CRISIS DESSERTED – Now Available!

Today’s the day. It’s been more years than I care to count to get to this moment, when I can say I’m a published author. I’m so grateful for all the support from critique partners, friends, and the wonderful team at Literary Wanderlust. It has been a journey and it’s not over yet 🙂

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Down-on-her-luck pastry chef Brandy Tanner is searching love and TV chef stardom, but when crisis after crisis hits, she may have to leave her dreams desserted.

Below are some links where you can pick up a copy of your very own:

Paperback: Tattered Cover (my favorite local) | Amazon | Barnes and Noble 

Ebook: Amazon

If you’re interested in a signed bookmark, send proof of purchase to klaurinwrites@gmail.com and I’d be happy to send you one (while supplies last!).

The places that inspired Crisis Desserted

Counting down to release day for Crisis Desserted (Jan. 1, 2019!!) has been…stressful. There are going to be real, actual people reading my book and that is terrifying. My husband, bless him, doesn’t get how this gives me anxiety if the point of the novel all along was for people to read it. Let me just say that there is a difference between theoretical people reading your book in the indeterminate future and people you know and will have to see again reading it next week.

So, to distract myself, here are some of the places that inspired my book.

Denver’s Highlands Neighborhood

The bulk of the first 1/3 of the story takes place in Denver’s Highlands Neighborhood. If you aren’t familiar with Denver, the Highlands is west of downtown and full of great restaurants and bars. About ten years ago, it became a hot neighborhood for young professionals and families wanting to live close to the city in homes with character if not dedicated parking. The bar Jer works at is fictional, but the way Brandy describes it with exposed brick and ceiling beams is very much in keeping with the area’s ethos.

At the beginning of the story, Bran and her sister Tasha go to Little Man Ice Cream, also in the Highlands. Little Man is very real and really my favorite ice cream place in Denver. The Salted Oreo ice cream will change your life. Here’s a picture of the actual Little Man.

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This is the typical line at Little Man on any summer night. It’s worth the wait!

And they do donate to charity with every scoop purchased! If you’re ever in the area, you HAVE to go.

Eastern Colorado

The tiny town where Bran’s parents live is called Pike. Pike isn’t a real place, but it is inspired by some small towns east of the Denver Metro area. One of which is Elizabeth, Colorado, about thirty minutes from where I live. Unlike Brandy, I think the Eastern Plains are beautiful. They have rolling hills and gorgeous sunsets. What surprises me most is that you go from the suburbs on the edge of the Denver area and drop right into the plains and wide open space. It feels remote, but really isn’t that far from the city.

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London 

London is the city of my heart. I was fortunate to spend a summer there during college and have loved it ever since. Brandy visits London during the story and spends time in the Financial District and Shoreditch. She also visits the London Eye for a spin above the Thames.

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Here’s a picture my husband took back in the day of The Gherkin, which also makes an appearance.

Now back to waiting until January 1st. Only four days away. Eek!

Pre-order now: Tattered Cover (my favorite local) | Amazon | Barnes and Noble 

Crisis Desserted Pre-Order Giveaway

The clock is ticking! CRISIS DESSERTED will release on January 1, 2019. If you happen to pre-order, send proof of purchase and your mailing address to klaurinwrites@gmail.com by the end of the year to receive a signed bookmark and sticker.

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Not the pre-order type? Add it on Goodreads and I’ll love you forever! (Which is *almost* as good as pre-order swag.)

Pre-order now: Tattered Cover (my favorite local) | Amazon | Barnes and Noble 

Book Review: #Mudertrending

I’ve been meaning to write this review for ages, but I seem to have lost an entire month. If you find it, please let me know!

I really enjoyed #Murdertrending by the inimitable Gretchen McNeil. I’ve enjoyed McNeil’s other books, but something about #Murdertrending felt so inventive and timely that I moved it to the top of my TBR list when it came out last month.

