Sunday, December 23, 2012

Mey Tismiss!

This is my seventh (!) Christmas on the blog; to celebrate (and because I have to run to the store to finish last-minute shopping), here are some posts from Christmas past:

Bake it Like a Polaroid Picture (2006):  I make scones! And Tom and Jerrys!

Pho, Pho, Pho! Merry Christmas! (2007): I make Pho! Don't know what Pho is? Neither did I, until December of 2007.

Holiday Hodge-Podge (2008): the best part of this post is the list of highlights from college students' journal entries. Enjoy!

Is that a Rhinovirus in your Stocking? (2009): If you scroll down, you'll get to my Non-Stop Glam post, about the Barbie Glamour Camper. If I ever do a Greatest Hits Compilation, this is going on the front page.

To Live in Exciting Times (2010): we have our first Christmas carolers ever, and we lose an offer on a house we wanted to buy. Kind of a mixed-bag.

Patience, Old Grasshopper (2011): This was one of my more popular posts, just behind my rant about the Advanage salesman.

Just a reminder, Larry Meiller's Christmas call-in featuring Santa starts at 11 tomorrow on Wisconsin Public Radio. There is bound to be more cuteness than you can stuff in a baby Build-A-Bear.

As my Christmas gift to you, please enjoy this photo of my neighbor shoveling the sidewalk on his Dad's hoverround.

Monday, December 10, 2012

St. Nick Remembered my Address!

This very Christmas tree fell over last night. And nothing broke! It's a Christmas miracle...
So look what St. Nick left under my tree! The paperbacks are FINALLY here!!!! I'm really glad, because otherwise I was going to post a photo of the giant bag of jalapeno Cheetos that I bought at Target tonight, and tell you about my grand plan to sort out individual servings into baggies so I don't inhale all 16 servings in one sitting of shame.

(It turned out to be a half-sitting of shame, with J a willing participant in the orange-dusting of fingertips...)

But the paperbacks are now available, so I figured I'd write about that instead. Since it's been FOUR FREAKING YEARS since I've held a book I've written in my hands. (I just fiddled with the photo and now it's off-center. Dammit hole!!! Oh well, just imagine it's in the middle of the page, where it's supposed to be.)

You can order one on Amazon right now, if you get the itch. Sadly, it only comes with the cute little mittens if you're a book blogger. BUT! If you are buying a copy as a gift (a gift to yourself counts, of course), I would be happy to sign it! Where there's a will, there's a wino. I mean way. If you are in a book club I'm meeting with soon, good news! I will only be a little sweaty and spazzy. I will also sign your book. If you live with, are related to me, work with me, or know incriminating things I did in school, of course I will sign your copy! If you live in the Fox Valley area, I am pretty sure I'll be doing some kind of event at one of the awesome libraries via the Fox Cities Book Festival this April. I'll bring my pen!

There are also book plates, and I can send you one of those. Alternately, I can send you a recipe or packet of seeds. Your choice!

There is a signed paperback giveaway beginning on Goodreads (open 'til February 1), and you can hop over to Booking with Manic AND Chick Lit Central tomorrow to enter to win a copy, too. (Thank you to Stephanie Elliott and Melissa Amster!!!)

If you need me, I'll be celebrating by going to the dentist in the morning, participating in a Farm-to-School grant webinar at noon, and working on the new novella at night. (It's my first sweet love story...we'll see how long I can hold out until I crack some weird joke about an athletic supporter and Steve Buscemi's neck. Also, I added tags to this post..apparently, I have written of Steve Buscemi before!)

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Book Winners, Chicken Sweaters, and Karma

First, congratulations to Amy, Brittany, and Road Warrior Mama--you each won a signed copy of All the Lonely People! I've emailed Amy and Brittany directly, but Road Warrior Mama--I need you to comment or email me, because I don't have your contact information!

I used the Random Line Picker to select the winners, chosen from a pool of folks who "liked" my Facebook author page, emailed me between November 12 and December 1, or commented here on the blog by last Saturday.

