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First, let me thank everyone for touching base to make sure that all was well at the Chronicles. I’m happy to say that it is. That, for the past six months, I’ve been taking a small break. I’ve been “unplugged” from everything: book, blog, twitter, FB and, yes, even email.

And. although I may have been invisible, I haven’t been idle. I’ve been working on a screenplay. Here’s a quick peak at the fruits of my labors.

It’s finished by the way — all 95 pages. And if you think writing a book is difficult, it’s nothing compared to writing a screenplay.

The key to a screenplay according to the experts is show, don’t tell. It’s counter-intuitiveImage to everything I’ve ever done as a journalist / writer / author. And now, after having met with my brilliant editor Melva McLean (who is herself a screenwriter), I am working hard on a rewrite. I am exactly where I was four years ago when I started writing Any Color but Beige —at the base of Everest, looking up. Of course if you think of it this way it’s a daunting task. So for now I’m just concentrating on the footpath in front of me. I have one simple goal – to finish the rewrite one scene at a time.

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Between love and lost

If you’ve been following the Chronicles for the last three weeks you’ll know that I’ve been posting a free chapter a week for four weeks as part of an ongoing promotional campaign for my book  Any Color but Beige.

Over the last year, readership and subscriptions have increased dramatically. And I hope that by giving my new readers a preview of the book I can entice them to buy it, read it, and recommend it to their friends.

The book is closely linked to my career as an international color marketing expert, so I structured the book according to my life’s personal color spectrum. The four colorful sections that make up the book are Primary Colors, Color Blind, True Colors, and Exotic Colors.

Exotic Colors is this week’s section, from which I selected the chapter called Chapter 24 It deals with heartbreak and healing. And it was from this painful experience that my book Any Color but Beige came to be. My editor likes to say the best stories break your heart. And she’s right.

photo: © istockphoto.com/VladLo

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If you’ve been following the Chronicles for the last two weeks you’ll know that I’ve been posting a free chapter a week for four weeks as part of an ongoing promotional campaign for my book Any Color but Beige.

Over the last year, readership and subscriptions have increased dramatically. And I hope that by giving my new readers a preview of the book I can entice them to buy it, read it, and recommend it to their friends.

The book is closely linked to my career as an international color marketing expert, so I structured the book according to my life’s personal color spectrum. The four colorful sections that make up the book are Primary Colors, Color Blind, True Colors, and Exotic Colors.

“True Colors,” this week’s free chapter, is all about rediscovering myself and adding color back into my life in ways I could never have imagined. This chapter gave me the ideas for book’s subtitle – Living Life in Color.

Finally, in the last installment you will read all about the Exotic Color that was the genesis of this book.

And so – from the True Colors section, here, for your reading pleasure is Sixty Five First Dates

Next Week: Love Italian Style

photo: © istockphoto.com/MichaelDeLeon

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This month I am celebrating the one year anniversary of my book launch for Any Color but Beige. It’s been an amazing year filled with

The Little Red Suitcase

lots of new experiences, including television interviews, coverage in major dailies, book signings, book club readings, but best of all was all the heartwarming feedback from readers who found a little bit of themselves in my book.

It was also a very busy year because I managed all of the sales, marketing and public relations activities myself. Maintaining awareness for the book and increasing sales was an ongoing full-time job. Between the book and my day job, I’ve been “Up in the Air.” more often George Clooney.

So I am going to kick off this year’s sales and marketing efforts through the Café Girl Chronicles. Over the last year, readership and subscriptions have increased dramatically. I hope that by giving my new readers a preview of the book I can entice them to buy it, read it and recommend it to their friends.

The book is closely linked to my career as an international color marketing expert. As such, I wrote the book according to my life’s personal color spectrum. The book itself is divided into four colorful sections: Primary Colors, Color Blind, True Colors and Exotic Colors. And so, for the next four consecutive Tuesdays, I will publish one chapter from each section. I hope to pique your curiosity enough to want to read more.

Today, I’ll start with a chapter from Primary Colors, a section that focuses on my colorful childhood growing up in an Italian/Irish family. This chapter reveals the secret of the little red suitcase depicted on the book’s cover.

The following Tuesday, Color Blind will feature a chapter on how easily we can lose sight of all of the color in our lives by playing it safe.

The True Colors chapter in week three is all about rediscovering myself and adding color back into my life in ways I could never have imagined. This gave me the book’s subtitle – Living Life in Color.

