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June 03, 2008

Need Inspiration? Meet Claire Cook

Note From The Tarts:

Mega bestselling author Claire Cook is a spunky wundergal who is proof that positive thinking and great writing Claire_2 can fulfill your dream at any age. A "late starter," Claire hit it big with MUST LOVE DOGS, a story about a woman who places a personal ad only to find the opposite of what she expected. Her books are delights, peppered with real (but funny) middle aged women, great characters and sparkling dialogue. They're the kind of books to read with friends and share at a beach house. Her newest, SUMMER BLOWOUT, follows that line and comes out...TODAY!

We are so fortunate to have her here to launch our summer. Please give a warm welcome to CLAIRE COOK!

What's YOUR Buried Dream?

By Claire Cook

A huge thanks to Sarah and the rest of the Book Tarts for letting me celebrate today's release of SUMMER BLOWOUT, my latest novel, by guest blogging here at The Lipstick Chronicles. Surely there is Summer_blow_2 no more appropriate place in all the world for me to be on publication day, since Summer Blowout is a story of a woman with a serious lipstick addiction.

Bella Shaughnessy is addicted to lipstick with names like My Chihuahua Bites and Kiss My Lips, an occupational hazard, since she's from a large faux-Italian family of Boston Irish hair salon owners. It's a close family, so close, in fact, that Bella's half sister has moved in on her husband.

The family also does hair and makeup for local television shows. When my second Mld_2novel, Must Love Dogs, was made into a movie starring Diane Lane and John Cusack, I found myself doing lots of television interviews for the first time. I made friends with some of the hair and makeup artists, because we were both traveling from show to show and I'm the kind of person who always ends up hanging out with the caterers at a party. One day I thought, What if they were a family? (The stylists, not the caterers.) A couple of books later, it just started coming together into a novel. I don't question these things - I just start writing.

Every novel gives its writer the opportunity to discover a new world, and I have to admit hair and makeup are not my things, so this one was a challenge. I spent a lot of time shadowing some very generous stylists while they were working, asking tons of questions like, If you were going to put highlights in a dog's fur, exactly how would you do it?

Anyway, I'll be hitting the road, both the paved and virtual varieties, for book tour today, and the best part for me is getting to share my own story with lots of women.Chicken

It's so great to be able to tell them, and you, that this is the career I almost didn't have. I wanted to be a writer from the time I was a little girl, but I totally chickened out. Decades passed, and one day I found myself in my forties, sitting outside my daughter's swim practice in my minivan at 5 AM. It just hit me: I might live my whole life without ever once going for it.

Steve Now, if I'd wanted to be a rock star, I probably would have been in serious trouble, especially since I can't sing, but the good news is, it's never too late to write your first book.

Long story short, I wrote my first novel in that minivan, and it was published when I was forty five. At fifty, my family and I walked the red carpet at the Hollywood premier of the Must Love Dogs movie. My kids turned eighteen and twenty one that year, and for about two weeks there, I'mLifes_a_beach  pretty sure they thought I was almost cool. And now, my fifth novel, Life's a Beach, is just out in paperback, Summer Blowout is making its way into the world today, and I'm just so glad I FINALLY DID IT!

I think we all have that place where our urge to create and our ability intersect. For some, the trick is finding it. For others, like me, it's all about having the courage to live the dream.

I love the idea that someone reading this right now might take a minute to think about dusting off her own dream. Come on, if I can do it, you can do it!

To that end, More Magazine and my wonderful publisher, Voice Books, have partnered to send me on the road to teach some free workshops, part of a series called, Getting Better All the Time: Women and Writers in Conversation. If you, or anyone you know, are in Massachusetts, Maine, New Jersey or Georgia, I hope you'll check out my book tour schedule at ClaireCook.com. And the rest of you can find me at voice.gather.com, where I'm teaching a free online workshop for aspiring writers - and anyone with a dream.

Thanks again, Tarts!


SleepingbeautyP.S....This is Sarah just checking in to say that THE SLEEPING BEAUTY PROPOSAL, a Romance Writers of America® (RWA) finalist for the 2008 RITA Awards® , comes out in paperback today. Please check out an excerpt here. Thanks...Uh, sorry to butt in, Claire.


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Congratulations on finding and following your dream! So many people have been talked into following some alternative "safe" course instead. Business friends tried to talk me out of teaching, "You don't want to do that." Well, yes I did. Author Patricia McKissack taught for several years before asserting her dream of writing. Now that I'm retired from teaching, I'm pursuing my storytelling opportunities (one CD recorded already), and I'll be checking into your on-line course. Any chance you can add St. Louis to your tour. (I'm also going back to bed now, to see if I can beat insomnia one more time . . .)

Welcome to TLC, Claire, and I expect I am not the only new fan you got today!

I'll be at Mystery Lovers tonight for my book group and plan to pick up both Life's a Beach and Summer Blowout.

In a reverse twist on your story, I wanted to be a hairdresser. My parents made me go to college instead of Vo-Tech, and I ended up a lawyer. But it's not too late - I could go back to school.

Thanks for a wonderful blog!

My God, the things we find out about each other here. Kathy, who knew?

I was an actress who secretly wanted to write mystery novels. I also wanted to be a spy, but I'm too old now for the CIA.

Welcome, Claire!

Welcome, Claire, and thank you for a delightful guest blog! You're books sound like perfect summer reading. I can't wait to pick one up.

Kathy, is that true you wanted to be a hairdresser? I never knew that about you. Wouldn't it be amazing if you went back and did it? That's one memoir you could sell for big bucks.

