Sunday, May 31, 2015

Character Interview: 50 Acts of Kindness by Ellyn Oaksmith

Please welcome  Kylie Harrow from – 50 Acts of Kindness by Ellyn Oaksmith

Hi Kylie. Welcome. First of all, I’m sorry you lost your job.
Thanks. If you would have told me that there was a silver lining in being labeled the World’s Worst Boss and humiliated online, I would have called you delusional. But there really was.

Why don’t you describe what it felt like returning home to Cedar Falls.
Let’s see. I felt like a total loser. I’d flamed out in New York and honestly, all over the world thanks to that You Tube post of me firing that pregnant woman. It really makes me cringe to acknowledge this but I hated my hometown. I thought absolutely nothing happened in Cedar Falls, which is ironic. It’s where I fell in love and made up with my mother. 

Describe Chet as you first saw him. Not in high school but when you first saw him after you came home from New York.
Oh no! Really? You’re going to make me say this, aren’t you? Okay, let’s hope Chet never reads this. I thought he was a small town hick. Never leaving Cedar Falls was to me, back then, a total fail in life. He’d become the Sheriff, which was even worse in my mind because he ran the small town I’d come to resent. Of course, when I found out what had really happened in the last ten years, all that went out the window. But it took me a long time to figure that out. Thank God for Margaret and my mother. 

Let’s talk about Margaret. Are you friends now?
Yes! Becoming friends with someone in their eighties is great. She doesn’t have time to play games or beat around the bush, which is awesome. Maybe we’re not friends in a traditional, easygoing way but we need each other. She’s my reality check, my no baloney, tell-it-like-it-is friend.  For better or worse she doesn’t have a dishonest bone (or a filter) in her body. I’m not exactly sure what she needs me for. Comic relief? Baked goods? Free dog-sitting? 

How is your mother doing?
Great. She’s still running the bed and breakfast, which hasn’t changed a bit, although she is making more money now. If it weren’t for her making me do the Fifty Acts of Kindness, I wouldn’t have learned enough about myself to fall in love with Chet. I owe her so much. Of course she doesn’t see it that way. Giving is just in her nature so she never thinks in terms of debt. I do though. I’m lucky to have her. 

Do you think you’ve changed forever, thanks to the Fifty Acts of Kindness?
That’s a good question. It’s not in my nature to really change permanently. Reacquainting myself with people in Cedar Falls was hard, to be honest. Sometimes it was tough to be charitable. When I need a pep talk, I talk to my mom. She’s my biggest cheerleader, even when I mess up. I’m a work in progress. Just like anyone else.

Thanks for stopping by Kylie.
Gosh, thank you. Always fun to stop and chat. 

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50 Acts of Kindness
Ellyn Oaksmith

Romantic Comedy/90k

Being overly kind isn't in Kylie Harrow's nature. This has never been more evident than when Kylie vents her frustrations to an innocent employee—and the whole scene is posted online, tanking her career and earning her the dubious distinction of "World's Worst Boss." But when she flees home to the South, Kylie finds her childhood home has changed. The high school quarterback is now the hot and handsome sheriff. Her mother has turned her home into a nudist colony. And worst of all, having heard about her daughter's exploits, her mother won't let her in the door until Kylie completes fifty kind acts in fifty days.

The task seems easy enough at first—and may even help repair her media image—but it quickly turns into a hilarious quest that leads Kylie down a bumpy road filled with new challenges. What started as a gimmick to save her career evolves into a mission to save a spunky old woman and her little dog from homelessness. As Kylie learns about the nature of kindness, she finds the path to happiness and, for the first time ever, maybe even love. 

