AMERICA’S NEXT REALITY STAR by Laura Heffernan

I’ve had the good fortune of getting an early read at the second book in this series and trust me, this is one you do not want to miss!

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In AMERICA’S NEXT REALITY STAR, Jen is cast on a reality show after she loses her job, her boyfriend, and her home. She hopes to win the cash prize but finds she also wants to win the heart of fellow contestant Justin. Fans of Sophie Kinsella’s Confessions of a Shopaholic won’t want to miss this charming, witty read published by Kensington’s Lyrical Shine.

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About America’s Next Reality Star:

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Title: America’s Next Reality Star
Author: Laura Heffernan
Publisher: Lyrical Shine – Kensington
Series: Reality Star #1
Release Date: March 7, 2017
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9781516101542

SEEKING THE SMART ONE

Twenty-four-year-old Jen Reid had her life in good shape: an okay job, a tiny-cute Seattle apartment, and a great boyfriend almost ready to get serious. In a flash it all came apart. Single, unemployed, and holding an eviction notice, who has time to remember trying out for a reality show? Then the call comes, and Jen sees her chance to start over—by spending her summer on national TV.

Luckily The Fishbowl is all about puzzles and games, the kind of thing Jen would love even if she wasn’t desperate. The cast checks all the boxes: cheerful, quirky Birdie speaks in hashtags; vicious Ariana knows just how to pout for the cameras; and corn-fed “J-dawg” plays the cartoon villain of the house. Then there’s Justin, the green-eyed law student who always seems a breath away from kissing her. Is their attraction real, or a trick to get him closer to the $250,000 grand prize? Romance or showmance, suddenly Jen has a lot more to lose than a summer . . .

Add to your TBR list: Goodreads

Available at: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | iTunes

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Excerpt:

He touched my chin with two fingers, bringing my gaze up to meet his. Damn those green eyes. I searched them for answers, wishing I knew whether he was putting on an act for the audience. Even with the lights off, the cameras stationed in the yard would capture us. The producers filmed everything, day and night. Everyone in America would know if we kissed. For a moment, I struggled to remember why that was bad.

“I guess it’s not your fault, since I got the question right,” I said begrudgingly, shifting slightly backward.

“If that is the best I can get, I’ll take it. But I’m going to work on complete forgiveness. I’ll pay you double interest on our bet—six cents.”

“Well, then,” I laughed. “Maybe I’ll have to reconsider once I get my money. I’d hate to have to send Birdie to break your kneecaps.”

The image of five-foot-tall Birdie coming after Justin with a baseball bat cracked him up. I laughed, too, crossing my legs and settling more comfortably in the lounger. My knee practically touched Justin’s leg. He didn’t move.

We sat quietly for a few minutes. I wondered if he heard my heart pounding. Even not wanting to get caught kissing on national television with a near-stranger, I found something about Justin irresistible. Possibly his smile. Or his dimples. His brains. The ease of talking to him. His personality. The fact that he was practically perfect for me in every way.

That line of thinking wasn’t helping. I needed to change the subject before I started calling him Mary Poppins.

“It’s a beautiful night.” I gestured at the sky.

“Yes, it is,” Justin said, his eyes never leaving my face. Did he lean forward slightly? Only inches separated our lips.

The warmth definitely wasn’t the beer. I licked my lips nervously and leaned in, closing the gap. If he moved the tiniest bit…

“So—”

Copyright © 2017 by Laura Heffernan

About Laura Heffernan:

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Laura Heffernan is living proof that watching too much TV can pay off. When not watching total strangers participate in arranged marriages, drag racing queens, or cooking competitions, Laura enjoys travel, baking, board games, helping with writing contests, and seeking new experiences. She lives in the Northeast with her amazing husband and two furry little beasts.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Amazon

 

 

Writing, Stress, and Self-Care

The end of 2016 was a very stressful period for a lot of people, and 2017 isn’t shaping up to be much better. This means that many of us are trying to get through our regular stressful days, squeeze in time for our writing, and deal with many new outside stressors. Many of us are struggling to find our words, to embrace our voices, to cultivate the creativity we thrive on for our passion.

I’m one of them. My 2016 ended with me very sick with a nasty virus for over two months, and I’m still struggling to get back to normal. During this time, I was working on my writing and trying to keep my words flowing. When I managed to arrive at a breaking point I pretty much crashed into a mindless haze. It has been one of the most challenging periods of my writing career thus far.

This is why self-care is so important. I tend to mostly read for pleasure, with very little TV watching. In my mindless haze I started binge watching shows on Netflix. At first, when I was really sick, I did so with very little enjoyment for myself. Then it grew into habit. In fact, a lot of non-productive behavior has grown into habit, and some of this is truly for the better.

