Guest Post: Author Aimee Brown

I’d like to welcome the fabulous Aimee Brown to my blog today. She’s just released her debut novel, Little Gray Dress. I asked her to share something interesting about her writing process. Here’s Aimee’s take on writing the Mean Girl.

Best wishes,

Kelee

Learning How to Write the Mean Girl Everyone Hates

By Aimee Brown

I’ve never been a mean girl in life. In fact I avoid conflict like it’s the plague. I hate to think that I’ve hurt someone’s feelings for no reason at all (if they earned it, that’s a whole other post lol).

Knowing that I needed some kind of antagonist in the book is something that really worried me at first. I didn’t know how to write a mean girl and since I’m not exactly the meanest of people (bitchy & irritated doesn’t count) I had to learn how to create someone who was believable, and over the top, yet despised from start to finish. How mean did I want to make her? Did I want the subtle drama or did I want the villain?

I chose the villain. Surprisingly, she was really easy to create and write and despite her story being someone simplistic it ended up being weaved a bit tighter than I had anticipated.

The first thing I normally hear from readers of Little Gray Dress is just how much they hate Greta. Here are some actual quotes that have found their way to my inbox-

“I wanted to throat punch Greta.”

“I seriously wanted to poke Greta in the eye with a stick.”
“Chapter Six made me want to strangle that Greta. She’s evil.”

That is music to my ears. I’ll admit, I have a bit of a soft spot for poor Greta. I think deep down she might be a bit insecure but sometimes in life we make the choices that brand us for life in a way we didn’t want and she unfortunately did exactly that.

When I first wrote Little Gray Dress I actually tried to redeem Greta in the end. I thought maybe she’d come off a little more of a mean girl than I’d wanted. I sent the book off to beta readers and immediately they suggested I let Greta go down in flames. They didn’t want any kind of redemption they loved her just the way she was.

WOW! Who knew mean girls could be so popularily hated? Greta stayed a mean girl and through-out my editing process she got even meaner, her secrets got more complicated and I truly feel as though Greta is now the definition of a manipulative shrew. Seriously, she is just awful.

Where did Greta come from in my clearly corrupt little head? I have no idea. I think a HUGE inspiration for Greta was picturing Judy Greer as the romantic comedy BFF turned arch enemy in 13 Going on 30. She can play a mean girl like none other. Anytime I see her as a mean girl in a movie I get excited because she makes the PERFECT evil BFF. Not that Greta is anything even close to being Emi’s BFF but they have a history that may or may not make you side with Emi even more than you already did.

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I truly hope you hate Greta and that you love the mean girl I’ve created. I was a little hesitant I could pull it off at first but… once I got started there was no turning back. Greta, as evil as she is, her entire storyline propels the story forward. I am really proud of her and have a high bar to keep up with for my next mean girl.

 
Title: Little Gray Dress
Author: Aimee Brown
Release Date: August 2nd, 2017
Publisher: Crooked Cat Books
Genre: Romantic Comedy/Chick Lit
GoodReads: add Little Gray Dress to your to be read list

Book Blurb:

Emi Harrison has avoided her ex-fiance, Jack Cabot, for nearly two years. Her twin brother Evan’s wedding is about to end that streak.

From bad bridesmaid’s dresses, a hyperactive sister-in-law, a mean girl with even meaner secrets, and too much to drink, nothing seems to go right for Emi, except when she’s wearing her little gray dress.

When she speed-walks into Liam Jaxon’s bar, things get more complicated. He’s gorgeous, southern, and has no past with Emi. He may be exactly what she needs to prove for the last time that she doesn’t need or want Jack!

Her favorite little gray dress has made an appearance at nearly every major event in Emi’s adult life. Will it make another when she least expects it?

AmazonUS: eBook – $2.99 | print – $9.99
AmazonUK: eBook – £1.99| print – £6.99
Barnes & Noble: print – $9.99

I have the cutest Giveaway for the tour – pictured here <– & opened worldwide.
Included is a ‘create’ coffee cup, some dark & handsome K-cup pods, a cute Life is Short, Eat Cake wall art, some tiny macaroons, a Little Gray Dress bookmark & postcard!
Enter here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Aimee Brown – author bio:

Aimee Brown is a writer and an avid reader. Little Gray Dress is her first published novel. My second novel is in the works now. She’s currently studying for her Bachelor’s degree in English Writing. She spends much of her time writing, doing homework, raising three teenagers, binge watching shows on Netflix and obsessively cleaning and redecorating her house. She’s fluent in sarcasm and has been known to utter profanities like she’s competing for a medal.