Finally, in the last installment you will read all about the Exotic Color that was the genesis of this book.

And so, let’s begin at the beginning: Chapter 1 – The Little Red Suitcase

Chapter 1

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I have always prided myself on the fact that, when in a relationship of any kind, I have never sacrificed a friend for a man. I have never cancelled a night out with the girls in favor of a last-minute date. I have never responded to text messages during dinner and interrupted the smooth flow of a conversation. Nor have I ever disappeared for weeks or months at a time to lavish all my time and attention on a man – I am not that kind of girl.

That kind of girl…

Or so I thought…

For several months now, instead of writing this blog, I spent those precious hours in a daily and dedicated correspondence to a long-distance (and distant) lover. A lover who, I might add, also has some literary aspirations. Aspiration is a good word, because I could literally feel his aspirations sucking the creativity and life out of my own writing and observations. As I channeled my time and creative energy over to him I had less to spend on myself. In addition, as his “editor,” I spent a great deal of time propping up his ego. This is essential in a vocation that is riddled with insecurity and angst. Just ask my editor.

So, in a sense, I abandoned both my readers and my muse for him. And having done so, I was afraid I had lost both. I was afraid that my readers, tired of waiting around for a new post, had gone off to read other writers’ blogs and that my muse had gone to whisper words into other writers’ ears.

But after a week of steadily blogging and receiving a warm “welcome back,” I have learned that this is not so. And, as I sit in my hotel room in Paris, I am reading all of your wonderful comments and feeling my muse pacing the floor, pausing every few minutes in search of a perfect word to place on the page.

After such a long absence I was also afraid I had lost my rhythm, my words, and that panicky pleasure I get when I write regularly. The same doubts plague the actor, musician, or athlete who, after a long absence, returns to the public stage and asks herself, Can I do it again? Will I be as good? What if I choke?

Writing is, like most things, a profession you have to practice – a lot – if you want to be good at it. The less I practiced, the farther away I got from writing this blog and the closer I came to shutting it down.

That was, until I had a conversation with my editor, Melva McLean, who reminded me that I was still writing every day, just a different kind of writing but writing none the less. It was to an audience of one – my lover. At the same time I was writing to him I was able to see  the tentative first steps it takes for someone else to tell a story.

I could see myself in him and how I too started with the easy stuff. It was the expository, the superficial, the description and the reportage of daily life. Not bad if you wanted to be a working journalist but dull as dirt if you want to tell a story.

I remember when I started writing Any Color but Beige how I rested on the surface of my experience and feelings. I was afraid to go any deeper to plumb the emotional depths that gave my story its joy and sadness – its life. The thought of sharing that part of me with strangers caused my heart to race. I suppose that’s why it took two years.

Over dinner one night Melva said something about great writing that haunts me. She said, “The best stories break your heart.” And she’s right.

My book was born out of heartbreak. The story broke my heart, and writing it as truthfully as possible, with all of the messy wonderful emotions that went with it, helped to heal that heart.

I tried to explain this concept to my lover. I gave him some examples of great writers who bared their souls and risked opening themselves up to ridicule and judgment in the name of great writing, who paid a price but created great works in the process. But he prefers to go through life skimming the surface.

He certainly skimmed the surface of my life. Our relationship had all of the depth of a puddle. The up side to this is that although he may have nicked my heart he certainly didn’t break it. So I must be getting better at this relationship thing. On the other hand ours was not the kind that breaks your heart. It was more like reportage. And I will leave him to write that, since he’s so good at it.

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Just add water

Lots of things arrive late: spring, the mail, airplanes, babies and, yes, even me on occasion.

And so here we are well past daffodil season and lilacs are in bloom. Welcome to May and welcome back to the Café Girl Chronicles. I rejoin you refreshed, re-energized and with a renewed approach to my writing.

I haven’t exactly been idle. During the past several weeks I have been working on an outline for a screenplay for Any Color but Beige – a little at a time. Piano (slowly) piano (slowly) as my Italian friends like to say. And I can do this because the only deadline I have to meet is my own.

It’s not a bad thing to let your brain lie fallow for a while. Treat it like a garden. Turn the soil every so often. Add new thoughts, philosophies and concepts as fertilizer. Prepare it well and harvest the ideas that come.

In my case, I’ve planted a few seeds that are already bursting through this fertile soil of my mind like unruly wildflowers in a meadow. To be a good writer you also have to be a constant gardener. Sometimes friends tend your garden for you by showering you with little drops of encouragement, just enough to get you started. And so it is with me.

