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.

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.

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.

On Critique Partners, Part 1

I’ve seen people say some pretty harsh things about crit partners. Yes, when you have crit partners that are a bad fit, they can damage your story and your writing. You don’t want those and if you feel stifled, move on.

However, if you think all crits are bad or unhelpful, then you don’t know the purpose of critiques or how to accept them. That sounds harsh. Sorry, not sorry.

The first rule is that you will have CPs you trust implicitly and you will have CPs that you take some of their advice and discard the rest. However, you never argue with a critique. If more than one person says there is an element to your story that isn’t working, you should look at it with a critical eye. Either way, you thank them for their feedback and then you move on.

The problem with arguing with a critique, that something is explained later or it’s really okay because their motivation is real and true, is that you can’t argue with a reader. Best-case scenario, they get to that section of your novel and they’re pulled out of the story. You do not want that. Worst-case? Your book becomes a wallbanger.

If there are questions the CP is asking or suggesting, then maybe you’re not giving enough information at the right time. That’s an easy fix. A few lines peppered in. It is not a reason to have a meltdown.

Bottom line, there are some bad crit groups out there. We’ve all been part of them. The vibe is off, people are mean with their feedback, or they start lecturing you about writing rules. Leave those groups because you can’t grow as a writer there.

There are also awesome groups that encourage you and help you become a better writer. Is it easy? Hell no. Does the feedback hurt sometimes? Yes. This is your beloved story and it’s no fun when someone says it isn’t working for them. But if it’s a solid group with good writers who build you up? Don’t run. Do some introspection and ask yourself why you’re so afraid to change your story. You know what they say—you have to murder your darlings. Sadly, they don’t lie.

Come read Landra Graf on April 29th for part two!

P.S. Be sure to check out our Heart-Shaped Glasses Facebook group because today I’m giving away a free book from my to-be-read pile. You have to comment to win, so come join us on Facebook!

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.

The Writing Blahs

I had a rough January. My grandmother passed away after a long battle with dementia, my mother was in the hospital for the first 25 days (she’s doing much better now), and my daughter had her baby 8 weeks early due to pre-eclampsia (mama and baby are also doing very well). My brain, my energy, my heart–it was elsewhere.

And I had self-imposed deadlines to meet. Those may seem unimportant, but they’re just as important (to me) as “real” deadlines. I suspect many of you understand. Unfortunately, my writing output began to slow to a trickle. I was in that dreaded middle of a story, before you top the hill, when it seems like there are a million bad words behind you and a million new words to go. I had the writing blahs.

I asked the wonderful ladies here at HSG for advice and they, to a one, suggested reading a good book. I haven’t taken their advice yet, though I tried, because I just can’t seem to turn my brain off. When I do read, I have writer-brain. “Oh, nice hook,” or “I see what you did there.” I’m going to persevere, even as I try to reach my writing goals daily.

I did some research (because I certainly wasn’t writing) and came up with some great quotes and articles I thought I’d share with you.

From Lydia Sharp on Writer Unboxed:

There are times I must immerse myself in research, or pull out an old story and do line edits, in order to refresh. This is the result of a right brain/left brain imbalance. The scales are tipped, and equilibrium can only be achieved by adding to our noncreative side. Fact begets fiction.

From Carly Sandifer on One Wild Word:

If you’re tapping out your sentences on your computer, pick up a pen or pencil and write by hand in a notebook. For that matter, some people enjoy typing on an actual typewriter.

I’ve done this plenty of times in the past, but deemed it too slow for my higher output. I’d cut out the middle man (I thought), but maybe sometimes you need the middle man to negotiate a treaty between you and your brain.

This great post (which is more about writing blogs) from Henneke Duistermaat at Smart Blogger:

Feeling a little frustrated?

Well, let it out.

Before you start writing, curse like a sailor. Get angry. Be emotional.

Write something you’re passionate about. Have a good rant. Don’t worry about going too far.

There’s worse advice out there. After all, if you’re writing flat, your reader will be able to tell. Maybe move on to a particularly moving scene?

What’s you best writing advice for defeating the writing blahs and getting past a block?

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.

  • 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.