Claire, it's such a pleasure to have you here! Must Love Dogs was a terrific read, and I can't wait to grab the new book!

I think MORE magazine is one of the publications that's really book friendly, especially for women's fiction. Way to go!

There's something else about Claire's story. After being published by an independent press, she got a big agent and was poised to sign a mega 2-book deal when the independent press ojected. What ensued was a contract dispute that, as I recall from being on panel with Claire, required her to take out a second mortgage to pay legal fees.

It all worked out in the end, though. Claire got her big 2 book deal. Not quite sure what happened with the independent press. (Claire? If you're out there, maybe you could clarify.)

But if you've ever met Claire in person, you'd know that she does not let bad stuff get her down. She's chipper and happy and GRATEFUL!! All adds up to great Karma.

Great post, Claire. Your story is very inspirational. In fact, I am going to use it to convince Sarah to let me buy a motorcycle to fulfill my dream (so I dream little, give me a break).

Speaking of motorcycles, Harley, what on earth do you mean you're too old to be a spy?! You'd make a great spy -- creative, skilled at playing a role, drop dead gorgeous. You'd have J. Bond eating out of your hand. And Kathy could do your hair!

Of course, now you've blown your cover, telling the internet your secret, jeez.

You ladies never fail to inspire. Congratulations, both Claire and Sarah. It's heartening to know that you were in your late 40's when you first published a novel, Claire, and you are nudging me to get busy. I wrote my first book when I was almost 40, but it was a specialty nonfiction, as were the other four I wrote (all out of print, sigh). I have scads of notes for novel ideas, but nothing has really gelled in my mind. How do you throw out all the extra, nonessential stuff? That seems to be my problem.

I taught business classes, relating to the topics of my books, for fifteen years, and that was a point I made--that family members and "friends" might try to "steal your dreams". You're doing a vast service to your readers by urging them to overcome this issue. I think women, especially, get that sort of negativity a lot. (And I think it has a lot to do with what's going on right now with Mrs. Clinton). Rising above the naysayers is difficult, and the more of us holding each other up, the better.

People can't wait to tell you why you can't do something. It's so weird!

Charlie's so sexy, isn't he? Of course, that won't last with him a drooling vegetable when he crosses the center line on the BMW and crashes into an oncoming Ford F-150...Not that I'll take care of him.

I'm one of those people who has always dreamed of being a writer, and even got positive feedback for any small things I've written, but never thought I could do it. I used the excuse of having to work and take care of my family, and that I didn't just have stories in my head begging to be put down on paper, like I believed all writers did. And now that I'm in my 40s, I decided it was too late to try. So I feel like this blog was written for me.

Thanks, Claire - I needed that! Lately I've been telling myself to just get off my butt and try, and this blog will be more incentive. When I went back to school and got my degree several years ago, it was hard for people to understand that the degree was the goal for me, not necessarily a change in career. Now I have come to realize that I should look at writing the same way - I can't tell myself I'm not going to do it because I'll never get published, but that the goal should be to see if I can just do it to do it, and then go from there.

Love your story Claire. I look forward to delving into your books.

Sarah - FINALLY got to read THE CINDERELLA PACT, on Saturday. I literally read it in one setting. I could not put it down. It was wonderful. I've got my fingers crossed for THE SLEEPING BEAUTY PROPOSAL for the RITA. It sits proudly on my bookshelf.

Thank you, Claire. We can't tell each other (and hear from one another) often enough how important it is to follow a dream, regardless of how that dream may strike others. It doesn't matter how others picture us and the shape our lives should take; it's how we do that matters. I'm no writer, but I've managed 3 pretty good dreams so far: martial arts, horseback riding, and tattoos. I started the tatts at 30, martial arts at 37, horses at 43, and am now gearing up for powerlifting and self-defense instruction in my 50's.

Now, if I could just figure out a way to make it all pay for itself . . . :)

Ack! Not enough coffee, even this late in the day -- horses started at 47, three years ago :)

Hey, Kerry, I just started riding last year--at 55! It's the most fun thing I ever did for myself, too.

Did judo in college, way back in 1969. No plans for any tattoos, though. ;-)

Claire, thank you. And I really enjoyed MUST LOVE DOGS.

Can't you just see Kathy Sweeney in 'Grease' in the Stockard Channing role? There's great potential here; "Color, Style, Blow-Dry, Legal Consultation; Package Price."

Did everyone notice how Harley actually confirmed (thru denial) that she's in the intelligence business under deep cover? Claims she can't use hand tools, either.

Hi Claire -- Welcome!! I can't wait to buy Life's a Beach and Summer Blowout. I took a peak at the first chapter of Life's a Beach in the bookstore on Sunday, and I know it's definitely something I want to buy. I was hooked in the first few pages, and now I can't wait to read the whole thing. I'm buying both books this week so I can read them on my vacation this summer.

Thanks for sharing your story with us, and good luck on your sales and book tours!

This was so refreshing to read!
I'm 36, and have always wanted to be a writer. However, I found myself in various 'careers', the latest being a Mom and a Realtor. I call myself a "Working-Stay-At-Home-Mom"....
And I keep the dream to write in the back of my mind, for 'when I have the time'....
So anyway, it's good to hear that I'm not too old, though I feel that way sometimes!

Claire - Your story is thrilling. The image of thinking that you might die without ever having written, and then writing your first novel in a minivan, is amazing. Great inspiration. I'll be quoting you for awhile. And buying your book. Thanks for posting.

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