. She asks her brothers for a small loan. Bob is struggling to pay his own rent and doesn’t have any extra to give his sister. He feels awful, but must tell his sister, “I don’t have the money right now, but why don’t you and the kids come over to dinner this weekend. I can’t give you financial support, but I can give you emotional support.” Bill has plenty of money and is easily able to give his sister the money. “Don’t worry about it, Sis. It’s my gift to you.”

Later that week, Bill and Bob’s mother ends up in the hospital after a fall. She’s broken her hip and needs surgery. Unfortunately, her insurance won’t cover the entire cost of the surgery. Bill says to his mother, “It’s okay, Mom. I can cover the gap. You just worry about getting better.” Bob visits his mom, too. He brings her a huge bouquet of flowers and a copy of her favorite book. He spends the afternoon with his mother in the hospital reading to her.

The next month, during the brothers’ annual “Guys Weekend,” Bill and Bob are sitting on a small boat on a lake doing some fishing. The subject of happiness comes up.  “Bill, are you happy in your life?” asks Bob.

“Yeah, I am. Of course, there are some things I would change…”

“What would you change, Bill? You have all the money you could possibly want. What would make your life better?”

“Well, Bob, I kind of envy you sometimes. Everyone in the family knows that when there is a financial bind, they can come to me. Don’t get me wrong, I love having the ability to solve problems with money. But I envy the personal connection that you seem to have with everyone. It’s almost as if because you don’t have the financial resources I have, you’re forced to give another kind of support. Money is the easiest kind of support there is to give, and sometimes I think it makes me a bit lazy. What about you, Bob? Are you happy?”

“Yes, I’m happy. But, I’d change some things, too. I do wish I had more money. I think I would be happier if I did. It makes me feel awful when I can’t help Bonnie or Mom. I feel like if I just had the money to solve their problems, then I wouldn’t have to feel terrible for other people so much.”

The brothers lapsed into silence for a few moments and contemplated this. Finally, Bill broke the silence.  “I guess it’s like this. Having money makes it easier to do the things that make you happy. It doesn’t MAKE you happy, but it takes away the stresses that can make happiness elusive.”

Bob agreed. “Yeah. I don’t think that one of us is more or less happy than the other, Bill. We each use the resources we have to do the things we can to make others happy. It’s about serving others and giving, whether it’s money or another form of support.”

This story perfectly captures the paradox of money and happiness. You can be happy with money, or you can be miserable with money. You can be happy without money, or you can be miserable with no money. But, there’s no question that having money can at least ameliorate some of the stresses that can make one unhappy. Perhaps, Henry David Thoreau said it best…

“Happiness is like a butterfly: the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.”

Timothy McKinney lives in Redondo Beach, California with his wife Cindy and their two children, Heather and Robbie. He went to the University of Southern California, where he received degrees in Business and Psychology. Since 1997, Tim has been a corporate trainer who conducts workshops on subjects related to happiness and workplace effectiveness. He is a passionate vegetarian who enjoys SCUBA Diving in the Kelp Forests of Catalina Island.

I’ve Been Totally Missing Out on This Hogwarts Thing!

(artwork courtesy Mrs. Inman on Flickr Images)

Some weeks you just wish for a mulligan.

I had hoped by this week I’d be reporting in fabulous word counts thanks to Fast Draft and a holiday week where I was determined to hang with #teamsprinty all afternoon!

Would you even believe me if I told you about the week I had?  First day off I go and give myself food poisoning by eating a.) bad tomatoes and/or b.) bad cheese that was in my fridge since before I left for vacation.  Yah, the smart thing would have been to toss that, but we still haven’t gone grocery shopping.  I’m sort of making periodic mini trips and eating a lot of tacos right now…  #headdesk

So on my second day off, you’d think I’d take it easy.  I went to the coffee shop and started working on my WIP.  I did, I wrote a few paragraphs, and then I got hungry.  And I ordered a sandwhich with creamy cheese on it.  Stupid, stupid, stupid!  I immediately felt sick again!