Aimee grew up in Oregon but is now a transplant living in cold Montana with her husband of twenty years, three teenage children, and far too many pets.

She would love to hear your thoughts on Little Gray Dress! If you’d like to chat with her she’s very active on social media. You can find her at any of the networks below. Stop by and say hello!

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | Website/Blog | GoodReads | Amazon Page | Newsletter

Weds – August 2nd

Blog on the Run – Book Review/Author Guest Post after 2nd
Books and Photographs – Book Review
Judging More Than Just the Cover – Book Review/Author Interview
Nicole Evelina – Book Review/Guest Post
The Novel Girl Reads – Book Review/Excerpt/Author Q&A

Thurs – August 3rd
Chick Lit Central – Author Interview
NovelGossip – Book Review
Hey Said Renee – Author Guest Post
Romantic Reads and Such – Book Excerpt
Steamy Book Mama – Book Review

Fri – August 4th

BrizzleLass Books – Book Review
O.D. Book Reviews – Book Excerpt
He Said Books or Me – Author Guest Post
Corinne Desjardins – Book Spotlight
Where Dragons Recide – Book Review/Author Q&A

Sat – August 5th

JenaBooks – Book Review
Sylv.net – Spotlight Post
Got Books, Babe? – Author Guest Post
The Writing Garnet – Book Review

Sun – August 6th

I Read Novels – Book Review
It’s my Life – Book Excerpt
RaeReads – Book Review
Kelee Morris – Author Guest Post
GrassMonster – Book Review

Mon – August 7th

Living Life with Joy – Book Review/Giveaway/Author Q&A
The Belgian Reviewer – Author Guest Post
Book Lover in Florida – Book Excerpt
Haddie’s Heaven – Spotlight Post
Books in my Opinion – Book Review
Literature Goals – Book Review/Excerpt/Author Q&A

Tue – August 8th

Reading to Unwind – Book Review
Kristin’s Novel Café – Book Excerpt & Giveaway/Book Review
Key of Dee – Author Guest Post
FrankyBrown – Book Excerpt
Smokin’ Hot Reads Book Blog – Book Reviews (3)

Weds – August 9th

Ink, Maps and Macarons – Giveaway/Author Q&A
Heartalefix – Book Review
Tea Party Princess – Author Guest Post/(possible) Review
One Book at a Time – Book Excerpt/Spotlight/Book Review

Thurs – August 10th

ItaPixie’s Book Corner – Book Review/Excerpt
Rosa Temple Writes – Author Guest Post
Life at 17 – Spotlight Post
Daily Waffle – Book Excerpt/Author Q&A

Fri – August 11th

Pretty Little Book Reviews – Book Review
Sparkly Word – Book Review
Books and Readers – Book Review/Excerpt/Giveaway/Guest Post
Ali the Dragon Slayer – Book Review
Katie Lady Reads – Book Review
Rambling Lisa’s Book Reviews – Book Review/Book Excerpt

Sat – August 12th

Life of a Simple Reader – Book Review/Excerpt
Karlita – Goodreads/Social Media – Book Review
KD Reads – Book Review/Giveaway/Guest Post
D.K. Hamilton – Book Review/Author Q&A
20CC Reviews – Book Review
TrashyBibloBlog – Book Review/Excerpt

Say Hello to Author K.J. Farnham

K.J. Farnham writes contemporary fiction for women and young adults. A former educator who grew up in the Milwaukee area, she now lives in Western Wisconsin with her husband and three children. When not keeping up with her kids, she can usually be found reading or writing. Beach outings, coffee, acoustic music, and road trips are among her favorite things. She currently has several projects in the works!

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

If you haven’t checked out book 1 in K.J.’s series Click. Date. Repeat. you should!

Book Blurb

These days, finding love online is as commonplace as ordering that coveted sweater. But back in 2003, the whole concept of internet dating was still quite new, with a stigma attached to it that meant those who were willing to test the waters faced a fair amount of skepticism from friends and family.

Such is the case for Chloe Thompson, a restless 20-something tired of the typical dating scene and curious about what she might find inside her parents’ computer. With two serious but failed relationships behind her, Chloe isn’t even entirely sure what she’s looking for. She just knows that whatever it is, she wants to find it.

