About Lori Sizemore

Lover of nail polish, pens, her Kindle, and fresh coffee. She likes romance filled with messy, real characters and lots of snarky banter. Reading was (and still is!) her BFF; when she discovered writing she fell in love. Come for the snark. Stay for the story.

When Writers Literally Take You Away

Today, I wanted to share with you the results of research I did completely online. When you’re a writer, especially just starting out (or not raking in the big dough, like most of us), you can’t afford to visit every place you write about. I did go to Lousiville to research it for Exactly Like You, the first Cupid’s Cafe book. And when I arrived I saw a sign directing drivers to Taylorsville State Park.

A big chunk of my book takes place there (a site I’ve never actually been to). I could use my imagination for some of it–I live in West Virginia, also part of Appalachia–and I have been camping before. Other parts, I did extensive research on Kentucky’s state park system web site. Can you tell which is which? Not if I did my job well. Most importantly, after reading the excerpt, do you feel like you know what it’s like to visit the lake in Taylorsville?

Excerpt from Exactly Like You

They drove the forty-minute trip to Taylorsville Lake State Park in silence. The sun began to peek over the horizon as they pulled into the campground. Roxie had never been much of an outdoors type of person, but this view. She could just make out mist, nearly dissipated, as it blanketed the marine blue lake. Dotted throughout the water, covered in trees bursting with green leaves, were small islands. Aidan checked them

Aidan checked them in, because of course he’d had the foresight to book them what the clerk called a “primitive” site. That didn’t sound in any way appealing. As they walked back out to the truck, Roxie cleared her throat. “What does ‘primitive’ mean? Couldn’t we upgrade to like cave-dwelling?”

As they walked back out to the truck, Roxie cleared her throat. “What does ‘primitive’ mean? Couldn’t we upgrade to like cave-dwelling?”“It means we’re using a tent, not an RV. We’ll be fine, Rox. Sit back and enjoy yourself.”

“It means we’re using a tent, not an RV. We’ll be fine, Rox. Sit back and enjoy yourself.”That seemed unlikely. Besides her burning crush on Aidan, she didn’t do primitive. She liked all the conveniences of home. She wasn’t sure what they would do with themselves for the next four days and didn’t want to think about what she’d like to do.

That seemed unlikely. Besides her burning crush on Aidan, she didn’t do primitive. She liked all the conveniences of home. She wasn’t sure what they would do with themselves for the next four days and didn’t want to think about what she’d like to do.They drove to the camp and Aidan began to set up the tent. Roxie sat on the back of

They drove to the camp and Aidan began to set up the tent. Roxie sat on the back of truck bed and broke into her snack stash. She was popping M&Ms into her mouth when he stood up and put his hands at the small of his back, like it was hurting. “I could use a little help here.”“Oh, sure. I’m sort of useless outside, but I’ll do my best.” She hopped down and headed over to where he stood.

“Oh, sure. I’m sort of useless outside, but I’ll do my best.” She hopped down and headed over to where he stood. He went back to the truck, pulled out a Ziploc gallon bag and put the M&Ms inside. “You have to store every bit of food or you’ll attract wildlife.”

He went back to the truck, pulled out a Ziploc gallon bag and put the M&Ms inside. “You have to store every bit of food or you’ll attract wildlife.”“What, do they have super-noses? They’re going to sneak up on us while we put up the tent?”

“What, do they have super-noses? They’re going to sneak up on us while we put up the tent?”“Trust me—get into the habit of always doing it and you won’t forget and wake up to a raccoon in your sleeping bag with you.”

“Trust me—get into the habit of always doing it and you won’t forget and wake up to a raccoon in your sleeping bag with you.”After a frustrating hour, they got the tent put up. Roxie stepped back to take it in. “It’s a little…small. Are you sure that’s a two-person tent?”

After a frustrating hour, they got the tent put up. Roxie stepped back to take it in. “It’s a little…small. Are you sure that’s a two-person tent?”“I’m sure. They only give you enough room to sleep. It’s not for hanging out and ignoring the nature you drove all this way to see.”