Then it was back to work where I’ve put in extra hours regularly for the last 2 weeks.  But saturday was a new record.  We were Christmas-like busy and had an epic number of life events/sick calls.  It was crazy – peoples parents were admitted to hospitals, others daughters were delivering a baby, someone scratched their cornea, others played phone tag about coming in, and some just didn’t show.  To say I managed a skeleton crew is an understatement!  I worked two hours myself in fine jewelry and then a half hour in juniors, and before I left closed half the department store’s registers to where I was starting to count cross-eyed!

I turned right around to return to work on Sunday and Monday leading new hire training, which I love doing, but was exhausted from all the talking and running around.

So when Tuesday rolled around, I didn’t work on writing.  I didn’t wake up early or exercise.  I slept in.  I read Harry Potter, which has been my wonderful, magical escape each night before bed!  I ate another taco and feasted on dark chocolate while watching reruns of Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman.  It felt wonderful.

But I’m still motivated by you ROWers to make changes.  Elizabeth Anne Mitchell in particular gave me a good boot with her ROW update last week to make small changes for a bigger impact.  I’m taking her advice this week and setting aside a half hour each day to write.

It’s much easier to fix a page with words on it than a blank one!

A plus side is that I visited a lot of blogs this week!  I loved reading the innovative and inspiring posts you’ve all written.  Below are my recent faves about writing, new book launches you should know about, and my favorite fun reads!

And Don’t Forget:  I’m hosting a book giveaway of 3 e-book copies of Timothy McKinney’s The Power of Happiness.  You can still enter to win by leaving a comment here before Sunday, September 16th at 5pm.  

Posts on Writing:

One of my favorite posts EVER by the amazing and hilarious Jenny Hansen is 3Writer’s Commandments and Avoiding the Dreaded ‘S’ Word.  Hear first hand how Jenny learned to never quit, write her story her way, and finish what she started.  Sounds like useful advice right?  So, READ IT!  She also brings you fantastic links to NYTBS authors’ stories and gives props to the peeps that helped her along her journey.  Love this post.  Love that woman!

Did you all get to read fellow ROWer, Julie Glover’s, post about writing this week?  I’m Awesome!  I’m Awful!  Epiphanies While Editing and ROW80.  We have so ALL BEEN THERE!

I swear I’ve said this before, but if you’re NOT following August McLaughlin’s blog, you’re ridiculous!  She is a favorite blogger of mine and has some of the most well written, introspective, thought provoking posts out there on real stuff!  Check out her recent post, Carving Out Alone Time:  10 Tips for Creative Artists.

Jody Hedlund asked the question What to Do When People Don’t Get Your Story?  Experiencing first hand and sharing a friend’s tale, Hedlund gives you the best of both critique acceptance and staying professional.

Looking for inspiration on the upcoming ROW week?  Rachel Funk Heller blogged about our fear of failure and our fear of success.  She’s making some changes in her life, and inspired me to do the same.  Gr8ful4: Mediocrity, Fear, and Why I’m Giving Up Sugar.

New Book Releases You Have to Check Out:

As it is now Football Season, what better way to get in the mood with a little YA mystery set on a football field?  Tiffany A. White just self published her first novel, Football Sweetheart, and it’s soooo in my queue to read this fall!

Aimee Freeman is looking forward to the start of her senior year.  She knows her best friend Ella has been keeping secrets from her all summer long, but with football season right around the corner, the student trainer decides not to worry about it—they’ll have plenty of time to catch up on the field.

Then Ella goes missing, and Aimee realizes those secrets might be the key to finding her.  As the case unfolds, Aimee discovers more than one person may have wanted to harm Ella.  Was it Ella’s current boyfriend, a social outcast the entire city seems intent on blaming for her disappearance?  Or her ex-boyfriend, the beloved star quarterback who has harassed Ella since their breakup?  The list of potential suspects continues to grow after Aimee reads Ella’s journal, but she must first break her best friend’s secret code to reveal their identities.

Unbeknownst to Aimee, her investigation has not gone unnoticed.  Ella’s abductor is watching and waiting.  Will he decide Aimee needs to be silenced—making her the next target?

