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An Author’s Note

As I’m wrapping up final changes to AS LONG AS THERE IS CHOCOLATE, in preparation for review readers next week, I decided to add an author’s note about some of the little details. I wanted to share it here.

Author’s Note About This Story . . .

AS LONG AS THERE IS CHOCOLATE started with the title, as part of an assigned-title writing contest. Chapter 4, A Better Picture, in its earliest form, was a winning short story for adult fiction.

Kate and Gio ruled the creation of this book from the very first, “Hey lady!” I knew from the second my fingers typed those words that Gio was an Italian-American deli owner who admired a chocolatier named Kate, but their surroundings were a bit of a blur at that point. One would naturally think of New York, New Jersey, or Philly, wouldn’t they?

Because I have no personal knowledge of big, northeastern cities—only what I’ve seen in movies and TV—I set about finding a setting for the story that was more within my scope of experience. A defining school year of my youth waved its arms wildly to jog my memory.

After spending the first 11 years of my life in the Los Angeles area, I had been temporarily transported to an alien, rural Colorado environment to endure seventh grade. Until then, I’d never seen cattle guards or people who waved as you drove by.

I’d never seen a middle school with only eighty students or talked on a phone that had a party line. I hadn’t yet sat at an old-fashioned soda fountain in a drug store. And I’d never encountered such a high concentration of people with Italian surnames. I learned that many of the Italian-American families in the area were descendants of homesteaders. (The concept of homesteaders and their living descendants was an amazing concept for me at eleven. It felt like something out of Laura Ingalls Wilder!)

When thinking about where to put ALATIC, I wondered if Italian homesteaders in Colorado were really a thing, or just something unique to that one spot. As it turned out, apparently, they were.

A search led me to a document about the town, Salida, Colorado, called “The Salida-Lago Connection: Pioneers from Lago to Salida,” which can be found at http://salidaarchive.info . It is a history of a large immigration to the town from one village: Lago, Calabria, Italy. Today 7.5% of the town’s population are descended from that group, in a town with a makeup of 12.5% Italian surnames. The document has photos that show how similar the topography is between the two places. It must have felt like coming home for them.

Castle Springs is a purely fictitious town. However, there are parts and pieces of other Colorado towns I was compelled to include. The name is a compilation of Castle Rock, New Castle, and Glenwood Springs. Some of its details come from memories captured as an eleven-year-old and stored half a lifetime—therefore, not reliable. Some things about Castle Springs can be found in real life.

I’ve already mentioned the Salida-Lago connection. Salida, which I visited a few years ago for research, has a charming grassy park across from the library. My author’s brain turned it into a town square. It took Google Maps to prove my creative memory wrong. Regardless, Castle Springs has one. (That’s the beauty of world building.)

Somewhere between Salida and Aspen is a scenic overlook that has stone “teeth” as described in “The Devil’s Maw.”

An underground fire has been burning for over 120 years in New Castle, since a mine exploded there in the late 1800s.

Glenwood Springs has a beautiful, historic, hot springs-fed swimming pool, and caves with stalactites and stalagmites.

My mother once forced my older brother to take me with him, and we camped overnight outside of Silt, Colorado, on a neighboring farm, inside an intriguing stone formation like what I describe as “the fairy ring.”

Castle Rock has, well, a rock that looks like a castle, if you squint really hard.

A woman once described how, in the Victorian farmhouse in the distance, her young cousin had been the victim of a murder/suicide, the work of a scorned lover. My 11-year-old self knew there must be ghosts living there.

I’m not yet done with Castle Springs. Marco & Alyssa, Sylvia & Henri, Sophia (Nonna) & her Giovanni—and others—want their stories told. And, of course, there are still unanswered questions about Tony and his treasures.

Be sure to look for these and other upcoming stories at http://tanalovett.com

AS LONG AS THERE IS CHOCOLATE is available for pre-order on Amazon.

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Airbnb Art Gallery

My daughter and I are staying at a cute little Airbnb in Portland. The house is 110-years-old on a treelined street. This has been the best place, with very nice and accomodating hosts. If you’ve got to be away, having fun things and warm colors surrounding you can make you feel more at home. (Better than MY home.) Here are a few of my favorite things about Airbnb listing #692606 in Portland:

Dancing Ladies in flowery dresses

Handmade wood tables throughout

Iron Shutter

Flowers in the pumpkin kitchen

Cheerful little signs here and there. (This is smaller than an index card.)