If you didn't win, you still have more chances to win an autographed copy: the Goodreads giveaway starts next week (one copy up for grabs), and I'll be giving away additional copies via several fabulous bloggers in the weeks to come, so stay tuned!

Last week something very exciting happened. I hit my lowest Amazon ranking ever! Look: I cracked the top 300! The lowest I ever got with Driving Sideways was somewhere near 3,000, so this feels mighty fine; I didn't crack the top 100, but oooooh----so close I can taste it! (It tastes like strawberry jelly beans, by the way.) 

Look, ma! People like me! They really do!

But Jess, you may be saying, what does this mean?

Okay, so the basic goal with the ranking system is to get as close to #1 as you can (We're number 1! We're number 1!) But because of the very existence of people like James Patterson, Nicholas Sparks, and E.L James, this is next to impossible for the average smart-ass writer like me. HOWEVER: sometimes life is kind, and ultra-awesome benefactors / fairy author godmothers take pity on you or actually like your book, and tell their fans (or even their editor) about you. Basically: Jen Lancaster and Karen McQuestion rock. Also, look here, on Emily Giffin's website! Recognize anyone on the list? *bats eyelashes*

(Filing all of this away under "definitely paying it forward" and "good karma," in case I'm ever famous...)

Thank you so much to everyone who bought a copy; I hope you enjoy it, and I hope you laugh at the chicken sweaters and rape pit.* If you'd like your e-copy signed, check out my page on Authorgraph; I'll write you a haiku!

The paperback is mere days away, and I'll update the minute it's available. (I have the cutest little hand-knit mittens to tuck in the copies going to book bloggers!!!)

*Aaaack! What!?!? Well, you'll just have to read the book to find out. ;)

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Last Night was One of Those

nights where you start at an intimate, classy book launch party, all civilized and erudite, and two hours later you find yourself wandering through the crowd at an 80s hairband cover show, plastic pitcher in-hand to collect donations for the medical bills of a single mother with cancer.

I have no idea who the woman with cancer was; a friend pressed me into service because the other people they'd tapped to collect donations 'disappeared' at the last minute. I ended up with mostly my own money in the pitcher, because I am not a very assertive person and most of the people in the crowd looked like Hell's Angels, ultimate fighters, or the women who loved them. And Poison. Because after all, we were at a show featuring a band called "Cherry Pie." I should point out that the whole reason for the band and the crowd was that it was my husband's best friend's Scott's birthday party.

I've written about Scott before; he very thoughtfully surprised us by decorating our sidewalks one day:

 And our Christmas wreath a few years ago:

Also, have you ever been in conversation with someone and they suddenly and quite boldly start to clean their glasses on the edge of your shirt? That happened last night, too.

Wow, I just realized you can see a reflection of me taking the "Welcome Dick Gobbler" picture! I can't remember the last time that storm door window was so clean....more later this week!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Now Presenting: Malena Lott

author of the delightful novel, Something New.

I was given a sneak-peek of Malena's newest release early in fall, and loved it. (And isn't that a gorgeous cover?!) About the book:
What if you were sure you lived a different life?

Three generations of women. Four secrets. One stage.

When matriarch Maeve Apple receives a letter in the mail that Princess & the Pauper is being remade, she believes she's 25 again and ready to relive her stardom. Meanwhile, her daughter, Bess, is dealing with Maeve's dementia, her own divorce and planning her youngest daughter's wedding, on the Luxe Weddings reality show. Bess' eldest daughter, Kelly, has a secret of her own that could threaten her chance at love again. Curvy Gwen, the youngest, may be the star of Luxe Weddings, but she finds her heart belongs on the stage, attracted by the lights and her co-star, as they search for Maeve's long-lost pauper and the biggest secret of all.

Lott's most romantic tale yet, readers are sure to fall in love with Something New.
And now, a bit about Malena!

Something New features the musical, The Princess and the Pauper—did you grow up performing in musicals and plays? What about this particular musical inspired its inclusion in the novel?

