Tuesday, February 4, 2014

On Tour: Hard Hats and Doormats by Laura Chapman, Voices, an Excerpt, the Trailer AND a Giveaway!

Okay, so there is a ton of information in this post and you are going to want to check it all out! Hard Hats and Doormats by Laura Chapman was a fabulous read and you can read my thoughts about the book below. You will want to check out Laura's response to my 'Voices' question and take a peek at the awesome trailer. I also have included an excerpt of the story. It's chapter one and if that and the trailer don't make you want to read the rest, then what's wrong with you? *wink*

Be sure you head all the way to the bottom of the post for the amazing tour giveaway from Chick Lit Plus featuring Lexi's Favorite Things.

Hard Hats and Doormats by Laura Chapman
Paperback and e-book
Published December 11th 2013 by Marching Ink LLC

Lexi Burke has always been a stickler for following rules and procedures. As a human resources manager for a leading Gulf Coast chemical company, it’s her job to make sure everyone else falls in line, too.

But after losing out on a big promotion–-because her boss sees her as too much of a yes-woman - Lexi adopts a new policy of following her heart instead of the fine print. And her heart knows what it wants: Jason Beaumont, a workplace crush who is off limits based on her previous protocol.

While navigating a new romance and interoffice politics, Lexi must find the confidence to stand on her own or face a lifetime of following someone else’s orders.

Who says nice girls have to finish last?

My thoughts about Hard Hats and Doormats ~~

I immediately liked Lexi. She's a hard working, honest woman trying to make it in the corporate world. She's a 'good' girl.
Maybe she should find a support group for professional pushovers, like herself. They could crowd into a church basement and drink bad coffee while they outdid each other with war stories. "My name is Lexi, and I'm a doormat." "Hi Lexi."
But when she gets passed over for a promotion that she thought she had in the bag, she decides she's tired of playing by the rules.

I loved watching (reading, actually) Lexi change and grow, in her job, and in her personal life. She decides she might as well go after what she wants, no holds barred!
She promised not to obsess over this, but tonight meant something. For one, Jason liked her. Maybe not as much as she liked him, but he liked her. Also, Lexi no longer cared about following the rules. Jason Beaumont, she decided, was worth going rogue.
You go, girl!!

I thoroughly enjoyed my first taste of Laura's writing. It is very well written and was a pleasure to read. I am looking forward to see what comes next from her.

And then there is the Nebraska connection that Laura and I share. I was born and raised in NE and bleed Cornhusker Red. If you are from there, you know exactly what I am talking about. GBR!!

Watch the Trailer!

Hi Laura, welcome to The Book Bag! I love to ask authors to respond to this question. I enjoy hearing about how an author's characters influence their writing.

I have heard other authors say that they 'hear voices in their head' and that is how they write their books: the characters are telling their stories. Not being a writer myself, that concept has always intrigued me.

When some people hear voices, we get them medical attention, others end up becoming writers. Does this happen to you? How do you come up with your stories?

Time for a truth-bomb. When I first overheard a couple of fellow writers discuss the problems they were having with characters speaking to them, I thought they were nuts.

“Did she really just say her character was being mean to her?” I whispered to my friend, who was also watching the conversation with wide eyes. She nodded and we quietly wondered if we’d stumbled into the wrong meeting.

Fast-forward a couple of years, and I sent that same friend the following text: “It happened. I've officially become an author who thinks her characters speak to her.”

Though it might have taken me a while to admit it, the truth is that as a writer your characters and story are always speaking to you. Maybe it’s not a literal conversation, but the voices are at work telling you what color to make the character’s sweater or just how badly he or she is going to act after a tequila-shot too many.

My voices speak loudest when I’m driving. It started five years ago when I spent an average of 40 hours a month driving between locations to visit customers. “Write a story about a young woman who has a strange job she never imagined she’d have when she graduated college,” a voice would say. “Make her boss a super jerk and her co-workers lazy bums.” “Give her a diva-like friend who thinks she knows what’s best for her.” “Give her a sexy co-worker who makes her want to violate company policy.” “Have a super romantic scene on a boat.”

Those voices became louder and louder until November 2010, when I decided I’d give National Novel Writing Month a shot. I spent Nov. 1 and 2 jotting down a quick chapter outline of the story I wanted to write. That’s when they really went into high power. They seemed to speak faster than I could scribble notes or type. Sometimes, I’d have to stop what I was doing to focus on the thoughts flying through my head. I left myself voicemails with dictated notes. I sent myself texts. I wrote on scrap paper and had an extra notes document on my computer open all the time.