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"We are a technology marketing company. People don't want to see our underwear or ultrasounds or try to run a meeting while you jump up to pee."
"I'm due in two weeks."
Her whine was still grating on my nerves, but my recorded words sliced like knives. Was I the equivalent of that rooster my mom had that pecked at the hens? One morning mom found him dead, pecked to death. I thought, "Please do not let this be my barnyard reckoning," even though things were clearly sliding in that direction.
On screen I plowed forward. "I cannot do your job and mine. It's killing me. I need you on the ground running. Oh no wait, you can't run. Which is why you missed the flight to Miami where you got 'dehydrated.'" I did air quotes around "dehydrated."
Holy cow. I was so angry it blinded me to very fact she was recording.
"I was dehydrated."
We were both so very tired. "Which is why you ended up lounging in Miami while I ran yet another meeting solo. I stayed up until three a.m. doing the PowerPoint you'd forgotten."
"I ended up in the hospital."
"And missed the flight back to New York and yet another day of work. If you are dehydrated, drink water. It's not rocket science!"
I remembered this day clearly. Sleep-deprived from a red eye, I'd left Betsy in New York, begging her to prep for a meeting the following day. When I got back, the slides weren't ready. She'd gone home. I'd miss another night's sleep to finish them.
It was the perfect storm, and she'd caught it.
I leaned forward to downsize the screen. "2.7 million views?" She'd titled it "World's Worst Boss?!" There were lots of comments, many expletives, and a passionate, nine exclamation points in a row.
Bob dug a crust from his eye. "It's not something to be proud of."
My mind raced. How to spin this before he threw something out? I managed a casual shrug. "I'm in marketing. I can't help it."
"This makes us look so bad."
It was crunch time. There was no room for complaints or excuses. "Does it though? Does it? What I see is that we expect a certain professionalism and energy from our employees, a requirement that, pregnant or not, they perform to the best of their abilities." My delivery was very rough, but it was a message she needed to hear." He wasn't buying. I grabbed for a straw. "Isn't posting this on YouTube a violation of my privacy?"
"I don't know," Bob said wearily. "That's 2.7 million negative hits with MLJK's name attached."
My heart clenched. I needed a cigarette. Now. "Whatever happened to 'any publicity is good publicity'?"
He ignored my lame joke. "She's threatening to file suit. I checked with legal. We can tie her up in court, but the claim is legit."
I inhaled sharply, forgetting, in my growing panic, to exhale.
"Breathe, Kylie."
"S-s-suing us?" Great, now I was stuttering.
"You called her fat. She says you created an unhealthy work environment."
My jaw dropped. This was not the time to point out that, as a former chubette, I never, ever use the F-word. "The operative word here is work. I was running on vapors."
Bob got up and looked out the window at his fabulous view. "Stella, by the way, corroborates everything you've said." My eyebrows shot up in alarm. "Yes, I've talked to her. I've talked to a few people, but the point is that sooner or later we all have to deal with this. Pregnant women deserve…" He stared off into the silver buildings and cloudless sky. When I'd entered, the view had felt empowering. Now it was an invitation to jump. "Latitude. We are a family-friendly company."
I snickered bitterly. MLJK years were dog years. Most of the senior partners were divorced. "And what about women who aren't ever going to have children? We just put up and shut up?" I knew this sounded whiney, but I couldn't help myself. I felt like a tightrope walker studying the tiny figures below, waiting for me to fall. Then it struck me. I felt like this most of the time.
He gazed at me, his eyes weary. "Come on. You're what, not even thirty? You don't know that." Bob was still in his marriage of origin.
"Look at me Bob. My relationships have the longevity of a fruit fly. I have nothing left at the end of the day." I have nothing left right now.
"Maybe it's time to branch out."
Clearly he pitied Betsy. It was time to grab the controls. "I can fix this. I can smooth things out. Get my assistant her own assistant. At least until she's had it."
"Her baby is not an it," he snapped.
"Did I say 'it'?" I'd been talking so quickly. It? Good move Kylie.
"Yes," Bob said quietly, losing his starch. Crossing his arms he glanced at a framed photo: a gap-toothed, pig-tailed toddler on a swing, pushed by his beaming, very pregnant wife. "You're going to have to leave until this dies down."
For a second I felt nothing but a weight pressing on the top of my head, a dull ringing in my ears. "This isn't Survivor. You can't let random strangers on YouTube vote me off because I lost my temper."
"They're not. Lance is."
The CEO? I was in a tippy canoe, and by golly, there went my paddle.
I made a tiny bubble of an objection as I sank. "She wasn't doing her job."
"Effective immediately," he said. I knew what preceded those two words. Terminated.
This wasn't a break.
This was permanent.

About the Author:

Ellyn Oaksmith is an award-winning writer who began her career as a screenwriter in Los Angeles. Her first book, Adventures with Max and Louise, was published in 2012. Fifty Acts of Kindness is her third book. She's currently at work on her first YA novel, Chasing Nirvana. The best part of her work day is spent watching vintage YouTube footage of Nirvana concerts and calling it research.