My very favorite movie ever is Mary Poppins - a movie musical, yes, but I didn't get to see stage performances until I was an adult. What drew me to Princess and the Pauper was feeling confined to a life already planned out for you, including being married to the richest knight when the princess was really in love with a pauper so I drew on the original musical plus Maeve's history in 1949 when she starred at Princess and then again in modern day with her granddaughter starring in a luxe weddings reality show. The story is pretty timeless so I think it worked.

Maeve is such a memorable, colorful character; was she inspired by anyone in your life?

When I think of Maeve, I think of my grandmother, her sister, her mother around the table laughing together. They had so much fun. I remember as a child thinking that they were so much more than my label on them. They had opinions and bold personalities. None of them were stage divas, but I think it's great to have a sassafras in the family. 

You did such a great job capturing the unique family dynamic between sisters, and I was especially affected by the fresh vulnerability of Bess, as she undergoes dramatic and unexpected changes in mid-life.  Did you have any special routine or approach to writing in the voice of characters from different generations? 

I'm not sure why, but I did hear each of their voices very clearly in my head, especially as I started the second draft and their individual stories were cemented. As for Bess, yes I felt a special sorrow for both she and Kelly because they were really at opposite ends of the marital spectrum - Kelly swearing she'd stay single forever but wanting a baby and Bess having felt like she was only a mother and wife and caretaker to her mother. I actually think Bess and the gardener Samuel are probably both character studies in my own grandmother, who raised three boys before raising three girls (me and my two sisters.) And she loved to sew and garden, but ever so often she'd say something like, "I always wanted to own a restaurant," and I'd feel panic that she'd leave us for a job and also surprise because I thought she'd be perfectly happy with the household and raising kids. A nice eye opener for me. And as a working mom, I get what she meant. Many women want something outside of the home that they can call their own.

If you could be one character in any book, who would you be?

At this time of the year, I think being Grinch would be pretty cool. Get that gratitude check and have my heart grow ten sizes that day. And I'm dying to meet the Whos down in Whoville.

Cilantro: hate it or love it?

If a chef used it, I'm not gonna kick it off my tastebuds. I do use it occasionally, but I'm a pretty lazy cook so I opt for the already mixed seasonings like "Southwest Spices!" or "5 Fiery Pepper" or "Molasses Bacon" or tonight's seasoning on the pork chops was "Steakhouse Onion." So I don't really know what's inside of all them, I just know it makes stuff taste a bit better.

Thanks so much, Malena; congratulations on the new release!!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

There is More Clicking Involved,

but it's worth it.

I'm blogging at the Girlfriends Book Club on Monday. The title of my post?

The Girls’ Guide to a Book Launch, by the Kenny Powers of Publishing

Now doesn't that make you want to click on over there to read it?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Brand Disloyalty

If you’re an entrepreneur—say, you set up your own shop on Etsy, or you just opened a food truck, or you’re an artist, food blogger, musician, comedian, or author—you’ve probably heard that you should be “branding” yourself.

*slips iron branding poker into fire. To stick in my eye because I just used the word “brand” as a jargon-y verb*
Anyway. If you hold a gun to my head and force me to identify my brand, it’s this: commercial women’s fiction that cracks a towel on your behind. That is to say, funny with bite. But what people find funny is very subjective. Two years ago I was approached to ghostwrite a novel for a celebrity—it was to be sweet, cozy, warm, “funny,” maybe with an element of light mystery or magic, and recipes.

After I stopped panicking and throwing up, I sat back and considered this. I can do cozy and warm in real life. In college, a bunch of guys actually nicknamed me “America’s Sweetheart.” I garden, I bake cookies, I rescue bumblebees from spider webs, I never forget a birthday, and I would adopt every unwanted animal within a hundred mile radius if my husband would let me. BUT:  if I actually tried to write something warm and fuzzy, every molecule in my being would mutiny. I’d snap. I’d start out writing about a sweet, hapless woman who dreamed of opening a cupcake bakery and finding Mr. Right, but instead she’d chuck it all to join a gluten-free, transgender biker gang, and there would be way more jokes about skin tags and athletic supporters than should exist in print, period. I just find sarcastic anti-heroes and their journeys to redemption that much more FUN to write.
In other words, I like Jim Gaffigan a lot, but I like Louis C.K. a lot more.