This taught me a valuable lesson – always have a pen or device handy to make notes. You never know when inspiration will strike. Sometimes it’s in the middle of a conversation at dinner. Fortunately for me I have understanding friends who don’t mind when I have to take a moment or two to jot down a thought. The driving thoughts are the most difficult to handle, but they usually give me the ability to work through a part of the story I might be struggling with. By the time I get home or to my destination, I might have the whole thing worked out.

What surprised me most was that the voices didn't stop when I finish the first draft. Even after the second draft of Hard Hats and Doormats, a nagging voice in my head would remind me that one scene was too long, while another needed to be stronger.

For me, the most annoying part about these writing voices has been how off-topic they can get. For example, this November I was approaching the 50,000-word milestone for my third novel when I had to stop at 48,000 words and devote a whole day to jotting down character development notes, dialogue and scene ideas for another book. I physically couldn't make myself write any more of my current work-in-progress until I wrote down everything. It did the trick. I woke up the next day and was able to get back to my other story.

As much as these voices can be pesky – or in my case, make me feel like a crazy person – they’re what create the story and give it life.
About the author

Laura Chapman found a way to mix her love of romance and humor as a women’s fiction author and blogger. A 2008 graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Laura studied journalism, English and history. She traveled across the United States as a writer/photographer before settling into a career in communications. She also maintains Change the Word, a blog devoted to promoting women’s fiction and documenting her experiences as a writer.

Born and raised in Nebraska – in a city, not on a farm – she is a devoted fan of football, British period drama, writing in bars and her cats, Jane and Bingley.

Connect with Laura

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Alexis Burke @theLexiBurke

Can a person refer to employees as Jackass 1 & 2 in an official report? Asking for a friend. #HRProblems #ThisIsMyLife

The universe keeps telling jokes and I’m the punch line. #IHaveProof

Okay, seriously. When did this become my life? Can I get a mulligan? #ObscureGolfAnalogyForLife

In kindergarten Sunday school, Lexi Burke imagined Hell as a fire-ridden, hate-filled pit below Earth’s surface. On a mighty throne of blackened steel and skulls, Satan preyed on the souls of the damned for eternity.

Twenty years later, she discovered a new version of Hell. It was a windowless conference room on an oil platform off the coast of God-only-knew-where Texas in the middle of May. The devil took form in two men, both middle-aged and madder than a hornets nest. Despite the sweat building on her neck, she shivered.

When did babysitting old guys become my job?

How mad do hornets get, and what does their nest have to do with it?

Where did I come up with that analogy?

Solving those mysteries had to wait. Casting a glance at the figures gathered around the badly chipped table, she considered the situation at hand. The two men, their union reps, and a team of local managers were going yet another round in their verbal sparring without a semblance of resolution. The representatives wanted the men to go back to work. The managers wanted to give them pink slips.

As the HR manager assigned – albeit at last-minute – to the investigation, she wanted to keep everyone from killing each other. Not an easy task, considering the two men under investigation already gave murder their best shot.

According to the initial report, the incident happened over the weekend. The men engaged in a particularly heated discussion about college football. The man to her right apparently took offense to the one on her left using derogatory names to describe his beloved team.

She grimaced at the list of profanities. Three or four of them merited HR intervention on their own. Then again, others struck her as downright creative. Note to self: Use “dag nab ass backwards pile of swamp waste” in a sentence later today.

The fight escalated when Mr. Right expressed his displeasure by raking his broken glass across Lefty’s face. A few days later, the wounds swelled red and blotchy. Her stomach churned when she examined their faces closely.

His opponent fared no better. Lefty managed a couple of solid jabs with a shard from a shattered plate. His cheek and eyebrow were held together with the help of twenty-two stitches.

How did these men still have jobs? Surely trying to kill your co-worker violated the Employee Code of Conduct. But because they had no previous violence on their records, the company’s agreement with the union guaranteed them the right to an investigation – this investigation.

“I told ‘em to back off and leave my Tigers alone,” Idiot Number One shouted. “But he started waving around his God-damned glass. I had to grab hold of something to protect myself. A man’s got a right to defend himself and his pride.”

“What the hell are you talking about, son?” Moron Number Two chimed in. “You were the one bent outta shape in the first place. He’s pissed because my Hogs’ll beat the hell out of this pussy lover’s team next year.”

Hogs? Tigers? Did these men seriously put their jobs and lives on the line over the Arkansas and LSU football teams? Did Lexi have to take team allegiances into consideration when she hired new employees to avoid catastrophe? Were SEC fans this torn up about football year-round?