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Thanks to a false murder conviction, eighteen-year-old Dee Guerrera has landed on Alcatraz 2.0, the prison island where convicted murders are executed by on-staff serial killers while the world watches. Forced to work and live in the island’s twisted suburban community until their untimely deaths, inmates strive to become fan favorites with dedicated airtime to delay their final sentencing. Set in the not-too-distant future, America’s #1 obsession is watching their favorite killers do what they do best. With inventive, punny names like Hannah Ball (a cannibal who cooks her kills a la Hannibal Lecter), each killer has a devoted following via The Postman app. The Postman himself is the elusive benefactor and purveyor of justice on Alcatraz 2.0. As Dee tries to stay alive long enough to prove her innocence, she strikes up an unlikely friendship with other inmates, who also maintain they were falsely convicted.

Like I mentioned, I was so hooked by the concept. How on earth did Alcatraz 2.0 even start? Who approved this? How can we dehumanize one another enough to enjoy watching people be actually murdered? McNeil answers all these questions and more as we slowly learn about Dee’s tragic backstory and the killer-obsessed sister whose murder landed Dee on the island. I adored the colorful cast of wrongfully accused murderers who, along with Dee, formed the Death Row Breakfast Club (#squadgoals). Through the comments in The Postman app, readers could gain additional backstory and insight into the political climate that allowed Alcatraz 2.0 to happen. The plot never lacked for tension as twist after twist was revealed and you could feel Dee hurtling toward the end of the line not knowing how she could possibly survive the cadre of killers. Add in a dash of romance, and I was sold!

What really got to me in the end was that I could see how Alcatraz 2.0 came about. If you marry our culture’s obsession with “reality” tv and the justifications humanity has used to carry out atrocities like genocide, you have the sweet spot where we can get our thrills watching the gruesome deaths of people who “deserve it.” This one is for anyone looking for a fast ride with a side of chilling social commentary.

Check it out on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34521785-murdertrending

How I found my agent

As I announced earlier in the week, I am now represented by Tess Callero of Curtis Brown! I wanted to post my path to getting an agent because stories like mine where success didn’t come overnight really helped me in the query trenches. If you’re there, I hope this helps you. Hang in there.

Ok, story time 🙂

The book that landed me an agent was the third one I wrote, and my agent Tess found my project in her slush. It was a partial request that turned into a full request and then turned into an offer. From the time I sent my initial query to when I got my offer was about eight weeks.

I actually ended up with three offers. Let me say that I never expected to be in a situation where multiple agents wanted to work with me. I’d heard about it happening to other writers, but it was something that felt so far away from my reality that they might as well have been talking about multiple unicorn sightings.

The agents who offered were incredibly kind and had unique takes on the direction of the story and how they’d position it to editors. At the end of the day, after multiple phone calls and emails, I felt that my connection with Tess and her passion for my project made my decision for me. I couldn’t be more thrilled to work with her.

That seems so straightforward, right? It was. But I’d like to talk about my other projects–the ones that didn’t get me an agent. It’s hard for me to share something I’ve kept to myself for so long. Bear with me.

My first novel was written during NaNoWriMo several years ago. It was the absolute worst. I outlined, I wrote, and I revised. That should have been enough in my mind, but that manuscript was riddled with every mistake I now know not to make. Introspective infodump beginning? Check. Overwritten prose? Oh yeah. I queried that project for around three months to many agents and I got zero requests. It was a hard lesson, but I’m the kind of person who usually learns things the hard way.

My second novel, a commercial women’s fiction project, was much better. I took everything I learned from my first manuscript and wrote a cleaner, tighter draft. I found CPs who helped me strengthen my plot and learned how my in-depth knowledge of a character and their motivation needs to come through in just the right places. I revised and revised and revised. I queried, participated in #pitmad, and ended up with eleven requests from agents. My hopes were sky high, y’all. But in the end, no offers. I’m a practical person, and I loved my project so I decided to reach out to smaller pubs and see if there was any interest. And, to my surprise, a small press offered to publish it. I was delighted to work with a professional editor and have my novel published. I was going to be an author! My second book is currently in the hands of the head editor at the publisher and will be going on the production schedule soon. The experience has been wonderful, and I’m so happy that my book is going to be out in the world.

When I wrote my third book, a YA suspense project, I wanted to go back out and land an agent. I read more craft books and tried a new outlining technique, which really worked for me. I vetted the idea with my CP to make sure it had some legs. I worked my butt off. The story for finding my agent is like so many others, but I wanted to share that it wasn’t my first or even my second try. I learned a lot along the way and there is so much more for me to learn. And, third time really is the charm 🙂

 

Write what you love

I’ve written three books. Three. It’s crazy because I distinctly remember thinking that completing just one book was an impossible feat. It wasn’t. I did a thing a lot of people dream about doing. Three times! (Hooray for recognizing the victories that keep you going when things are hard.)