Chloe’s foray into online dating involves a head-first dive into a world of matches, ice breakers and the occasional offer of dick pics, all while Chloe strives to shake herself of the ex who just refuses to disappear. Will she simultaneously find herself and “the one” online, or will the ever-growing pile of humorous and downright disastrous dates only prove her friends and family right? There’s only one way to find out…

Click. Date. Repeat.

Buy the Book:

AmazonUS | AmazonUK | AmazonAU | AmazonCA

 

A Quiet Blog Means Hard Work is Afoot

I haven’t shared much recently because I’ve been so busy with my writing (as well as the rest of my life). While waiting to get comments back from my beta readers on Goddess, Book 2, I’ve been hard at work outlining a new novel. Don’t you love that feeling of possibility when you’re starting a new work? I know I’ll eventually run into roadblocks and frustrations. But right now, the world feels ripe with excitement and inspiration, like starting a new relationship.

I’ve been using Snowflake Pro to outline the new book. I’ll post a review of the software soon. Meanwhile, back to work!

Happy writing and reading!

Kelee

The Importance of Raising the Stakes in Your Story

I’ve been reading a lot of independently published romance lately. I’ve noticed a common problem – not much happens in too many of these novels. That’s not to say nothing happens. Girl meets hot guy, they get together, something keeps them apart, but they end up living happily ever after. The problem is, there’s seldom much at stake for the hero or heroine. If she doesn’t land the guy she may cry a little, but she’ll be fine. Instead of these books keeping me on the edge of my seat, they make me nod off.

Stakes are all about your main character having a goal, and what she has to lose if she doesn’t achieve it. In romance, that goal always includes a guy. (Or sometimes another girl.) If the main character doesn’t have a goal, whether it’s getting laid, getting married, or saving the family farm, the reader has little reason to stick around and see what happens. And if there’s nothing standing in the heroes way, then scenes become about as exciting as figuring out what to make for dinner.

Stakes are relative. Your heroine doesn’t have to save the world from an incoming asteroid to make for dramatic reading. Marty, the classic 1955 film (based on the 1953 teleplay) is a perfect example of this. Marty meets Clara one night at a dance. He likes her. She gives him her number. But when his mother and friends object to her, he decides not to call her.

marty-1955-movie-review-marty-clara-dance-ernest-borgnine-betsy-blair-best-picture-actor

Imagine if Marty was your typical romance hero. He’s good looking, with smoldering eyes, a confident swagger, and an interesting job. If he doesn’t call Clara, it’s no big deal. We know it won’t take long for him to find another girl.

But Marty is the complete opposite. He’s a butcher, not very attractive, and at 34, likely to be a bachelor for the rest of his life. The stakes for Marty are very high. We want to jump out of our seats and thrust the phone in his hand. We want to tell him he’s found a kind, sweet, wonderful girl, and he better not louse things up. It’s a simple story, but it’s great drama. That’s why it won four Academy Awards.

Try this. When you’re rewriting your novel, look at what your hero has at stake. Then sit down and write 25 alternative possibilities for what she might risk if she doesn’t achieve her goal. You might find a gem in there that will elevate your novel from so-so to something readers can’t put down. Don’t be afraid to go all-in. You won’t regret it.

Happy writing,

Kelee

Thankfulness

Count your blessings. Look on the bright side. See the glass as half full. Just be happy. It’s easy to offer platitudes to our fellow travelers, whether they’re going through serious difficulties or just the normal ups and downs of life. I have to admit, I often get annoyed by these overly optimistic people. We can see the world as bright and sunny, but that doesn’t make the rain stop falling.

But I still believe that offering up thanks is a good way to live. If we focus too much on the negative, it’s like staring at the object on the side of the road we want to avoid. It just makes us steer towards it.

So, with our American Thanksgiving just two days away, I offer up thanks, to my family, my friends, my readers, my fellow writers and bloggers, and to the creative goddesses that push me forward, even when I’ve lost my creative energy.

To all of you, Happy Thanksgiving!

thanksgiving-turkey-clip-art-clipart Kelee

When Life Gives You a Dystopian Novel

It seems I’m going to write about politics for the second time on this blog. I never imagined my country would embrace demagoguery and hate. I haven’t been able to sleep the last couple of nights. Last night I got up and watched The Devil and Miss Jones, a delightful Jean Arthur comedy. I couldn’t help noticing that it was made in 1941, when darkness had descended on Europe and Asia. Then, America was the last best hope of freedom-loving people. Now where does that hope lie?