Books and games for a warm welcome

The blue truck

The blue bird on a country road. (Not sure why the white shelving looks lavender here. This could be one of those blue dress gold dress things!)

A man and a dog with different perspectives about a bicycle

Kid stuff

Little red logging truck

The host has a woodshop in back, next to the maple tree.

That Picasso!

Pink fantasy in the kid/my room

We added the pumpkin to this little vignette

Kitchen art

Oregon duck in the bathroom

Bath privacy panel

 

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The Evolution of a Book Cover

Or everything you wanted to know and more . . .

I have a new book cover. If you follow me on Facebook, you’ve seen way more about this cover than you ever wanted to know, but I thought it might be fun to share how I got HERE from way back THERE. The need to change came, of course, when the publisher with whom I’d been under contract decided to eliminate several books from their publication schedule—including mine.

In a former life I was a graphic designer. I’ve gotten rusty over the past 11 years, and Adobe programmers stand still for no one, so I didn’t feel qualified to re-design my own cover. I talked to an illustrator and other designers, and hadn’t come to any conclusions about which way to go.

The final cover is shown above. I really liked the concept below, which the publisher’s designer came up with.  I was not comfortable, however, with the price they set for me to purchase it. I decided to give it a go myself. They informed me they owned the copyright for the design work. I decided to start from scratch and create something similar, but not too similar. (Okay, it turned out quite similar, but only after I had a revelation along the way. More on that later.)

 

After some false starts, with chocolaty wooden spoon designs, and a storefront that was absolutely a bakery rather than a chocolate shop, the in-house designer and I settled on the design above. This is what I’ve been promoting for the past 8 months. It fits the genre, but has few hints about the story. And I begged for a bit of bling, but was thrilled, for the most part with the bling-less outcome.

When the publisher said they’d be willing to sell me the cover, but had to get me to the right person, I made some tweaks, since I wanted the original title back, anyway.

Upon learning how many smackaroos the “copyrighted” cover would cost, I started from scratch. I purchased the black graphic (above) for the overall shape of the building.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I simplified the shape and added awnings. I liked that there were upstairs windows, because, in my story, there are some mysterious things happening in the attic. I needed to re-do all the windows, though, to make them work.

 

 

 

 

 

New windows and a dancing couple upstairs. A friend suggested “glitter” and I remembered about that bling I’d begged for. I added the gold foil letters.

 

 

 

 

I continued to play with colors and fonts as I added chandeliers. I decided the smooth foil letters translated better than “glittery” ones.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then, BINGO! I stumbled across this graphic, which is quite obviously where the the in-house designer began with the “copyrighted” design. I purchased the graphic and was now free to use whatever I wanted from it, including the facade shape at the top. See those adorable flags? They’d been covered up by the book’s title before. I had to use them, and they are my very favorite element!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This part is kind of funny. See all those cute little chocolates? I spent well over an hour putting all of those on the trays, even though no one will ever see them. They’ll be about the size of a pinhead. But if you look really closely, they’re in the right window of the shop. That’s the cool thing about vector art. You can infinitely resize it, without turning things into a blur.

 

 

 

 

Eventually, I got to the final product. The colors are warmer, the shop windows say “chocolaterie,” there are people dancing in the attic, with little flags fluttering above them in the breeze. I have the shiny gold letters I always wanted. This cover tells the story of my story in a way I didn’t know I could hope for. I’d thought I’d have to hire out everything but the writing, to be taken seriously as an indie-published author. Yet another example of how Impostor Syndrome can mess with our heads. I did the cover myself, and it turned out just fine.

Don’t forget! Join Tana’s Insiders Group to learn about upcoming books, events and giveaways. Sign up, and be entered to win the most delicious cookies you’ll ever eat!

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The Good, The Bad, & The Delicious

I’ve been waiting a month to make an announcement. I can let out my breath now. (Breathing is always a good thing.)

The Frustrating News (I won’t say “bad news,” because I am a true believer in “things happen for a reason.”)