Next up is Myndi Shafer’s paranormal YA, Shrilugh.  She’s offering a free copy to anyone who gets the Shrilugh tree tattooed on their body!  Hey, I thought about it…

(goodreads.com)

Nothing can explain to Aydan Fulbert how she survived the savage attack in the woods.  Why her left eye, instead of being blinded by the injuries she’d sustained, had simply turned a shocking shade of silver.  And nothing can explain the fact that she can hear the Stranger speaking in her mind – or that she can answer him back without using her mouth.

Nothing can explain it – unless he’s telling the truth.

Nothing can explain the things the Stranger knows about her – things that she, until just a few hours ago, hadn’t known herself: that she’d healed faster from her injuries than was humanly possible.  That the cruel family she’d been raised by isn’t biologically hers.  That her stepfather is now hell-bent on bringing her to his own form of justice for a crime she didn’t commit.

Nothing can explain it – unless he’s telling the truth.

Nothing can explain why she so easily agreed to go with the Stranger.  Why she didn’t find the notion of another world ludicrous and impossible.  Why she didn’t cut and run the minute he explained where he wanted to take her.

Nothing can explain it – unless she believes he’s telling the truth.

Aydan knows she’s being intentionally naive.  She knows her decision to follow the Stranger is at best, reckless.  At worst, deadly.

…unless he’s telling the truth.

And if you’re craving even more witchy goodness, do seek out Fabio Bueno’s Wicked Sense.  The paranormal romance that just might get famed by the Redhots!  What say you, Fabio?  Be our Valentine?

(fabiobueno.com)

Witches inhabit our world, organized in covens and hiding behind a shroud of secrecy—the Veil.

Skye’s London coven sends her to Seattle’s Greenwood High to find the Singularity, an unusually gifted witch who may break the Veil and trigger a dangerous new era of witch-hunting. Things get complicated when Skye meets a charming new classmate, Drake. Skye’s job becomes even trickier when she clashes with Jane, an intimidating rival witch.

Drake falls for the mysterious Skye, but odd accidents, potion mix-ups, and the occasional brush with death kind of get in the way of romance. Once he discovers Skye is a witch, he goes to war for her, even though his only weapons are a nice set of abs and a sharp sense of humor.

Fighting off wicked Jane and the other dark forces hell-bent on seizing the Singularity’s immense power, Skye and Drake will risk everything to save the covens.

Going on a date has never been harder.

Just for Fun:

What was your first kiss like?  Myndi Shafer tells the tale of her awkward adolescence in First Kiss, and it’s a good one!  Elements of jealousy, secrets, saliva, and shame all make their way in!

Fans of Ellie Ann Soderstrom’s Tall Tale Tuesdays will love this gorgeous photo blog she shared on What I Did Last Summer.

Adam at Roof Beam Reader is hosting an LGBT Readathon in honor of LGBT Awareness Month!  The Literary Others:  An LGBT Reading Event This event is hosted with only positive, and accepting participants please!  He’s put together an awesome list of book ideas both written by LGBT authors and books with their characters or themes LGBT related.  Thanks Adam!

My lovely literature friend, Jillian, at A Room of One’s Own, turned me onto the Harry Potter Readathon and is loving the series too.  She had a fun conversation with a coworker over the question What is Your Favorite Book?  Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

The Power of Happiness: A Book Review

With advice on happiness from Aristotle to Drew Barrymore, Thich Nhat Hanh to Jimmy Hendrix, Gretchen Rubin to Abraham Lincoln, the author of The Power of Happiness has you covered.

Timothy McKinney published The Power of Happiness this past July, and I can only imagine the amount of research he put into this compilation that explores multiple elements of happiness, and our unending pursuit to find it.  Check out the amazon synopsis:

In his new book, The Power of Happiness, Timothy McKinney shows readers how to be happy from the inside out. Happiness is about more than just a positive attitude or a good mood. Happiness comes from a deep sense of well-being that allows a person to be happy regardless of external circumstances. The Power of Happiness gives deep insights into what happiness is and how to reduce worry, stress, and frustration. By learning how to have different responses and reactions to the situations faced every day, readers are able to be happier with the life they have now!