“I’m sure. They only give you enough room to sleep. It’s not for hanging out and ignoring the nature you drove all this way to see.”“I get it, I get it. We’re going to be outdoors.” She unzipped her M&Ms, offered him one, then continued to eat them when he shook his head. “So what do we do next?”

“I get it, I get it. We’re going to be outdoors.” She unzipped her M&Ms, offered him one, then continued to eat them when he shook his head.“So what do we do next?”

“So what do we do next?”“We eat. I’m going to the campground store to buy some firewood.”

“We eat. I’m going to the campground store to buy some firewood.”“You didn’t bring that, too?”

“You didn’t bring that, too?”He scowled at her and shook his head. “It’s illegal to bring it with you. This really is your first time camping at a state park, huh?”

He scowled at her and shook his head. “It’s illegal to bring it with you. This really is your first time camping at a state park, huh?”“It’s my first time camping, period. So, what do I do while you run to the store?”

“It’s my first time camping, period. So, what do I do while you run to the store?”“I’d tell you to unpack, but you’re a total newb, so I’ll do it when I get back. Just…

“I’d tell you to unpack, but you’re a total newb, so I’ll do it when I get back. Just… sit there and watch the wild animals.”She found an old, weathered tree stump log and plopped down. “Wild animals like squirrels and birds, right? No bears?”

She found an old, weathered tree stump log and plopped down. “Wild animals like squirrels and birds, right? No bears?”“Not as long as you keep the M&Ms put away.” He hopped into his truck and drove off.

“Not as long as you keep the M&Ms put away.” He hopped into his truck and drove off.Roxie rolled her eyes and glanced around. Birds chirped and chattered at one another, a cacophony of sound she’d never noticed before. Every so often, one would swoop from one branch to another and begin a song. It actually was kind of relaxing. Like one of those nature

Roxie rolled her eyes and glanced around. Birds chirped and chattered at one another, a cacophony of sound she’d never noticed before. Every so often, one would swoop from one branch to another and begin a song. It actually was kind of relaxing. Like one of those nature CDs she’d given her clients to help them de-stress back when she worked.When Aidan came back, he had a ton of firewood. Over the next hour, he unpacked everything, occasionally giving Roxie small chores to help.

When Aidan came back, he had a ton of firewood. Over the next hour, he unpacked everything, occasionally giving Roxie small chores to help.“Time to eat an early dinner,” he declared.

“Time to eat an early dinner,” he declared. “We missed lunch.”

“We missed lunch.”“I missed lunch. You had half a bag of M&Ms,” he teased, his voice indulgent.

“I missed lunch. You had half a bag of M&Ms,” he teased, his voice indulgent.He pulled out a package of hot dogs, all sealed up like everything else, some buns, and mustard and ketchup. For a few minutes, he searched around on the ground and Roxie watched, puzzled. Finally, he selected a couple of sticks, pulled out his knife, and sharped the ends.

He pulled out a package of hot dogs, all sealed up like everything else, some buns, and mustard and ketchup. For a few minutes, he searched around on the ground and Roxie watched, puzzled. Finally, he selected a couple of sticks, pulled out his knife, and sharped the ends. He handed her one. “Put your wiener on that. Through the middle, like this.” He demonstrated, then they sat around the fire and cooked them. He got busy handing out the buns, mustard, and a bag of potato chips.

He handed her one. “Put your wiener on that. Through the middle, like this.” He demonstrated, then they sat around the fire and cooked them. He got busy handing out the buns, mustard, and a bag of potato chips. They ate until they were stuffed. Roxie had to admit, it was pretty good. Fire-roasted wieners… who knew?

They ate until they were stuffed. Roxie had to admit, it was pretty good. Fire-roasted wieners… who knew?Night had fallen and the noises began to change. There was neighing from neighboring equine campsites and hoots from owls and rustling sounds from other night animals. She helped Aidan secure all the food in baggies, in a gigantic cooler, which they placed a big rock on top of.

Night had fallen and the noises began to change. There was neighing from neighboring equine campsites and hoots from owls and rustling sounds from other night animals. She helped Aidan secure all the food in baggies, in a gigantic cooler, which they placed a big rock on top of.“Now what?” she asked.

“Now what?” she asked.He shrugged. “Now, we talk until we’re sleepy.”