Will we have full-on riots come September?

She struggled to recall the last two football seasons, but nothing came to mind. In her early days at Gulf America, she’d spent most of her life adjusting to the heavy travel schedule of a field HR representative. Current events, sports, and anything unrelated to HR dealings never entered her mind. She instead concentrated on getting through each day, never mind remembering what happened in the rest of the world.

What kind of fights should she expect when the Big 12 schools in Texas started beating up on each other in the fall?

God help us all.

Pulling her shoulder-length brown hair off her neck, she longed for a breeze. Not the kind from men yelling at each other, but a real, honest-to-God breeze.

She sighed and stared back at her notes. Even if the investigation proved the men deserved firing, she wouldn't make the decision. Her worthless boss would be using whatever recommendations she gave him.

Dale seldom left his office during the work day. Unless he heard an ice cream truck. Then he raced out the door with a dollar in hand. Why bother leaving for something important–– like his job–– when he had minions like her to do his dirty work in the field? He reserved his energy to sweep in at the end when he took credit and – by all appearances – saved the day.

This time, he didn't even have the courtesy to make his decision before dawn. In her eagerness to please – the department had a promotion up for grabs – she overlooked the faux pas that sent her straight to hell. Sure the Assistant Regional Director job would be more work, but it came with a healthy salary increase and less travel. And at twenty-four, she’d be the youngest director at headquarters.

The shouts escalated.

Is a promotion worth this?

Another realization hit Lexi like a ton of bricks. Damn, another random metaphor. This dispute would have long-term implications impacting more than her chances of promoting within the company. The safety department would surely ban glass cups and plates from company premises before the end of the week. The idiots had proven breakables were a liability Gulf America would no longer risk.

Out of the corner of her eye, she caught sight of one man knocking his coffee mug to the floor. Damn. Another dish casualty. The shattered mug brought Lexi’s attention back to the present. One of the local managers sent her a silent plea. Clearing her throat, she filled her lungs with the heavy air weighing on her chest.

“Excuse me, gentlemen,” she began, in her sweetest drawl. A Midwesterner by nature and nurture, she spent the past two years cultivating her fake accent. It was useful in tense situations like this one. “I appreciate you sharing your perspectives. I’m sure both of your teams value loyal fans like you. But I need you both to take a few deep breaths and listen to what I say.”

She politely glared at the men. Their chests rose up and down in suppressed fury, but their mouths stayed shut.

“Violence is never the answer. It has no place in the sports arena or at work. Remember, you come from the same conference. Y’all should treat each other with the mutual respect your fine teams deserve.”

She paused for dramatic effect. She used a variation of the speech at least a dozen times in the past month alone. In her experience, a few well-timed beats of silence struck fear into the hearts of men better than a million words.

After giving her words room to settle uncomfortably, she continued. “Y’all need to treat each other respectfully. Not only because you’re co-workers and conference mates, but because you’re both good men with families who depend on you. Consider how you’d want someone to treat the people you love most. That’s how y’all should treat each other.”

The men had the good grace to bow their heads in shame. She mentally patted herself on the back for not flinching when she said “y’all.” Three times. When she moved to Texas after college, she swore she would never pick up the strange jargon.

It only took a month for the Southern slang to find its way into her vocabulary.

Sensing the men had finished their moaning, Lexi nodded at one of the managers to begin his end of the investigation. Leaning back in her chair, she scribbled on a copy of the report. She bored easily when her mind wasn't constantly engaged. Doodling helped her maintain some focus on a situation without actively paying attention. As an added bonus, writing on paper gave everyone else the illusion she was busy.

On this day, she found paying attention to the investigation exceptionally difficult. Her afternoon meeting back at Corporate Headquarters would determine her future with Gulf America.

She made a note to dust off the training video about respectful language. More than likely, the oil rig’s crew would moan about having to sit through thirty minutes of bad acting. They’d also likely ignore the message, but she had to try.

For the men, she added a few suggestions for her boss to consider. They at least needed anger management counseling. Offering them a buyout in exchange for early retirement would satisfy the union and the company.

With her work done, she turned over her notes to doodle a picture. She drew two donkeys. One held a glass, the other a plate. Leaning back in her chair she admired her work, both the drawing, and the much more relaxed atmosphere in the conference room.

Damn she was good.

Buy the Book!

Giveaway Time!!

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  1. GBR, indeed! Thank you for the kind review and featuring Hard Hats and me on your blog. :)

  2. What an interesting feature. Thanks. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com


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