Cupid’s Cafe: Welcome to the Creator

Hello, Through Heart-Shaped Glasses Readers!

By now you’ve enjoyed Lori’s post about the series her and I are a part of along with her amazing book, Exactly Like You, that’s releasing on June 20th. Lori and I wish we could take the credit for this fantastic idea of a series, but of course, we can’t. No, the honor belongs to the fabulous Catherine Peace and I convinced her to agree to an interview on the series.

Just a few questions mind you, Catherine is a busy woman working on her own Cupid’s Cafe story.

First up, as the mastermind behind this series, where did the idea for the series come from?

Dang, already with the tough questions! 🙂 Well, here is where we get a little deep. I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety my entire life before I even had a name for them. I hit a….really bad patch a couple years ago that led me down a rocky road to treatment, which involved group therapy five days a week. The first day in my therapy group, it was the last day of a man who was a recovering meth addict. And he talked about his ex-girlfriend who’d cheated on him and treated him terribly because of his addiction and a couple other mitigating factors, and he said, “I guess I don’t deserve to be loved.” My heart shattered, and I looked at him and said, “You’re wrong.” I don’t think he expected that, especially from the newbie, but it’s true. People deserve love by virtue of being people. It doesn’t matter the background, the road, the ups and downs and mistakes and victories. People deserve to be loved and treasured. So in a way, this series came from wanting to prove him wrong and prove wrong people who have that same thought pattern. It’s nothing more than a lie.

Wow! I remember tearing up myself when you told me that story, and that’s when I fell in love with your idea too. That being said, what is your goal for the series?

Kind of what I said in my last answer, to show that people deserve to be loved and treasured. In a way, this series came from wanting to prove the guy from therapy wrong and prove wrong people who have that same thought pattern. It’s nothing more than a lie, but it’s one of the easiest to believe. I want to show people like him, people like me, that we’re not too broken to have worth and value. And hopefully, show them–us–that we’re able to rise above the challenges if we allow ourselves to be loved. It’s not that people don’t love and care and want the best for us. It’s that we simply cannot fathom it. 

Now, the series is set where you live, do you think that make things easier from a research standpoint?

In a way, yeah. The fun thing about Louisville is that it’s SUCH a diverse city. My roommate and I talk all the time about the racial and cultural diversity just in our apartment complex, and you can find that all over the city. It has its problems with racial violence and drug abuse, but it also has opportunities to offer people. It’s a city of entrepreneurs and small business owners, tattoo shops and music stores and SO. MUCH. FOOD. Dear Lord, I could set 50 different series here and never reuse an idea. My roomie works at a health clinic that caters to the homeless, and she’s able to help them in a way she never truly expected. I love this city. It still has small town charm regardless of being a metro, a lot of opportunities, and a lot of idea fodder. 

How do you think this series differs from other matchmaking romance series out there?

To me, it’s the focus on characters with mental health issues. Considering my own, I’ve noticed a lack of representation for people like me. I’ve seen a few that touch on PTSD, but it’s mostly these gruff Alpha dudes and these badass bitch ladies, and while that has its place, there’s STILL a need to open up the dialogue about mental health. Still, a need shed light on it, especially with what’s going on in the world now and how stressful it is. The characters in these stories are people who are at the ends of their ropes, people who need One Good Thing to give them hope. To help them see they’re worthy of love, of help. These aren’t going to be fluffy stories, I know. They’re dark. They’re tough. But they’re worth it. 

If any one of these stories helps someone, they’re more than worth it.

The first two books in the Cupid’s Cafe series are coming this month. Be sure to check out Exactly Like You and Painting For Keeps. If you’re interested in writing for the series reach out to Landra at landra (dot) graf (7) (at) gmail (dot) com

About Landra Graf

Landra Graf consumes at least one book a day and has always been a sucker for stories where true love conquers all. She believes in the power of the written word, and the joy such words can bring. In between spending time with her family and having book adventures, she writes romance with the goal of giving everyone, fictional or not, their own happily ever after.

I read for the good parts *wink, wink*

Before I start in on this little rant, I want to preface this blog post with the following:

Everyone likes to read what they like to read. There’s nothing wrong with sweet romance vs. regular romance. I’m not writing this to tear down a genre, but because I’m tired of the stigma that comes with writing sex scenes. With that, let’s begin.