He shrugged. “Now, we talk until we’re sleepy.”“Oh.” Great, because she was so awesome at peopling.

“Oh.” Great, because she was so awesome at peopling.


We writers have pretty strong internet-research game. We also ask each other questions: what’s life like in a small town, a coastal neighborhood, a big city? We can be extremely resourceful in finding those perfect details that set the scene for a story. If we do it well, the reader is grounded there and they can become immersed in the story itself.

Q: What book has taken you away to another place or nailed a locale so well, you felt like you’d been there?

About Lori Sizemore

Lover of nail polish, pens, her Kindle, and fresh coffee. She likes romance filled with messy, real characters and lots of snarky banter. Reading was (and still is!) her BFF; when she discovered writing she fell in love. Come for the snark. Stay for the story.

When Your Writing Misses the Mark

This post is for the writers. The aspiring authors, the seasoned veterans.

Sometimes, you write a story and it just flows. It comes together like it has a life of its own, fully-formed and perfect. This isn’t about those times.

Because even when you have those stories, you’ll also have stories that are just… off. They’re missing something, the something that makes them a story worthy of telling.

Maybe it’s your structure or conflict. For me, it was an under-developed character.

I couldn’t figure out: how did this happen to me? Me, who spends a month or two pre-writing. Polishing characters’ histories, their GMC, plotting out a story based on those things before ever putting fingers to keyboard and executing. I spend as much time pre-writing as I do writing the first draft.

But, there was no denying that’s exactly where my story was at. The bad news came from my editor. (Mistake number one–I was in a hurry and didn’t have it beta read by my trusted critique partners before submission.) My heroine’s backstory and motivation were… weak.

I couldn’t believe it. In the weeks following my grandmother’s death, I’d written Exactly Like You, edited it, submitted it, and it was published in June. It was one of the aforementioned stories–it just flowed together perfectly, seamlessly.

How could I have done that so well and missed the mark so completely in the other story? For one, I didn’t dig for backstory and motivation. I latched onto the first idea that came to me. The first idea is never the best idea–don’t let anyone tell you any different. (This would be mistake number two, in case you’re counting.)

I revised and then sent it out for beta with two very smart CPs (all my critique partners are smart, but I digress). They came back with the same verdict–I’d missed that mark again. She was still underdeveloped. Her motivation wasn’t quite believable. That’s what happens when you try to make your character fit your story rather than the other way around. (That, friends, is mistake number three.)

I’m very happy to say that I conferred with one of my CPs, sending her five pages of notes to address the specific issues she called out, then had another CP take a look at my opening and made adjustments again. This had become the story that would not live.

But I wasn’t giving up. All is well now (I hope–it’s been resubbed to my editor, so we’ll see). I can tell you that I don’t think there’s much more of me left for that story. If it’s not enough? This may become one of those stories bound for the far reaches of my hard drive.

I wish I had a happy ending, but don’t all the true life-lesson stories end ambiguously? Take what you can from this, writers. Dig into that back story, then dig some more. Don’t skimp on character, ever.

About Lori Sizemore

Lover of nail polish, pens, her Kindle, and fresh coffee. She likes romance filled with messy, real characters and lots of snarky banter. Reading was (and still is!) her BFF; when she discovered writing she fell in love. Come for the snark. Stay for the story.

Birthday Gifts for the Reader in Us All

This month is my birthday. I’ll be 43, a rather middle of the road, nice-early-forties birthday. No biggie. Which is all the more reason to celebrate by sharing some monumentally cool gift ideas for the reader in your life–you, me, whoever!

Romeo and Juliet Cover Earrings

I’m not a huge fan of Romeo and Juliet. They were too young and it’s not a romance by any stretch of the imagination–Happily Ever After, anyone?

All the same, when I came across these earrings, I couldn’t resist how beautiful they were. And, hey. It’s Shakespeare and a classic. We’ll bend just a little to own these beauties.

Romance Novel Notebook

I’ve had my eye on one of these for years and I think I may just indulge myself this time…

Who doesn’t love 80s romance novel covers? They remind me of the books my grandmother devoured a book a day. I never read this one, but it speaks to the nostalgia in me, plus it’s spiral bound. It’d be perfect for dropping in your purse to jot down notes.