My third book is a YA suspense. I love YA and honestly it’s what I read the most of. But I was afraid to write it. It took two other books before I felt like I could. If you read my other post, you know that for some reason there is a lot of stigma surrounding YA writers. There are tons of adults who read and love YA, but there are also lots of people who think it’s childish for a grown woman to fangirl over YA books. It can be hard to open yourself up to the judgement of others by doing something you know people will criticize you for. Haters gonna hate though, right? Right.

I also had a friend’s significant other say something along the lines of “Oh, is it YA?” in a very sarcastic voice when I was discussing my second novel (commercial women’s fiction). At the time, I was happy I could say that it wasn’t just out of pure spite. Then I felt gross for feeling happy. The implication that any project is somehow less for being YA is ridiculous. I wish I was braver at the time to say that. I promise to be so in the future.

In fact, I hope I can get my third novel published just so I can go back to that guy and tell him that my project–the one that has brought me so much joy for writing it–is a young adult novel. I know. Again with the spite. (I might also do a happy dance/booty shake in front of him just so he knows where he stands.)

I hope anyone out there who is keeping quiet about a project because they’re afraid of what their casual acquaintances (and it’s ALWAYS them and not the people who know and love you best) might think knows that I was there too. Let them have their hate and petty comments. You get to keep the love you have for your projects, and that’s a much bigger prize.

 

 

 

Book Review: The Wicked Deep

Imma be honest. I read this book because of the cover. The premise sounded interesting, but the cover is what drew me in initially. It was so creeptastic. I’m a sucker for a good cover, as you know.

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Every year in the town of Sparrow the spirits of three sisters return and possess the bodies three teen girls. The Swan sisters were accused witches, who the gentle townsfolk two hundred years ago decided to drown in the ocean. As you can imagine, the sisters were pissed. So much so that when they return each summer during the aptly named Swan Season, they lure teen boys into the sea and drown them too.

Swan Season has turned into a bit of a spectacle. Tourists flock to the town to see if the rumors are true. Half of the town’s residents don’t believe in the sisters and think someone or something else is drowning their sons. Seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot believes in the sisters, but has bigger problems to deal with. Her father disappeared three years ago and took her mother’s grip on reality with him. Now, she feels bound to the town to take care of her mother and the small island in the harbor where they live. When the handsome stranger Bo blows into town on the eve of Swan Season, Penny feels obligated to help and protect him from the sisters’ curse.

Shea Ernshaw does an amazing job feeding us bits of the sisters’ history throughout the story. Piece by piece, we get to know each one and discover the events that led to their demise, but only when we need it to make sense of the present. We also get to watch as Penny’s summer unfolds amidst hysteria at the deaths of local boys and the budding relationship between herself and Bo. I was enveloped by the sense of claustrophobia Ernshaw conveyed through the summer’s heat and Penny’s own feelings of being trapped by the town’s curse and her mother’s declining health.

This one is full of twists and turns that kept me guessing and reading late into the night. I was struck by the story’s bittersweet end and haunted by the magic that lingered in the town of Sparrow. I definitely recommend you add this one to your TBR!

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35297394-the-wicked-deep

Book Review: Children of Blood and Bone

Children of Blood and Bone doesn’t need another review. It’s a #1 New York Times Best Seller. But. I need to talk about it, so here we go.

Children of Blood and Bone

This story gave me all the feels. Feels so big I had to put the book down for hours at a time just to process what the characters were going through. I was stunned by Tomi Adeyemi’s masterful world building. It was the kind of exquisite attention to detail that lures readers in with promises of magic and lush writing, then contrasts all of it with the brutal reality of the characters’ circumstances. I found myself wondering at several points how a fantasy could feel so real and immediate. I think that’s what made it so special.

ZĂ©lie Adebola is a diviner (young not-yet-magical person) in the fictional country of Orisha, a land once full of maji (older definitely magical people) and their magic. When ZĂ©lie was a child, she witnessed her mother’s murder and the death of magic as it and most of the maji population were wiped out by Orisha’s king, Saran. Now a teen, she embarks on a quest to restore magic and save her people.

