Summertime Blues

Greetings HSG Readers!

As I type this we’re still in June. Of course the post will be live the end of July, maybe by then I’ll be a bit perkier.

In childhood, summertime is filled with the month’s each kid dreams about. From lounging around the house, sleeping in, library reading programs, vacation bible school, summer camp, and also those outdoor activities I can’t remember a summer I wasn’t ready to dive in to.

At least until adulthood came. I don’t get three months off work any more. In retrospect, this makes me wonder if I should have been a teacher.

Now the summers are filled with being stuck indoors, slaving in front of the computer, and I’ll admit the whole thing has turned me a little blue.

To perk things up, I’m creating the ultimate summer playlist. This is a list of the oldies, the newbies, and those unforgettable songs you grew up jamming out to during the summer.

So far, I’ve come up with a few that get me excited. Like, John Fogerty’s Centerfield, it’s the perfect summer anthem to the All-American sport, baseball.

Bryan Adam’s has his own summer ballad, Summer of ’69, that reminds me of youthful exploits.

And of course, the musical lover that I am, can never ever leave out Grease. Summer Lovin’ is the epitome of the high school experience. Those meet ups with someone new over the summer only to cut things short and return to regular life come the fall.

What am I missing? I know there’s some new stuff, like Will Smith’s Miami or LFO’s Summer Girls. Tell me your favorite summer-themed music and help me cure these blues. 

 

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: The Journey Continues

Greetings friends!

Today is the launch of my new release, Painting For Keeps, a contemporary romance and matchmaking story. If you haven’t noticed Cupid and matchmaking are in the air for the month of June, as Lori and I have both have releases that are part of Afterglows Publishing Kismet Line. Want to read more about Lori’s own contemporary romance you can check out her post here.

My book is a second-chance, matchmaking romance about a recovering bulimic nutritionist who’s getting over being dumped by her cheating boyfriend and the bi-polar, brooding painter who seeks to help the only muse for his art. This is the second book in the Cupid’s Cafe series. The first book, Lori’s Exactly Like You, is available now.

A refresher, Cupid’s Cafe is a fictional, magical place set in Louisville, KY off Bardstown Rd. You can catch a more detailed post on the live research Lori, myself, and Cate, the series creator, did in preparation for this series. Each couple is granted a ‘second-chance’ at romance via Cupid, through a handwritten invitation to the cafe. The couples have always met in the past somehow and both hero and heroine have reached their limit or they don’t believe themselves capable of love due to what issues they suffer from.

Painting For Keeps

An invitation to Cupid’s Café will change your life. 

 

Agatha, Aggie, Kakos lost her boyfriend, her apartment, and now, is one brownie bite away from purging her binge when an invitation to Cupid’s Café shows up on her doorstep. Fighting bulimia and her mother’s constant verbal abuse has never been easy, but this nutritionist is determined to be stronger than her weakest link. She’ll meet a secret admirer at Cupid’s for a morale booster if nothing else.  

 

Following a break-in and the destruction of his paintings, starving artist Murphy O’Shea finds himself at wit’s end. Not only does he need to create twelve more paintings, but in the midst of another manic depressive episode, the challenge seems impossible. He’s got two months or he’ll have to cancel his first show. The Cupid’s Café invite offers him a chance to find his muse. He doesn’t expect it to be the woman he’s mirrored the past two year’s paintings on, nor does he plan on being able to offer Aggie the help she needs.  

 

Can they find a way to conquer their inner demons or will they succumb to the idea they aren’t worth a happily ever after?

 

Buy now : Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Google Play

 

This is the second 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 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.

  • 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.