Ever since I arrived in South Africa a week ago, my friend Julie has been watering the garden daily, checking for signs of life. This is the same Julie who precipitated the idea that I could write a book. (See Chapter 25 in the book). So it’s only fitting that I sit at her dining room table overlooking her verdantly wild and natural South African garden bathed in sunlight and start writing again.

photo: © istockphoto.com/manley099

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Spring is coming and I’ve decided to take a little break.    I’ll be back in April with the Daffodils.  photo: © istockphoto.com/marilyna

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In previous posts I have often drawn parallels between self-publishing and gambling or games of chance. Some gambles pay off better than others do. Take my most recent attempt at a Valentine’s Day public relations blitz. Strategically speaking, I thought my approach was fresh and the timing was perfect. But the media had other ideas when it came to Valentine’s Day features.

In fact, a quick Google search across the Internet seemed to yield surprisingly little that was new or fresh on the subject. Do we suffer from Valentine’s Day Fatigue I wonder? When did we exchange red for green and become so jaded in our attitude to love and romance.

Since I don’t use a clipping service, I conducted my own Google search on Any Color but Beige and found sparse “pick up” by the media. I think that this is an accurate reflection of media interest because no one called requesting further information or an interview. But I wasn’t ready to fold my cards that early.

I made several strategic follow-up phone calls to certain major media. This strategy produced some positive results: these editors requested copies of the book. Perseverance is the key. And that’s important to keep in mind when you’re out there pounding the pavement trying to generate interest.

What follows is list of the coverage Any Color but Beige received during Valentine’s Day week.

Newspapers (online)

The Focus Daily News in south suburban Dallas picked up the release in its entirety. So did The Milwaukee Community Journal and The Moscow Villager. Those three new communities now know about my book.

Radio

Here in Montreal, I was featured on 92.5 The Beat’s “The Brain Candy Podcast” with Shaun McMahon. It was my first time doing an interview at a radio station and it was fun and exciting, made even more so because of Shaun’s enthusiasm.

Book Signing

I was counting on a pre-Valentine’s Day upswing in sales. Chapters Bookstore had me positioned front and center next to a free coffee giveaway at Starbucks. It couldn’t have been more perfect except for the freezing weather that kept store traffic to a minimum. Given the conditions, I sold more than I thought.

What’s next?

I am going to play one last hand and contact the media once more to follow up on the books I sent out. And then I’m going to roll the dice on a cross-promotional sales strategy in March, one that links my book with colorful consumer products like paint, nail polish and hair care products.

Why do I do it you wonder? Spend all this time and money over and above my day job on a long shot of a book. On one hand I believe you make your own luck but on the other hand it’s perseverance that always pays off.

Meet the Author

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Don’t kid yourself. If you thought writing the book was difficult, wait until you have to package it, market it, promote it and sell it.

The writing process by comparison is easy: all you have to do is show up at your desk every day and commit to putting pen to paper. It’s a solitary process that requires patience and discipline, and the only person you can count on or who will let you down — is you.

This is not the case when it comes time to launch your work into the world. There are all sorts of gatekeepers to get by when you start generating awareness and driving sales of your book. And it’s your job to entice, convince, cajole and excite the various publics who can make or break your book sales. Oh yes, and you have to be persistent – one attempt, two attempts, three attempts are not enough. When you’ve exhausted all of the angles (and yourself) – that’s when you can stop.

So here’s how you get started …

First, there is your immediate reading public: your blog readers. They are your first and best resource for word of mouth referrals. I’ve had blog readers surprise me by ordering my book Any Color but Beige and requesting it from their local library. Most libraries will order a book on request. And what I’ve learned is that larger library systems will not only order one book but at least eight copies. This has been my experience with the Baltimore and Cuyahoga County, Ohio library systems. Canadian Libraries will pay royalties based on the number of times the book is borrowed. My thanks to Tamara, BethAnn and Adena respectively.

Second, and a bit more elusive, are the media. As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, your pitch has to be both compelling and timely. And sending out a press release is only one-half of the equation – you’re only as good as your follow-up. What you have to do is call each media person personally and ask if they’re interested in receiving a copy of the book or conducting an interview. The media has to do more with less these days so make yourself accessible. The easier you make their job the better your chance at getting coverage.