Ellyn is part of the Girlfriends Book Club which has been featured in The New York Times and USA Today. She lives in Seattle with her family, a rescue dog and a rather rotund cat.
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Giveaway:  $25 Amazon Gift Card

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Monday, May 25, 2015

~ Things Mysterious by Matthew Chabin ~

Roane Publishing is giving away THREE ARCs of Things Mysterious by Matthew Chabin!
Things Mysterious
Release Date: June 22, 2015
Publisher: Roane Publishing

Genre: Romance (Mystery)
 Keywords: Romance, Mystery, Paranormal, Mortality, Literary 

Description: Dasan Garret is a disappointed man.  Recently divorced and just returned from a traumatic tour of duty in Iraq, he moves back to his hometown of Portland, Oregon only to find himself unexpectedly alone.  His old friends are all gone, moved away, locked up, or dead.  Women seem to occupy a parallel universe.  With no community and few prospects, he takes a job as a night watchman and withdraws ever deeper into the shadows of his mind.  Until one day when he meets Edenia, and she lights up his world like a bolt of pure energy.  She seems perfect: vibrant, gifted, kind, sexy, a sudden and unlooked-for reprieve from the sad ruin of his life.  And yet there remains a nagging sense that something isn’t right.  Could it be that he is merely slow to trust the happiness she offers him?  Or is there something behind that waver in her laugh, that fleeting look of sadness in her eyes?  

The mystery deepens when one day Edenia disappears.  Dasan believes he must find her in order to go on living.  But to find her again, he will have to confront a devastating truth about her life, and his.

Roane Publishing is giving away THREE ARC copies to three lucky winners!
You don’t even have to be a blogger.
If you are willing to leave an honest review between the dates June 22nd and July 3rd, you are eligible to enter.
How? Simply fill out the form! You have until Midnight of May 30th when three winners will be chosen by random drawing.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

It's All About the Author with Barbara Valentin !!

It’s All About the Author…

1)  Please tell us 5 interesting facts about yourself that readers might not know about you …

a.    I crochet to relax. When stressed, I can actually generate sparks with my hook and have to be careful not to scorch the yarn.
b.    I snort when I laugh.
c.    The whole concept of down time makes me fidgety.
d.   I think whoever invented hot showers ought to be canonized.
e.    I’m the youngest of five kids. My mom contends I’m her favorite, but we all know it’s my brother (points for trying though, Mom).

2)  What do you like to do in your spare time? 

  Catch up with my friends (if I still have any, that is; it’s been awhile since I’ve had some spare time).

3)  Is there one book that you love to read over and over again?  If so, what is it and what is it that keeps you coming back to it?   

That’s a tough one. If I were to pick a good multi-layer, heart-warming romance, I’d say anything by Kristan Higgins (esp. Best Man) or Susan Elizabeth Phillips (esp. The Great Escape).

4)  How did you get started writing and have you always wanted to be an author? 

I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I was a kid sitting in the newsroom at our local newspaper waiting for my reporter mom to drive me home after school. While I didn’t start out in journalism, I did some freelance writing for the Chicago Tribune that led to creating a family-oriented column that turned into a long-running feature in their local editions. That, in turn, led me to develop a manuscript (about 8 years ago). When I couldn’t get it published, I wrote False Start. Once that sold, I realized my series was rooted in my first manuscript, which eventually became Help Wanted.  


5)  If you for some reason couldn’t be an author, what would your other choice be? 

 I professional taste tester for either Lindt, Godiva or Ghiradelli (of course, I’d play them off of each other to see who would be willing to give me the most chocolate).

6)  Did you like school?  Were you a good student? 

No and not especially. The light bulb went off for me when I was in college. I switched majors and ended up in the remarkable Dr. Jan Youga’s Advanced Creative Writing class. She helped me find my voice and encouraged me to keep writing. That I didn’t heed her advice and instead took a technical writing job straight out of college is another story (Help Wanted, as a matter of fact).

7)    When you write, is there a specific way you have to write, ie:  certain room, noise or quiet, computer or paper etc…

 I don’t start writing until I have a semi-detailed synopsis nailed down. I write on my laptop, usually at the kitchen table, but keep a small notebook with me at all time because I never know when inspiration will hit. And it’s got to be quiet. Otherwise, my manuscript might be peppered with phrases like, “Why isn’t there ever any food in this house?” and “Who took the batteries out of the remote?”

8)   If you could write a collaboration with another author, do you have one in mind and what would you write? 

I’m going to go with Mark Twain. I’d like to put a modern spin on “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” – maybe “A Plate Spinner in King Arthur’s Court.”

9)    How do you come up with your story ideas?  

 Partly observing what’s going on around me and trying to find the humor in it; partly by coming up with unique stories that I would want to read.