I signed a publication contract at the first of the year. My book was to release in September 2017, then it was pushed back to January 2018. With the new publication schedule, I was to have begun working with my editor in August. As it turns out, the publisher was going through major staff and policy changes. They felt their schedule was overloaded by fiction titles, they were cutting back. My book was out.  After a month of wheel-squeaking, I just received my publishing rights back.

The Good News

Well, the best news is that I probably dodged a bullet. No one wants to work with chaos.

No. That’s not the best. The best is that I’m going to indie-publish this book, through my own company, SRE Ink. I’ve hired an experienced editor, I’m working toward keeping my cover, because I love it, and I’m taking my original title back—because it was always more clever than the one they came up with. It’s all good. AS LONG AS THERE IS CHOCOLATE will still release in January!

The Delicious News

I’d started a giveaway, and I had to postpone it because of the above conundrum. Now that I have the rights back in my hot little hands, it’s time again for the GREAT COOKIE GIVEAWAY!

Why cookies? Just look at these cute little shops, owned by Brown Butter Cookie Company, in Cayucos and Paso Robles, California. (Their brown butter sea salt cookies are to-freaking-die-for!)

The heroine in AS LONG AS THERE IS CHOCOLATE, Kate Hannity, restores a shop with this much history and charm, and opens a gourmet chocolaterie.

A little nepotism. My family of origin was very complex. There’s a story of a lovely lady, who was bringing up three very lovely girls–Traci, Kim, and Christa. From a legal standpoint, they became my step-sisters for a decade or so. From the standpoint of my heart, they will always be my little sisters. Traci & Christa are business partners, who together own Brown Butter Cookie Company and The Cass House. (From very complex families of origin, my brothers, sisters and I turned out okay.)

While I’d been deciding which chocolate company to partner with for the giveaway, it was Captain Awesome Man who asked, “Why not your sisters’ cookies?” (He is brilliant. I should marry him.)

To enter the drawing, become a Tana Lovett Insider, and be the first to learn about more giveaways–and my upcoming books & events. (Don’t worry. This just means you’ll receive my newsletter, and you can unsubscribe at any time.) Not a cookie person? You have no soul, but sign up as an insider, anyway. These cookies make terrific gifts!

 

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Shatter, by Nikki Trionfo, & a Giveaway!

I’m a sucker for great opening lines. Here’s how gifted debut author, Nikki Trionfo, opens Shatter:

The playfulness of the lines gives a glimpse into the innocence and vulnerability of main character, Salem Jefferson, yet belies the tragedy and darkness that soon follow. It was my love of playful first lines that let Nikki Trionfo have me at “hello” with this book.

And it’s no secret I love kissing books.

Shatter is a YA murder mystery, written in first-person, present-tense. To be honest, not something I’d normally pick off the shelf. I’m so glad I did. Within the mystery also lies a slow burn of young love that builds at the same level as Salem’s ability to trust and break down her own prejudices. SPOILER ALERT: There wouldn’t have been a clever line about first kisses, without a payoff later. If you like kissing books as much as I do, trust that amid all the sleuthing and intrigue is found your sweet reward.

The real story, though, is about Salem finding her own strength—the strength her sister, Carrie, always knew she had.

Definitely worth the read!

Shatter Blurb

“We never knew there could be people in the orchard. Dangerous people.”

When a mysterious explosion kills her sister, Salem becomes convinced the death was no accident—it was a conspiracy. But no one else at her high school believes her, and all she has so far are theories and clues. With Carrie’s killers still out there, Salem’s not sure who she can trust. If she can’t she prove she’s right before it’s too late, the conspiracy might take another life—hers.

Excerpt

The class is dead silent. Mr. White’s lips tighten. He swallows. There’s something dangerous about the new guy. The teacher leans over AddyDay’s desk and spins her packet so he can read the list of partnerships. “Fine. We’ll break up the threesome. You’ll pair with . . . Salem Jefferson.”

At the sound of my name, I turn to look at my new partner.