Third, approach your local bookstores and speak to the promotions managers. Be sure and give them plenty of time to schedule your event. Remember that you’re not the only local author. And if the store is not interested don’t take it personally. I’ve approached three stores in Montreal; one said no outright, that the book wasn’t right for their customers. The second said they only work with established authors. The third store, Chapters on St. Catherine, not only said yes but have been promoting the event in store. I’ve spoken to several staff members pre-event, and their excitement and their pleasure in meeting me was very gratifying. I made sure to pinch myself as I left the store.

Fourth, family and friends are also good resources for book promotions and sales. My mother, Little Lou, carries a copy of the book with her everywhere she goes, whether it’s to the hairdresser’s or bingo – she’s my best supporter. My father, thank god, has stopped short of taking his copy to wakes. But the racetrack is still fair game. If you’ve read the book you already know about my colorful childhood.

Friends have also been big supporters. They’ve organized “Girls’ Nights In,” combining friendship and commerce in an enjoyable and light-hearted environment.

Other friends have used Any Color but Beige as an opportunity to revive regular book club get-togethers that may have lapsed because other commitments have taken over. In fact, I will be the guest of honor at one such book club in Cleveland Heights at the end of the month. In keeping with the spirit of the book, the potluck will be French themed – but of course! I’d like to thank Kathy H,  Freya and the girls for this wonderful opportunity.

Finally, from all of this word of mouth I have somehow found myself as a quasi-expert in the world of self-publishing. I don’t have all of the answers but I’m happy to share what I know – what I’d do again and what I’d do differently the next time. As a result, I’ve been invited to speak to writers’ groups and conferences, and the reaction of the audiences has been rewarding.

In the end, after all of the hard work, effort – and even the occasional let down – I’ve reached an important conclusion that keeps me going: not all rewards are monetary.

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DATELINE MONTREAL —  Whether happily anticipating, secretly dreading, generally indifferent or completely opposed to Valentine’s Day, its annual celebration inevitably prompts personal reflections of love and happiness. That is why author Cat Larose suggests Valentine’s Day may be the perfect time to give yourself a little love.

In her memoir Any Color but Beige: Living Life in Color, Cat dives into the international dating pool searching for the new love of her life. But she quickly learns loving herself first is the key to developing meaningful romantic relationships. For Cat, being happy started when she committed to infusing her life with bold and beautiful colors – a loving gift she suggests all women give themselves this Valentine’s Day.

“Year after year, women approach Valentine’s Day with so many hopes and expectations from others. Instead, start the day with a deliberate show of self-affection. Give yourself a colorful gift to renew your confidence and confirm your values,” suggests Cat. “After all, you cannot truly love anyone else until you love yourself.”

Cat offers a few simple suggestions, “Send yourself a dozen red roses, indulge in a blushing bottle of pink champagne, find inspiration in a romance or love story like Any Color but Beige or perform a random act of love purely to see someone smile–it’s the colorful thing to do. Appreciate yourself first and you will find you can appreciate love more.”

It may seem simple, but Cat’s philosophy – living life in color – has guided her international search for Mr. Right. Living life in color has anchored her ability to love herself and be truly happy – whether she is in a relationship or not.

Catherine “Cat” Larose is an international color-marketing expert who travels the world selling color. She is the author of Any Color but Beige: Living Life in Color, voice behind the successful Café Girl Chronicles blog is and currently writing her second book.

Any Color but Beige: Living Life in Color is a bright, funny, genuine account of one woman’s search for love and happiness in the deep end of the dating pool.

Synopsis:  A successful career took Cat to some of the world’s most beautiful cities. But she still felt something was missing – ironically, it was color. While in Paris watching a sunset, Cat – in a moment of clarity – caught a glimpse of her sepia-toned future. She realized given the current circumstances, she could not make her marriage successful or her life happy. Undeterred by the daunting prospect of starting over in her mid-40s, Cat began transforming her life one color at a time. After years of living a beige existence, Cat embarked on an adventure to add little color to her own life.

Any Color but Beige is available in paperback (ISBN 978-1-77067-489-9), hardcover (ISBN 978-1-77067-488-2) and e-book (ISBN 978-1-77067-490-5) through Amazon and other  online bookstores as well as your local bookstore. Readers who purchase the book can order a free set of color palettes via Cat’s blog – The Café Girl Chronicles.  For a story preview, view the book trailer.

photo: © istockphoto.com/PeskeyMonkey

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This Valentine’s Day Fall in Love with Yourself

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