 

I’ve always been a fan of dystopian fiction. Little did I imagine I’d be living it. I was thinking about three of my favorite dystopian novels, Fahrenheit 451, The Handmaid’s Tale, and The Hunger Games. They all feature young women who appear powerless against the dark forces in their societies. The heroines find the strength and resilience through their own courage and through their relationships with others. Entering these dark days, I plan to use them as role models. Hopefully, we’ll all emerge into the light as stronger and better people.

Kelee

Nasty Women Read Erotic Romance

I try to separate my writing life from my politics, but recently I’ve felt like our presidential election has taken too many unprecedented turns to ignore it.  When a video was released where Donald Trump boasted about forcibly kissing and grabbing the pussies of women he found attractive, many people of all political stripes condemned him, but there were also those who dismissed his words as “locker room talk.”

I shouldn’t have been surprised that some men-and women-leapt to Trump’s defense. For me, one of the most surprising and confusing counterattacks was that women shouldn’t be disturbed by Trump’s words because they bought so many copies of 50 Shades of Grey. This goes back to the idea that when women express their sexuality, through reading erotica, wearing a revealing top, or perhaps even admitting they enjoy sex, they’re inviting rape and deserve what they get.

Julia Nelson, the heroine of my erotic romance Goddess, enjoys having power in a sexual relationship. That’s what I generally like writing. But that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with portraying BDSM, or enjoying it in real life. It doesn’t mean you’re inviting strangers to tie you up and rape you, or even kiss you. If a woman wants to relinquish control in a relationship, that’s her choice. When a man demands control regardless of what a woman wants, that’s assault.

So, please, let’s continue to enjoy erotic romance, and let’s speak up for the rights of women everywhere to control their bodies however they choose.

Best wishes,

Kelee

Every Writer Needs an Editor

I haven’t seen the new movie Genius starring Colin Firth and Jude Law. I’m not sure I will see it; it’s received mostly poor reviews. But I love that it focuses on the important relationship between writer and editor.

Genius is about the world-renowned book editor Maxwell Perkins (who discovered F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway) and the larger-than-life literary giant Thomas Wolfe. Wolfe is in love with words. Lots of words. The book he’s submitted to Perkins – O Lost: A Story of the Buried Life – is nearly 100,000 words too long, at least in Perkins’s opinion. Wolfe feels a bit differently.

Perkins and Wolfe engage in a protracted battle to cut the manuscript to what Perkins considered a manageable size. Perkins was finally able to convince the author to cut 60,000 words. Some critics still see the published version, which was retitled Look Homeward, Angel, as too long and undisciplined at 544 pages. (The original O Lost was published in 2000 if you’re interested in comparing the two.) I haven’t read O Lost, but as a writer, I would object to some of Perkins’s cuts that were based on fear of offending people. (For example, according to the New York Times, “Another passage was cut because Perkins thought it would be interpreted as a criticism of sportsmanship, which in 1929 was equated with patriotism.) But many of the cuts were for sound reasons, to make the book better and, ultimately, more successful.

A good editor is invaluable to a writer. Even the most seasoned writer has a difficult time seeing the flaws in her own work. We’re too close to it, too in love with our characters and words. Or, just as likely, we know our manuscript is far from perfect, but we don’t know how to fix it, and it’s torture even to try.

Self-published writers are at a big disadvantage in the literary world. Most of us can’t afford to hire a good editor, let alone a great one. Instead, we cobble together friends, family, and strangers to read our work. I was very fortunate to find a good editor to help me with my first romance novel, Goddess. I advise all writers to take their time and diligently search for the right person who can turn a mediocre manuscript into a good or even great published work.

Happy writing,

Kelee

 

Silver Linings Playbook: One Screwed-Up Romance

Last weekend I was watching Silver Linings Playbook on DVD. (Yes, I am aware of streaming. I’m just old fashioned in some ways.) It struck me what a great example this wonderful Oscar-winning movie is for romance writers. (Sad to say I haven’t yet read the novel it’s based on, which is probably even a better example.)