Be kind to yourselves, writers. If the words take longer to appear on the page, let them take longer. If you need to turn off the internet and play a game or watch a movie, do it. We can’t create if we continue to maximize ourselves.

Prioritize your time. If you’re on a non-self-imposed deadline, do your best. If the deadline is yours? Let it slag if you need it to. But most importantly, know yourself. If you need that deadline to stay focused, then hold on. But keep your self-care in mind. Nights off, no matter who imposed the deadline, can be the best creative tool.

Above all, keep moving forward. Be proud of the words put on the page, even if they are only 100. Let yourself fall back into your words, or bleed them out.

Find your path. Find what works for you. Lean on your friends. The creative juices will come back, I promise you. They may need time, or pressure, or force. They may look and feel different than normal. But they are still there. They are still a part of you.

Be kind to yourself, I can’t stress that enough. And find a new normal that allows you to continue forward amidst the stress. I know you can do it. I believe in you.

My Diverse Reads of 2016

This year, more than any other, I made a point to acquire more diverse books, and diverse authors. I have a lot more waiting on my TBR list, but of all the books I read, over 30% were diverse. Not good enough, but a step in the right direction.

To give diverse reads a little boost, here’s a listing of all that I read in 2016. I have separated the list between books I believe to be written by own voices, and books I believe are not.

OwnVoice:
BURNING BRIGHT by Megan Hart, K.K. Hendin, Stacey Agdern, Jennifer Gracen
THROUGH THE LENS by K.M. Jackson
TREASURE by Rebekah Weatherspoon
GETTING SCHOOLED by Christina C Jones
LOVE ON MY MIND by Tracey Livesay
OUT ON GOOD BEHAVIOR by Dahlia Adler
ROMANCING THE FASHIONISTA by K.M. Jackson
SUNSET PARK by Satino Hassell
ALONG CAME LOVE by Tracey Livesay
TATTOO ATLAS by Tim Floreen

Non OwnVoice:
MORE THAN COMICS by Elizabeth Briggs
THE YEAR WE FELL DOWN by Sarina Bowen
RIGHT OF FIRST REFUSAL by Dahlia Adler
RACING TO YOU by Robin Lovett
MORE THAN FASHION by Elizabeth Briggs
FALLING FROM THE SKY by Sarina Bowen

Some authors pop up more than once, because if I really love an author, I want to read more! All of these books I enjoyed. All of these authors I will check out again. With one exception (TATTOO ATLAS) all the books are also romances, ranging from New Adult to Adult.

So check them out, and see how many diverse books/authors you can read in 2017. My goal? At least half.

I Met My Goodreads Challenge!—And Why I Won’t Do One Again

Last year, Goodreads gave me a year’s end review, showing me I read somewhere around 35 books. And I thought, “Man, that number is way too small!” So I signed up for the Goodreads challenge for 2016. I went back and forth on how many books to make my goal, deciding to push myself to 45 books.

At first, things were fine. I’d read about a book every week or two and stayed right around my goal. Then, life happened.

2016 was the first year I was on contract. So I not only had edits and other book related duties to handle, but I also had another book to write and edit and prep. This was all new, uncharted territory for me, and it did cut into my reading time.

More than that, I also helped up with several contests during the year. That meant periods where my reading was purely unpublished works that took up a great deal of time. Wonderful, but contradicted with my Goodreads challenge.

I’m also an avid re-reader. I love to finish a book, and while still in that book hangover phase, read it again. About halfway through the year I stopped doing this, because my goal had turned to pressure.

That’s right, pressure. I felt this inane need to keep this goal. Every time I logged onto Goodreads, and my goal would stick out it’s tongue at me, I felt the stress of lagging behind. And that’s on top of a hell of a lot of other stress, both writerly and not, which is not a healthy thing.

Around PitchWars I realized I’d never make the goal. For one month I read nothing but subs, then for two months I read my mentee’s novel, plus was knee deep in my own work. There was simply no time for pleasure reading, and my “books behind” number climbed higher and higher.

Then, in the aftermath of all of this. I got sick. Very sick. In fact, I’m still sick and it’s been five weeks. My mentee was done, my own work was with readers, and I had the brain capacity of a snail—no offense to snails. I read a book, then another, than another, managing to read two entire books in one weekend. I not only caught up to my goal, but I surpassed it.

One less stressor in my life.

On the plus side, this goal did push me to read more, and that’s an awesome and amazing thing! But this goal doesn’t account for all the unpublished books I’ve read this year, between contests, CPs, and my internship. I haven’t kept track of just how many I’ve read, but it’s a lot more than 45.

I won’t do this challenge again. I’ve decided that the only goals I’m giving myself in regards to writing and reading will be coming from my agent or editor. Those are the ones to stress over. Not me trying to write a draft by x date. Not me trying to read x books. I need as little stress as possible, and rather than be a fun challenge, the Goodreads goal turned to stress, and that’s not something that’s good for me.