I write sex scenes. I don’t close the door on my character’s sexual interactions with one another.  When I announce such a thing in a group of people the following reactions occur:

  • “Oh, you’re a freak, huh?”
  • “You write mommy-porn.”
  • “But you say you don’t like gratuitous sex.”

These are just a few of the comments I’ve heard. Some involving the winking eye from the guys, the casual drop in conversation by the gals, and anytime a conversation veers to the inappropriate people get a little shocked when I say the discussion is a bit risque since I write such things.

No one ever imagines that it’s not about the sex. At. All. The physical act on the page is usually a very limited part of the equation. Why do you think Twilight was so popular? It wasn’t because of the sex since there wasn’t any. What is important is the emotions, the way the act propels the plot either by causing conflict, bringing the couple closer together, dividing them apart, challenging core beliefs, and the list goes on. Some of my favorite books involve sex scenes that don’t actually describe the body parts entering bodies and such, but how the characters emotions evolve throughout the scene.

Not to mention, not every book requires 5 sex scenes, even an erotic romance, the scenes must fit the characters themselves. Writer’s really do ask themselves if the scene is necessary. In editing, and critiquing for others, I’ve removed sex scenes and added in others. Sometimes the comments are for more intimacy and less physical description.

I don’t write mommy-porn, I write emotional growth and discovery. A lot of the sex scenes are about that. Pushing the limits of what the character believes sex is really about and forming a genuine connection between the two people sharing it.

Books I recommend that do such a thing:

Tell Me Lies by Jennifer Crusie

Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie

Evening Storm by Anne Calhoun

The One In My Heart by Sherry Thomas

There are many more authors and books, but these are the ones that came to mind. What books can you name where sex is more emotional than physical?

Also, how do you think we can break the stigma?

About Landra Graf

Landra Graf consumes at least one book a day and has always been a sucker for stories where true love conquers all. She believes in the power of the written word, and the joy such words can bring. In between spending time with her family and having book adventures, she writes romance with the goal of giving everyone, fictional or not, their own happily ever after.

On Critique Partners Part 2

As previously mentioned, we’ve all heard the horror stories that can happen when youcrit partners graphic 2 get mixed up with the wrong critique partner. Everything from hurt feelings to making changes on a story you probably shouldn’t have made. The question is how do you find the right one?

There are multiple websites and groups via Yahoo, Facebook, and a simple search can set you on the right track.

What are you looking for? Depends on what you want, a one-on-one partner or a group. For a one-on-one partner, you’re looking for someone with similar goals, career, and writing, to your own. Reason being, you’ll both be working towards a similar path and help support one another to get there. It’s as simple as asking the potential partner what they want out of the relationship. If they just want someone to bounce ideas off of, but you’re looking for a partner to help you get ready for publication, then this may not be your person.

Additionally, you want a person whose strengths will build on your weaknesses.  An example: One of my writing weaknesses is writing dialogue. I found a partner who excels at it, through this, I learn from her.

For a group of partners, you want to seek a balanced environment. Look for a group with published and unpublished authors.  This means you’re getting a wealth of knowledge from those who’ve been at this a little longer than others. The success of a group is based on the diversity of the authors. Similar rules to the ones above apply. Within a group, you should find authors with similar goals to your own and those with strengths that will help you shore up your own weaknesses.

You found your potential partner/group how do you get started?

For individuals, do a trial run. Test out a couple chapters, set expectations, and discuss them at length. Schedule chats to review feedback and ask questions. Critique partners are supposed to be your best friend, your confidant, and the person who helps you work out all those pesky problems. Mine talks me back from ledges, a lot.

For groups, apply (if it’s necessary), follow the rules, and as Lori mentioned in her first post, be respectful. Crits are about the positive and negative. It’s constructive criticism, not tearing someone apart either.

What if I disagree with the feedback? It happens. The best part about crits is that partners (good ones) will tell you to use what you think applies and ditch the rest. It’s universally known that not all feedback may apply. Additionally, don’t dismiss anyone’s feedback. I personally, follow the rule of 2. If 2 critique partners call out the same thing then it’s something that needs to be fixed, hands down. Otherwise, a good tip is to follow your gut, but it’s also highly recommended you let those crit comments marinate for a few days before taking action.

Here’s to the search for the partner and the group. I recommend both and, in most cases, more than one. To find those gems is like having a personal treasure chest.