By the way, what is she wearing? A pantsuit? In denim blue? Clearly at work, since there’s a desk and that ginormous leather briefcase in her hand. And, seriously? That hair. Bangs for the win!

Jane Austen Pendant Necklace

Getting serious again, I absolutely love this necklace. The quote rings true for any avid reader and, come on–it’s beautiful. I’d be happy to wear this anywhere. And, honestly, for $14.18, it’s a steal!

 

Literary Cofee Mug

Last but not least, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t include a mug. You may not know, but I collect mugs and hang them all around my kitchen. I also collect mugs just for drinking. It is such a great way to start my day by asking myself, which mug will I start the day out with? Is that weird?

Anyway, I love this quote. It’s a shoutout to book lovers and a demand to be accepted on our own terms. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Did you see anything you just had to have? If so, let me know in the comments, share your finds, or even your own cool book lover swag. I’m all about the book swag.

Have a great July!

About Lori Sizemore

Lover of nail polish, pens, her Kindle, and fresh coffee. She likes romance filled with messy, real characters and lots of snarky banter. Reading was (and still is!) her BFF; when she discovered writing she fell in love. Come for the snark. Stay for the story.

Louisville: Cupid’s Cafe Setting

My story, Exactly Like You, and Landra Graf’s story, Painting for Keeps, are part of the Cupid’s Cafe Series. These stories take place in Lousiville, Kentucky. We were lucky enough to be able to visit there in February of this year. We traveled from the house we were staying in down to Bardstown Road (which is a really great part of town), where the fictional Cupid’s Cafe is located.

It was a cool, rainy day, but we decided to drive there and take pictures for inspiration. We wanted to orient ourselves to that part of town and the places nearby. Below, you can see some of the pictures I took from the car.

I loved the murals and that one building. I’m not even sure what it is. A church, maybe? If anyone knows, please say so in the comments. But that building just called out to me. All of it did. What a great place to live.

In my story, Aidan is a firefighter and I was able to locate the nearby fire station. I could just see Aidan and his best friend, Kurt sitting outside talking (granted, on a much prettier day since my story takes place in the summer). I put that scene in my story, thankful for the tangible that inspired me.

There’s also a store pictured here, Eyedia. That name caught my eye and, I’m just going to say it: I can recognize a thrift store a mile away. I snapped the picture and looked it up online later. Turns out it’s a high-end furniture consignment store. So, I was right–thrift store–but way cooler. Check out their website to see some of the gorgeous furniture they have. I even referenced the store in my story. It’s just for a moment, as Roxie drives by it, just like I did, and remembers shopping there before the events that turned her from an effective social worker into a depressed and (in her own eyes) boring cat-rescuer.

I hope you’ll check out our stories, available now anywhere you might buy books online. Stay cool!

Buy Exactly Like You now: Amazon | iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Google Play | Scribd

Buy Painting for Keeps now : Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Google Play

P.S. We’re giving away two beautiful necklaces and two $10 Amazon gift card. Enter right here:

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About Lori Sizemore

Lover of nail polish, pens, her Kindle, and fresh coffee. She likes romance filled with messy, real characters and lots of snarky banter. Reading was (and still is!) her BFF; when she discovered writing she fell in love. Come for the snark. Stay for the story.

Cupid’s Cafe: What’s That About?

Hello, my friends in Romancelandia. I wanted to write a little about my new release (coming June 20th) titled Exactly Like You and the premise behind the series.

My book, about a depressed, former social worker who rehabilitates feral cats and a sexy fireman widower, is the first book in the Cupid’s Cafe series. The books are all standalone. Landra Graf‘s Painting for Keeps (the second book) will be out June 27. They can be read in any order or pick your poison. The common thread is the cafe and the universe in which the story is set.

Cupid’s Cafe is a fictional, mystical coffeehouse in Lousiville, Kentucky. It’s fully functional with lots of patrons and exists, in the stories, on Bardstown Road, an eclectic and exciting part of town.

The characters in the story are usually invited to the cafe by the mysterious Mr. Heart. They receive a letter with a date and time to show up. They don’t know it, but it’s a “date” with someone from their past and their last chance at love.