10)                   Do titles stump you or do they come easy?  When do you pick a title, before the story is written or when it’s done?

  Once I have an idea for a story, I try to come up with a title, but it has to be just right because it sets the tone for the whole book. I really struggled with Help Wanted until I stepped back and saw that that was the underlying theme not just for the heroine, but also for the hero and several supporting characters. Tying it all together in the end was the fun part.

11)                   Do you keep a notebook near you for when new ideas pop into your head? 

  Yes, but I’ve also used post-it notes, the Notes feature on my phone, the back of receipts and, when I’m in a really tight spot, the palm of my hand.

12)                   If you write a series, do you re-read your previous books before you begin the new one?

  Guilty as charged. 

13)                   How does your family feel about your writing?

  They tell me having a published author for a wife/mom is pretty cool. That they’ve all learned to do their own laundry and fix their own meals in the process is, I think, the best thing ever. 

Thanks for sharing “you as an author” with us !  We hope you’ll come back and visit again soon!

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Help Wanted
An Assignment:  Romance Novel #2
Barbara Valentin

When Claire Nelson decided that her happily-ever-after lay not in marriage but in a spot on the New York Times bestseller list, she vowed never to tie the knot. But that was before she met Paul Mendez, handsome and charming enough to have her breaking said vow and marrying him shortly after college.

Almost fifteen years and four sons later, Claire is now a burned out breadwinner ready to ditch her quest for happily-ever-after, and Paul has traded his dream of chairing corporate board meetings for volunteering at PTA meetings as a stay-at-home dad. Feeling trapped in a demanding job, Claire's repeated attempts to get Paul to return to work fall flat. Contemplating divorce, she drafts a letter to the Plate Spinner, a popular advice columnist, asking for help. But when the reply contains an offer that may just put her bestselling author dreams back on track, Claire's only question is: will Paul be on board? Or does her charming husband make a surprise move of his own? 

Buy Links:    Amazon   Nook   iBooks    Kobo    Smashwords


            "Dear Plate Spinner—I need your help."
            After reading the plea out loud, Mattie Ross, the Chicago Gazette's reluctant advice columnist and marathon-runner-in-training, cringed.
            Another letter from a frazzled working mother, seeking direction and hope— commodities she herself was in dire need of ever since her coach walked out on her, taking her heart with him.
            Her heart squeezed in her chest and she closed her eyes. After hiding behind the same I'm married with kids lie she her perpetuated with her publisher and readers for the eight months he had spent training her, she could hardly blame him for being upset.
            With a heavy sigh, she texted her editor, Dianne Devane. Any openings in Metro yet?
            Almost before she hit Send, she got her response. Sit tight, sweetie. I'm working on it.
            Emitting a quick growl, Mattie turned her attention back to her computer screen and skimmed the brief account of the weary woman's conundrum.
            "The salary of my demanding, soul-sucking job is holding me hostage. I haven't had a vacation in over five years (maternity leaves do not count). I see my kids so infrequently, that if I don't keep their pictures on my desk current, I tend not to recognize them in passing (their resemblance truly is jarring). Any friends I have left have given up hope of ever seeing me in person again, especially when I had to cancel my appearance at an intervention they were staging on my behalf, because I had to meet an absolutely critical deadline. As it is, I'm spread so thin, I make plastic wrap look opaque. My only hope is to convince my husband, a stay-at-home dad to our boys, to return to the corporate world. Chances of this happening, though, are slim to none—especially after he machine-washed yet another one of my dry-clean- only sweaters, and I leveled him with a 'does not meet expectations' on his most recent performance review (I mean, seriously—can you blame me?).
            Needless to say, it did not go over well. He has since relocated to the man cave-slash-office down the hall and has barely spoken to me since.
            So, tell me. Should I force his hand and quit my job, or file for divorce and offer him a job as a live-in nanny (because he looks a hell of a lot better in an apron than I do)?"
            It was signed "Burned Out Breadwinner."
            Mattie didn't know whether to send the writer a list of local marriage counselors or encourage her to pursue a career as a stand-up comedian. Staring at the ceiling above her cubicle for a moment, the advice columnist tried to think of a fitting response.

About the Author:

Barbara is an award-winning, best-selling novelist. A member of RWA's Windy City chapter, she still dreams of the day when her to-do list includes "Accept Godiva's request to be a taste-tester." False Start, the first book in her Assignment: Romance series, was published in 2014 (Gemma Halliday Publishing). 

Giveaway:   $10 Amazon Gift Card

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