(Speaking of comedy, oh, do I have a great book to tell you about in a few weeks!)
So I guess I’ve got my “brand,” and my next two novels--one complete, one underway--enforce this. However, there is a book I am DYING to write that goes way off my reservation. This is in keeping with a running theme in my life: things going smoothly? Complicate the hell out of them! Anyway, more on that later.

Next week: my favorite Brussels sprouts recipe, and let’s help my friend December Gephart celebrate the release of her debut novel! 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Psst: The New Book is Out (And I Have Copies to Give Away!)

Okay, let’s get this party started. I am THRILLED to announce that four years after Driving Sideways hit the shelves, I finally have an answer for everyone who has ever asked when my next novel will be out. That answer is TODAY! All the Lonely People is out today

*faints from excitement...gets back up to finish the post*

So Jess, you may be asking, what’s it about? Glad you asked! Here’s the synopsis:

After losing her beloved mother to cancer, 37-year-old Jaime Collins must confront the ugly fact that she and her siblings don't actually like one another. At all. Fueled by grief and an epic argument at Thanksgiving dinner, Jaime decides to 'divorce' her siblings and posts an ad on Craigslist for a new family for Christmas.

What happens next is a heartwarming, funny, and surprising journey to forgiveness and healing. Is blood really thicker than water? And how far do we have to go to find our way back home again?

Dedicated to anyone who has ever wanted to unfriend a relative on Facebook, ALL THE LONELY PEOPLE is about family: those you make ... and those you make peace with.

What are people saying?

"If your family is perfect and you've never felt lonely, or lost someone, or feared losing someone, or loved someone too much, or not enough ... if your heart is made of stone and you have no sense of humor ... well, even then you might love this book. All the Lonely People is a gorgeous, deep, layered, nuanced, hilarious and fabulously written novel that will suck you in and hold you hostage to the very last page ... and you'll be grateful it did."
--Danielle Younge-Ullman, author of Falling Under

"For every person who wishes they could choose their family, All the Lonely People is a perfect blend of heart and humor. Packed with quirky characters and honest emotions, you won't be able to put this book down until the last page."
--Eileen Cook, author of Unpredictable, Do or Di, and Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood

I didn't even have to get them drunk first! Also, a lovely woman in a book club I visited last Thursday told me she liked it even better than Driving Sideways. Check's in the mail, Tracy! Just kidding. But I will buy you a cupcake for being awesome.

It’s available exclusively for Kindle via Amazon for the first three months, mostly because I checked a box online without realizing it was a 180-day contract. This is yet more evidence of my impulsivity (see Exhibit A, my first marriage), but we’re OKAY! We’re okay. We’ll get to Nook and Kobo and other platforms soon. Also! The paperback is in production; a few unexpected kinks to work out, and I’ll let you know the minute it’s available. 

To make up for my impatience in rolling out the e-book first, I am giving away three autographed copies. Leave a comment below, send me an email, or “like” my Facebook author page by December 1, and you’re entered to win! 

The Eleanor Rigby earworm is a free bonus. You’re welcome!

If you don’t want to wait for other formats but don’t have a Kindle, you can easily download the Kindle app for your smart phone, iPad, tablet, or computer. 

And here’s a final teaser: I’ve included the opening chapter for Mandatory Release. Yep, this is the prison book you may have seen me write of, and I've filled it with all kinds of goodies, including a recipe for "seg loaf"--something to wow the book club members!

Over the next few weeks I have all kinds of exciting new books and contests and such to tell you about, so stay tuned. (It's like I have a blog again or something!)