By the end of this book, readers will have discovered:

• What happiness really is
• How you can know if you’re happy (hint: it’s not a feeling)
• What the benefits are to being happy
• What the individual differences of happiness are
• What foods you should eat to be happier
• Whether or not money can make you happy (the answer might surprise you)
• Ten myths about happiness
• How to develop your OWN happiness

After exploring what happiness is, McKinney goes on to discuss how to overcome unhappiness. Readers with a negative attitude will learn what to do to turn their thoughts around. The last part of the book contains ten “hows” of happiness—ten keys to creating a happier life. Readers who want to learn how to be happy no matter what circumstances they face are sure to love The Power of Happiness.

Many of you know that I started blogging and writing again after reading Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project a few years ago.  I have a love/hate relationship with Rubin’s book because while I valued her advice and story, it all seemed so easy, too easy.  Where McKinney’s book differs is that it has the same research and study involved of how we can identify and test happiness, but the second half of the book (my favorite) is actual practices for the “HOW” of happiness.  There are pages and pages of scenarios, list making, and activities to challenge the way you think and react to situations.  It allows an ongoing learning process for its readers.

So all of you are probably scrolling through my post right now searching frantically for the quick tips to happiness that I gleaned from McKinney’s work.  Well, there’s too many to name!  All the expected tips such as diet, exercise, sleep, work engagement, love, service, safety, money all make an appearance.  But much of the research about how these factors affect you may surprise you.

One of the big takeaways I read is that happiness requires relationships.  I don’t mean couple specific, I mean people in general.  Relationships are an integral part of our self esteem, our affirmations of work and talents, and our ability to give.  Service to others and kind word exchanges with others are crucial to how happy we feel.  And this can come in many forms:  surprising your neighbor with fresh baked cookies, volunteering at a food pantry, telling a coworker you appreciate them, being a cheerleader on Twitter for your tweeps, hugging your spouse/parent/child, etc.  All of those can be affirmations to our spirit, our ability to quantify happiness.

Attention Writers:

You know what was the most interesting to me, both as a writer and as someone who is disgustingly self aware (this is both a positive and negative trait because it means I’m my own worst enemy)?  McKinney studies happiness, but he also has a chapter that dives into feelings behind unhappiness.  The exercises in this book could be used as awesome tools for character sketches.  It makes you think about how people act, or could react, to situations.  What skills in their being help them cope, what is their natural disposition, what words identify them and what words do they wish identified them?

Besides helping you create characters, this book could be read over time and used for further journaling activities.  It’s very well laid out, and all the exercises are helpful; you could really delve into the philosophy behind each of the chapter’s steps.  Plus, every chapter starts with a quote on happiness by a plethora of famous individuals and sometimes an inspiring quote is all you need to be inspired.

Overall, I highly recommend McKinney’s book.  The second half full of exercises is well worth the read.  I don’t think the author writes with band-aid fix-its to finding happiness.  He gives you the research behind it and then provides multiple tools to try, with scenarios as examples and exercises to practice.  It’s one of those books a reader can return to a year later and still find something new, something more that they can learn about themselves.  Actually, I think that’d be really interesting since one of the chapters graphs the spikes in happiness over generations and ages.  Wouldn’t it be a fascinating thing to watch and track how your happiness gage changes from decade to decade?

Don’t you want to read this book now?  Well, you can!  Timothy McKinney has graciously offered to giveaway 3 e-book copies!  Share a comment below and let us know what your thoughts are about our ongoing pursuit for happiness.  How has your perception of how happy you are changed over time?  All those who comment will be entered to win one of the copies of The Power of Happiness.

Comments must be made by Sunday, September 16th at 5pm.

And tune in again on Friday when Timothy joins me to answer the age old question:  Can money buy you happiness?

Timothy McKinney lives in Redondo Beach, California with his wife Cindy and their two children, Heather and Robbie. He went to the University of Southern California, where he received degrees in Business and Psychology. Since 1997, Tim has been a corporate trainer who conducts workshops on subjects related to happiness and workplace effectiveness. He is a passionate vegetarian who enjoys SCUBA Diving in the Kelp Forests of Catalina Island.

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