Missed part 1 – Check out Lori Sizemore’s original post from earlier this month.

 

About Landra Graf

Landra Graf consumes at least one book a day and has always been a sucker for stories where true love conquers all. She believes in the power of the written word, and the joy such words can bring. In between spending time with her family and having book adventures, she writes romance with the goal of giving everyone, fictional or not, their own happily ever after.

When the pain starts

I had big plans for January. I’d been riding the high from my first fast drafting success in November, and all the submission craze of first weeks of January. My momentum was huge, my goals… Godzilla-sized, and I could see success looming before me. Between wrapping editing on two projects, attacking cardio workouts with my new elliptical, and going ‘no added sugar’ for the month, January 2017 planned to be EPIC.

Then it hit. What is it? Pain.

Pain came in the form of mental, followed by physical. As I sit here typing this I’m dealing with a strained muscle running from the back of my neck into my left shoulder. It’s getting better, slowly.

The pain started with rejection. Agents, publishers… the sadness. I would forge on and hold my head high. The right one is coming along, this story will find a home. The mantras were clear and on constant repeat. Then came the beta reads on a manuscript I’m working on. This didn’t hurt as bad, and my fellow writers are helping me grow, teaching me how to get better. But, I’m a perfectionist… I like to get things right the first time and even though I know that’s not how this writing process works, still stinks when I don’t get close to that finish line.

Then came the beta reads on a manuscript I’m working on. The comments and feedback didn’t hurt as bad. My fellow writers were/are helping me grow, teaching me how to get better. But, I’m a perfectionist… I like to get things right the first time and, even though I know that’s not how this writing process works, it still stinks when I don’t get close to that finish line in the first rounds.

The ‘no added sugar/no fast food’ was a bit harder. I managed and started planning meals. Then I got busy with the cardio sessions, determined to get on the elliptical every day. Until last week, it started with back and shoulder pain. Then Sunday I woke up and could barely move my neck.

Now, how far the mighty have fallen. I’m humbled. Reminded how a tiny injury can set back even the greatest warrior. It’s a slow road to recovery, which includes ice packs, visits to the chiropractor, stretching, and rest. I’m trying to get my mind wrapped around the edits I’ll need to make to my story and I hope to be back to somewhat normal functions by next week.

The moral is- life will always knock you down, the important part is how you bounce back.

 

About Landra Graf

Landra Graf consumes at least one book a day and has always been a sucker for stories where true love conquers all. She believes in the power of the written word, and the joy such words can bring. In between spending time with her family and having book adventures, she writes romance with the goal of giving everyone, fictional or not, their own happily ever after.

Falling Down the Christmas Romance Rabbit Hole

It’s beginning to look a lot like the holidays and my favorite thing to do at Christmas, besides watch Christmas movies or bake cookies is read Christmas romances. There is nothing like a good Christmas romance anthology. Over the years I’ve read many, and each season a new one becomes available for the masses.

There’s the historicals, which are always marvelous because who doesn’t love seeing how in a time when couples had difficulty falling in love in the first place, let alone being alone together, a pair of romantically matched people find themselves declaring love for one another in less than forty thousand words.

Here’s a few of my favorites:

Christmas in the Duke’s Arms by Grace Burrowes, Carolyn Jewel, Miranda Neville, and Shana Galen ~ All the tales occur around an inn, in a small town. My favorite is a friends to lovers tale. twg-final-large

The Heart of Christmas by Mary Balogh, Nicola Cornick, and Courtney Milan ~ Delicious romance with rakes, benefactors, and unlikely heroes

All I Want for Christmas Is a Duke by Valerie Bowman, Vivienne Lorret, Tiffany Clare, and Ashlyn Macnamara ~ Dukes. Need I say more?

I’m mighty proud of the fact I’ve offered you stories by 11 different Historical romance authors, and they are all fabulous. This is just the tip of the romance iceberg because several other historical authors offer up full-length Christmas tales, including an entire series from Theresa Romain, which right now they are all together as a Holiday Pleasures Bundle in an ebook steal deal.

Then I have that ‘but wait; there’s more’ moment. Because I haven’t discussed contemporary romance. There is plenty of holiday joy to be shared around there. The ones I fell in love were the typically full length and the run the gauntlet from sweet to steamy. Regardless, they are all romances and feature Christmas in some capacity.