The problem with most Hollywood romantic comedies is that they give us characters with one issue they need to overcome before they get together. Perhaps the woman is afraid of commitment (Runaway Bride), or the hero is keeping secrets from the girl (You’ve Got Mail), or is pretending to be someone she’s not (Maid in Manhattan). These situations make for a light, entertaining ride, like a big bucket of popcorn soaked in fake butter. But you would never meet these characters in the real world.

Playbook is refreshingly different. Pat and Tiffany have ISSUES. They’re both crazy in a literal and figurative sense. Pat imagines that he can will himself out of his bi-polar illness and win back his wife. Tiffany was fired for sleeping with everyone in her office as she coped with her depression. Yes, the way they act sometimes seems over-the-top. But if you know someone with bi-polar illness or depression, you can see a great deal of reality in the way they interact.

These two people are f***ked up. Winning a dance contest and falling in love isn’t going to make their problems go away. They’re always going to have issues. Even if they get together in the end, you know they’re probably not going to live happily ever after. I wonder if they’ll last three months.

One of my favorite scenes in Playbook nicely illustrates how this movie veers from traditional romantic comedy. It’s a montage where Pat and Tiffany practice for the dance contest. It’s not a sensual or sexy scene (Except for the lingering stare Bradley Cooper gives Jennifer Lawrence’s naked back.), but we know these two messed up people are falling in love.

We see that Pat is changing, but he can’t admit his feelings. After staring at Tiffany, he runs home and throws himself on the bed. He’s so stunned and confused that he doesn’t notice he’s knocked to the floor all the novels he’s been reading to convince his wife to take him back.

But it’s the music over the scene that gives it an even deeper complexity you won’t find in other romantic comedies. Most directors would have chosen some pop confection that blatantly tells us what these characters are feeling. But director David O. Russell chooses a very different song — Bob Dylan’s 50-year- country/folk song, Girl From the North Country.

The song has nothing to do with the music they’re dancing to, or their situation, but it says so much about who they are. It’s far from a traditional love song. The song’s narrator is asking someone to check on the woman he loves, to make sure “she’s wearing a coat so warm, to keep her from the howling wind.” It’s likely he’ll never see his love again. It’s a plaintive cry of longing and loss.

I wish more romances (at least in the film and literary world) were like this. I like boy and girl to get together in the end, but I also want to know that life is deep, complex, and more than happily-ever-afters.

Best Wishes,

Kelee

Hot For Teacher… Or Student

“Elena could be the best student in the department but she gets distracted easily.”

“You mean by Dr. Stewart?” I immediately regretted bringing him up. The last thing I wanted to know about was a sordid departmental affair.

Nina smiled. “She’s not too subtle about it, is she?”

“Does she stand a chance?”

Nina looked at me a moment, as if considering how much to share. “I don’t know.”

The man made me want to throw up. “It doesn’t seem very ethical, getting involved with one of your students.”

“Dr. Stewart never has a relationship with a student he advises.”

“But anyone else is fair game?”

“I think you’re judging him too harshly. He never makes promises or shows favoritism.”

I was surprised by Nina’s naiveté. “Does he pass out his ground rules with the syllabus?” I said. “’Here’s what you can expect when you sleep with me.’”

She offered me an odd little smile, as if I was the naïve one. “He’s always very honest about his feelings, though I’m sure some women still fall in love with him.”

–excerpt from Goddess

When I first created the character of Dr. Ashland Stewart, I knew I wanted him to have a history of dating much younger students. It would make Julia Nelson, a 40-something mother of three, even more incredulous of the evidence that his lust was now directed towards her. But I was concerned that some readers might be turned off by the hunky archeologist’s professional ethics.

None of my beta readers seemed bothered by Dr. Stewart’s past, but a real-life professor–Laura Kipnis from Northwestern University–received a very different reaction when she defended professor/student romances in an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Two students filed a Title IX complaint against her, claiming that her article created a “chilling atmosphere” on reporting sexual assaults.

I’ve certainly had my share of crushes on teachers. A few of them may have had an interest in me, though I was too shy to consider that possibility. Would I have been worse off if I had slept with them? Sometimes yes, when I wasn’t ready to hold my own in a relationship with someone older. But at other times, I could see where taking a relationship from the classroom to the bedroom could have been an opportunity for a lot of fun as well as a great deal of personal growth.

My point is, while some sexual relationships (i.e children and adults) are clearly wrong and imbalanced, it’s unfair to make sweeping indictments when a student and teacher who are both adults want to continue their education between the sheets.

Best Wishes,

Kelee