The guy near the door is tall. He has the kind of incredible good looks that invite stares, but that’s not the only reason he’s getting them now. The cursive lettering of a tattoo rises from the opening of the guy’s worn flannel shirt. Two gold chains hang from his brown neck. A guy accessorized in gang paraphernalia, not caked with it. His only completely visible marking is an upside down V inked onto his right cheekbone, black and distinct. The tattoo calls my attention for some reason, even though I’m sure I’ve never seen a symbol like that before. An upside down V . . . it seems so familiar.

His expressionless, dark eyes dart to meet my gaze from under a stiff, backward-facing ball cap. My classmates watch him stare at me.

“Salem Jefferson,” he says slowly, putting a slight emphasis on my last name. He waits for my response.

I realize he knows exactly who Salem Jefferson is. Exactly who I am. I’m Carrie’s sister.

Terrified, I whirl back around to face forward. Gang members targeted Carrie, made her frightened. Was he one of them? The skin between my shoulder blades tightens. Why were gang guys after Carrie?

Pick up Shatter Here

Did I say “Giveaway?” Check out the Shatter drawing below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Live The Dream

That book contract thing I mentioned the other day. That really happened.

And, with you as my witness, it did not happen overnight.

My grown daughter, mother-of-many, congratulated me, adding, “Mom, I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t know you wanted to be a writer.”

And it hit me. That’s a lot of years to want to be something. I hadn’t realized I wanted it so much, for so long, that my children were aware of it. I know I hadn’t been doing what I should to make it happen.

It made me think about others who might face the same situation. If I had one thing to tell them, it would be this: Do not wait until you are the mother-of-a-mother-of-many to go after your dream.

But saying one thing is not my strength, so here is an entire list:

  1. Do not wait until [insert excuse here] to go after your dream. Don’t wait until you lose the weight, make a good living, raise the kids, finish college, go back to college, have your forever home, and on and on and on. Jump in where you are. I promise it will be worth it.
  2. Believe in yourself. When your teacher/parent/friend/sibling/co-worker told you that you were good at something, believe in that. Even if they didn’t, and your truest self knew it anyway, believe it. Believe it. They didn’t tell you that to be nice, and you didn’t know it, despite their oversight, because you were fooling yourself. You are good at it. And you will be better after a lot of hard work and trial and error. There is a spark of something—even if only a secret desire—that makes you different than the average bear. Embrace it. Believe it.
  3. You write, therefore, you are a writer. Think like one. Act like one. Be one. Don’t let the money factor stop you from thinking of yourself as a writer. Writers write. You are a writer. The other stuff will come if you just keep writing.
  4. Comparison is the thief of everything. I mean it. Stop comparing yourself to anyone. Just do your own time, in your own way. You may never write the stuff of Pulitzer prizes. That does not make your work unworthy. Your writing process might not be the same as someone else’s, but neither of you are wrong. There are better authors than you, and there are worse ones. Some of the worse ones make a good living at it. Just do you.
  5. Listen to those who have been where you are now, but also learn to trust your instincts. Yes! Learn from critique partners, contest judges, friends with more experience. But know that none of them understand your story and characters, and what you want out of them, more than you. Take in all the suggestions. Let them ruminate for a while. Make the changes if you want to, but don’t be afraid to change them again, when doing it your way feels better. Trust your gut. The first inspiration came to you, not to your mentors.
  6. Have the courage to be terrible. You know that talent thing? It’s way over-rated. The world is full of talented people who never sit down and write a darn book. Write yours. It will be terrible. ALL FIRST DRAFTS ARE TERRIBLE. (Look up Ernest Hemingway’s quote on first drafts. His career turned out okay, and every one of his first drafts, according to him, were steaming piles.) You can fix a bad page. You can’t fix a blank one. [—Jodi Picoult] Your terrible pages don’t have to stay that way. That’s what revisions are for, silly.
  7. It’s all about perseverance. If this writing thing is what you want, keep working at it. And when it’s time, query and submit the heck out of that puppy. It’s a numbers game. Very subjective. All you need to do is get it in front of the right person’s eyes once. It might take 100 wrong people first. And that’s okay. Or publish it yourself. It’s a marvelous time to be a writer.

This is just the first book. It’s not even published yet. I’ve got such a long way to go. But I’ve crossed a hurdle that kept me from legitimacy in my own mind for more years than I’d like to admit. And it feels amazing. If I can finally cross that hurdle, you can too.