The manager, Angel, is definitely an omniscient supernatural being and guides the invitees to their appointment with fate. A sense of serenity falls over them when they walk in the door (which tends to make my heroine, Roxie, a little uncomfortable–she never feels “serene”). There’s a beautiful, hand carved bar with mermaids at each end. The baristas may or may not be demi-gods from ancient mythology. They serve everything from coffees to pastries to alcoholic beverages. Anything is possible at Cupid’s Cafe, including a second chance at love.

Exactly Like You

Homeless and jobless, ex-social worker, Roxie Fisher, is convinced she’s cursed to never find happiness and an invitation to Cupid’s Café isn’t going to change that. All the same, against her better judgment, she gives it a try. What else does she have to lose?

After the death of his wife, accountant-turned-firefighter, Aidan Craig, can’t stop taking ridiculous risks and never turns down a dare. So an invitation to Cupid’s Café is an offer he can’t refuse. What he doesn’t expect is to meet the social worker who helped him through the darkest days of his life. Now she’s the one struggling, and he’s compelled to help.

The two of them experience an immediate attraction, but Aidan swore to never become involved in another relationship, and Roxie can’t imagine daredevil Aidan being interested in a boring, cat-rescuer like her.

Will they resolve the problems tearing them apart or lose their last chance at true love?

This is the first book in the Cupid’s Cafe series, a Kismet book, from After Glows Publishing. Would you be interested in writing for this series? Email me at lori (at) lorisizemore (dot) com.

About Lori Sizemore

Lover of nail polish, pens, her Kindle, and fresh coffee. She likes romance filled with messy, real characters and lots of snarky banter. Reading was (and still is!) her BFF; when she discovered writing she fell in love. Come for the snark. Stay for the story.

If I Knew Then: Writer’s Edition

Today, I thought I’d blog about craft. Specifically, the things I wish someone had told me (or helped me understand better) when I first started writing. I’m focusing on three main areas today.

Goal-Motivation-Conflict

There’s this fabulous book, if you’ve never heard of it, by Debra Dixon, called GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. When I first started writing, I kept hearing about GMC. Maybe you have, too. No one really explained it in a way I understood or, worse, they assumed I knew what GMC was. At that time, you could only order a hard cover from the publisher to get this book. I paid $20, plus shipping, and I’ve never regretted it. It’s incredible.

To summarize, characters want GOALS because MOTIVATION but CONFLICT. It’s a little more complicated than that. For instance, goals are the future, motivation is the past, and conflict is the present. If you can pull all those together, give your character an achievable goal for a realistic reason (motivation) and then have someone stand in their way, you have instant conflict.

Protagonist/Antagonist

Speaking of someone standing directly in the way, pushing back against the hero/ine, that is your antagonist. You really do need an active antagonist. It can’t be your characters drunk, dead father because he can’t push back. Alcoholic daddy can be part of the motivation, but he can’t be the antagonist.

The protagonist has a goal they are working toward. The antagonist has a goal (GMC of his or her own, in fact) and they are actively standing in one another’s way.

Conflict Boxes

Conflict boxes are these nifty, simple little boxes that help you show how the protagonist and antagonist are in opposition. They’re explained best, in my opinion, by Jennifer Crusie in this blog post. Their goals are mutually exclusive, which means only one of them can achieve their goal. The other has to lose. Sometimes, if you aren’t sure who you’re antagonist really is, a conflict box will show you in about two seconds.

If Only That Were It

Obviously, there’s more to learn, but these concepts will get you well on your way. I highly advise reading GMC and checking out the Basics of Fiction blog post by Jennifer Crusie if you’re at the beginning of your writing career or even if you feel you need a little help in these areas.

We’ve got a slew of helpful writers here, so if you have a question, one of us will do our best to answer. Or maybe you have a tip for a new writer. Just post it in the comments below.

About Lori Sizemore

Lover of nail polish, pens, her Kindle, and fresh coffee. She likes romance filled with messy, real characters and lots of snarky banter. Reading was (and still is!) her BFF; when she discovered writing she fell in love. Come for the snark. Stay for the story.

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