A few more favs:

Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis ~ first in the Lucky Harbor series.maybe-this-christmas

Last Chance Christmas by Hope Ramsey ~ part of the Last Chance series.

Maybe This Christmas by Sarah Morgan ~ a friends to lovers tale and part of her Snow Crystal series.

And, if you haven’t heard a fellow HSG blogger/author, Jennifer Shirk has her latest release in the Christmas contemporary romance category. Check out Wrong Brother, Right Match. A shameless plug, but I’ve already got it pre-order and on my list of holiday romances to indulge in.

Of course, as with all things, these are just a handful of Christmas romance books available. I’m leaving out Maisey Yates and her cowboys, and Jessica Lemmon with her Bad Boy for Christmas book. I could go on and on, but I do believe that will cut into my reading time.

Do you have a favorite Christmas romance book? If so, tell me, I’d love to add it to my list.

About Landra Graf

Landra Graf consumes at least one book a day and has always been a sucker for stories where true love conquers all. She believes in the power of the written word, and the joy such words can bring. In between spending time with her family and having book adventures, she writes romance with the goal of giving everyone, fictional or not, their own happily ever after.

Fighting the Doubt Monster

As a writer, a full-time worker, wife, and mother of two, I find myself constantly analyzing my actions, reactions, and doubt-monsterefforts. For the story writing part of me, it gets worse as the book unfolds, then the edits, and before I know it the Doubt Monster takes hold and I’m paralyzed.

Doubt Monsters are red, with tentacle-like legs, razor-sharp teeth, and beady eyes. The visual manifestation looks like that anyway. The mental manifestation is fear and anxiety, followed by a lovely dose of procrastination on social media, maybe some candy crushing. They  won’t disappear with these tactics. The battle wages on regardless of the side tracks. I get scared about not living up to expectations, about how everyone will hate the words AND the best one of all – that I’m a fake. A no-good, useless waste of writing space, posing as a person with good ideas/plots/characters when really a four-year-old could come up with this stuff.

These are not issues only affecting me. I’m not unique. Most writers deal with the Doubt Monsters day in and day out. Nasty suckers, aren’t they?

If you’re suffering from one of these Doubt Monsters, thankfully there’s a few tips and tricks to defeat the beasts.

  1. Music  – I’ve got a few songs to help me through the tough times. Uplifting beats. You may remember employing similar efforts after a bad break up or when you’re stressed out.
  2. Sunshine and a walk – Break up the blurry eyes by getting away from the computer a bit. The problems aren’t going anywhere. The words will still be on the page. It’s time to let your brain process the information and then play catch up. I do some of my best work sometimes sitting in traffic.
  3. Talking things out with a friend – Most writers have a critique partner, along with a writing group. It’s part of the magic formula that helps get a lot of writers to the finish line and then into the ever-coveted, winner’s circle. Many times my CP is the one who listens to my ideas, the crazy ones, the problems, and the doubts. She’s the voice of reason to battle against the Doubt Monster.

Don’t believe me? Well, I come with articles to back me up. They are not fool-proof, and sure some of this is in my head, but

13 Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

The Benefits of Amazing Writing Critique Partners

There are more articles you can find talking about getting outside being good for the soul, critique partners enriching lives. I imagine you even have your own ways to fight the Doubt Monsters invading your mind and making a home in your amygdala.

How do you fight the monsters? 

If you’ve got a Doubt Monster creeping up on you, I have a song to help fight it.

Hugs, Love, and Battle On my friends.

 

About Landra Graf

Landra Graf consumes at least one book a day and has always been a sucker for stories where true love conquers all. She believes in the power of the written word, and the joy such words can bring. In between spending time with her family and having book adventures, she writes romance with the goal of giving everyone, fictional or not, their own happily ever after.

  • OUR LATEST BUZZ!

    The first two books in the Cupid's Cafe series release in June by Lori Sizemore and Landra Graf *** Lori Sizemore's Infamous released on December 14. *** Julie Jarnagin's Cowgirl in the Kitchen is available now. *** Bethanne Strasser LETTERS FROM HOME from Entangled Publishing is available now! *** Nina Croft's latest books, Her Fantasy Husband, a hot contemporary romance from Entangled's Brazen line, and The Order Boxed Set, a compilation of the three full length novels, plus a new novella, exclusive to the boxed set, both released in April 2016 *** Debora Dennis's holiday novella, CUPCAKES & CUPID is available.