I’m glad I did it, though. I’m glad I pushed myself to read more, and read more widely, this year I’ve read more diverse books than ever before, and I plan to keep going. I’d like to keep track of all the unpublished books I’ve read, and maybe I’ll record them in 2017. And at the end of 2017, when Goodreads tells me how many books I’ve read, I’ll add my personal number, and see if I’m anywhere near 45.

Until then, I’m still not quite back to health, so I’ll be pulling another book from my TBR list to fall into.

Don’t Let History Repeat

As a Jewish person. As a disabled person. As a woman. I am scared. I grew up learning about my history—my past—the Holocaust. I thrived on the words: Never Again. I couldn’t fathom how someone like Hitler came into power, how so much hate could prevail.

I still can’t, and I’m watching it happen all over again. Parts of my family tree remain a question mark, and we can safely guess they died in concentration camps. Parts of my family, millions of my people, wiped out for nothing more than being part of our religion.

And now we are attacking different races. Religions. Sexuality. Genders. Disabilities. Now people are being told to go home, when the only ones who deserve to stay are the natives, and they are treated the worst out of all groups. Whites, you don’t own this land. You are immigrants, just like most of us. You have no right.

We are all humans. We all deserve peace and respect and love. Not hate. Hate has no place in this world, yet we fall back on it time and time again. When has hate ever done as much good as love can? How does hurting your neighbor benefit your soul?

It doesn’t, but somehow, others refuse to see someone different from them as deserving. And I can’t wrap my head around that level of hatred. I can’t condone it or support it. Those are the walls I want to tear down. The walls of hate. The walls that don’t accept.

Unlike people of color, I can hide behind my white skin, but not after declaring my religion. I can even hide my ears at times. And I don’t want to hide. Why should I hide when others can’t?

Please, see the hate. Recognize it’s real. Fight it. Don’t let WWIII happen. Don’t let people die for being different than white. Don’t. Let. It. Happen. Again.

I have a young son. I want to cry looking at him. I no longer know what world he will grow up in. If he will be safe. I see his smiles, his joy and happiness, and I worry. I see his friends, spanning different races, religions, etc. I see their smiles and I want them to remain. They are children, children who as of now understand love, not hate. I don’t want that to change.

And I realize I’m preaching to the choir here. Either you already agree with me, or I damn well am not going to change your mind. But if you don’t agree with me and are listening, if you are part of what created this, I urge you to open your eyes and your heart. See what is happening. See the fear. See the reality. Absorb it, understand it. And rise up. Do what YOU can to make a difference.

Our children—children of different races, religions, disabilities, sexualities, genders, etc—they all are looking to you. Their future is in your hands.

Pitch Wars Pep Talk

Some words to the lovely PitchWars Mentees of 2016:

You are all amazing, you know that? Every single one of you. In two months you’ve revamped an entire manuscript. You’ve listened to your mentor(s), you’ve learned, you’ve fine toned your craft, you’ve made friends.

You’ve won.

There is nothing quite like the thrill of an agent round. I find myself so excited to be able to continue participating from the other side, because it is a thrill. I liken the agent search to falling in love and getting married. Querying authors are searching for love, and when it comes through, it’s the best thing in the world.

And much like love, you are looking for one. Your agent might be out there, looking through the pitches as you read this. Or your agent might not be participating, waiting for your query to arrive in their slush. It’s about luck and timing and the two need to line up.

You have no control over this luck. The only thing you have control over is your craft and how you handle the ups and downs of this business. And if you don’t get any requests? That’s life in publishing. We all face rejection, every single one of us. It’s how we handle this rejection that separates us.

Last year I made it through in my first agent contest! I was thrilled, more so because it was a first chapter mentor contest. I had high hopes for the agent round, and knew there were a few agents participating I couldn’t wait to query.

I got no requests. None. Everyone else on my team got requests, most of the other authors on other teams got requests. I got none.

It sucked. But I took comfort in knowing I had been chosen, in knowing I had a shined up first chapter. I turned around and sent off my first ten queries on the project. And within that first ten included my agent.

But at the time, I didn’t know this. I didn’t know that I was on the right path. I entered more contests, made it to agent rounds, got requests! And still, they turned into rejections. Because I had already found my one. I needed time (and a revision) to know the match had been made.

And many times over this past year, I have looked back to that day where I got that email, had that call. Because it is one of those grand moments in an author’s career.

So take deep breaths, mentees. Some of you will get that call soon. Some of you will need more time for the stars to align. Enjoy the ride. Work on your craft. You are all on a different path. Cheer on your friends, take comfort in them as well. You are in the middle of your story, you just don’t know the ending yet.

And no matter what, keep moving forward.