I loved so many aspects of this story. First, a fantasy world built on something other than European culture? Amazing. Adeyemi’s own upbringing and heritage largely informed the world she created. Second, ZĂ©lie was kick-butt heroine and flawed in the best ways. ZĂ©lie isn’t our only narrator though, and we’re introduced to Amari and Inan, princess and prince of Orisha. Though they’re siblings, they have remarkably different views on magic and the subjugation of the maji population in their country. I enjoyed the different perspectives, especially Inan’s as the chief antagonist through most of the story.

I’ve read some other reviews of Children of Blood and Bone, and most seem less than enthusiastic with the romance between two of the characters. Without spoiling too much, I would agree with a lot of the arguments against that plot thread. While I was reading a book about fantastic magic and a fictional land, it was the only part that felt forced. I get that it’s YA, and YA has kissing. But really, it was only a small part of the story, and one flaw I easily forgave.

I would certainly recommend this book to fans of Sabaa Tahir and YA high fantasy lovers of any ilk. Go! Read!

Book Review: The Hazel Wood

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert caught my attention with its amazing cover. Say what you like, but I judge EVERY book by its cover. It’s dark, whimsical, and a little creepy. You better believe I bought that thing so hard its second printing will feel it.

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Creepy, right? LOVE!

Our heroine Alice is seventeen and living with her mom, evil stepfather, and vapid stepsister in the magical land of Brooklyn. Alice’s claim to fame is an estranged reclusive grandmother who authored of a famous book of fairytales (more OG Brothers Grimm than Disney). Alice and her mom have been on the run from “bad luck” as long as Alice can remember, but they’ve finally settled down as upper-crust New Yorkers, complete with a fancy high school for Alice and her stepsister.

One day, Alice returns to her apartment to find her mother missing. Her only clue? A page out of her grandmother’s book of fairytales, one she’s never been allowed to read. Enlisting the help of one of her classmates–who happens to be a fan of her grandmother’s work–Alice goes in search of answers and finds only fairytale horrors walking the streets of NYC. Following the signs, they find their way to the Hazel Wood, the upstate New York home belonging to Alice’s grandmother. To rescue her mother, Alice must travel through the Hazel Wood to the Hinterland, where all her grandmother’s fairytale stories are alive and well and trying to escape into the world.

I loved this book, y’all.  Probably my favorite of the year so far. The writing was vivid and the story was gritty and unforgiving. I ate up the creeptastic fairytales woven into Alice’s story. Doors conjured with blood and an evil girl who sucked the life from people with her shadow bird made an appearance. Albert’s brutal telling of Alice’s story evoked the fairytales of yore. If you prefer scary princesses to the kind with animal sidekicks, then this one’s for you.

Why Writing is Tough as a Perfectionist

Writing is a hard gig for everyone. Ask any writer—successful or struggling—about their experiences and you’ll discover similar themes of rejection, self-doubt, and creative blocks. I can only speak for myself, but my perfectionist tendencies make writing a harder pursuit for me than many other things I do.

My need for qualitative and quantitative success makes marketing as a profession a good fit for my personality. Everyone expects measurable results from my work  and my best effort every day. Professionally, there is no standard of “good enough” which I operate by.

However, in writing there isn’t a group of people, like a supervisor or department head, who can judge my performance and deem it successful. There is no perfect first draft, and the “just get the first draft finished” mentality conflicts with my inherent need to make everything right all the time. The hardest thing for me when drafting is to know there are flaws in my work, but to keep pushing forward anyway. How can a piece be my best effort and suck so much?! It gives me stress hives.

It’s a constant battle in my head of allowing myself to objectively understand that a shitty first draft is still good (if only because it exists) while hating how terrible it is. Sometimes I allow the hating how terrible it is to win, but that only results in me stopping my draft. This happens a lot. In these circumstances, I typically find a way forward by recording the things I hate for my future self to fix. Because the scariest thing to me is the notion that I might not remember my ideas to solve the problems I create.

Like in all things, I try to give myself a little grace and then hold my work to ridiculously high standards. You could say I’m a WIP too.