Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Valerie Bowman guest blog and giveaway!

Something Wicked welcomes the uber talented Valerie Bowman, author of Regency-set historicals that Publishers Weekly calls, "enchanting and engaging." We just call them fun and witty. She's giving away a copy of her new book, Secrets of a Wedding Night today on Something Wicked!

The Time I Almost Killed a Guy with my Luggage: A Lesson in Simplifying Things

I think we’d all agree that the characters are one of the most important parts of a story. Some would argue they’re the most important in fact. Picking out personality traits and building a character from the ground up is a large part of any good storyteller’s job.

When I began writing my debut historical romance novel, Secrets of a Wedding Night, character was extremely important to me. One thing I decided early on was that I wanted my heroine, Lily Andrews, to be “down-to-earth.”

Someone recently asked me what type of character Lily is. I said, “You know, she’s the type of woman who wouldn’t kill a guy with her luggage.”


Hmm. I realized that particular statement needed a bit o’ explanation.

When I was seventeen years old, I went away to Brown University for the summer for a three-week-long creative writing course. It was my first extended trip away from home and to a seventeen-year-old (at least the kind of seventeen-year-old I was) three weeks seemed like a lifetime. I was convinced I needed to bring with me the entire contents of my bedroom. I’d make friends, after all, and of course they’d want to see my photo albums, wouldn’t they? Plus, I couldn’t go three whole weeks without my favorite blanket. And it went without saying that I’d need a change of clothing for every five minutes.

My mom—who isn’t exactly a light packer herself—promptly went out and bought me the biggest suitcase in the world. Yes, my middle name is hyperbole, BUT this thing was B-I-G! Let’s just say I could fit in it myself barely curling up (full disclosure: I’m 5’2” but STILL!) It was an old-fashioned black nylon rectangle sort of thing with a tiny handle and it came with a set of plastic black wheels. (Note: This was before the days o’ ubiquitous vertical rolling luggage.)

Delighted with my new suitcase’s sheer girth, I happily set about loading every single piece of clothing I possessed and a good quarter of the contents of my bedroom into The Suitcase That Ate New York.

When the day arrived for my flight to Providence, my mom and stepfather drove me to the airport, unloaded me and GS (that’s short for giant suitcase) and waved goodbye. And there I was, on my way to independence, just like the college student I would be merely one year later. Hooray!

It wasn’t until hours later, when I arrived in Rhode Island and stood waiting at the carousel for GS, that I had an awful realization. How the heck was I supposed to carry this monstrosity by MYSELF?! My stepfather had handled lugging Godzilla Suitcase (hey, still GS!) when I’d been in Illinois, but now here I was faced with its awesome size and weight all alone.

I saw GS as soon as it barely cleared the plastic flaps of the luggage carousel. It loomed large, blocking out the sun (ok, that part is sheer hyperbole), and with every passing second, my anxiety grew…how was I going to get King Kong’s suitcase to the curb and the car service supposedly waiting for me there?

My palms sweaty, my heart beating fast, I waited for GS to slide closer…closer. There was no help for it. I was just going to have to put every bit of my (at the time) 100 pounds o’ weight into this effort. I squared my shoulders, braced my feet, and grabbed the handle with both fists. I pulled on that sucker as if my life depended on it. (And for a seventeen-year-old who doesn’t want to be embarrassed in public, it sure felt as if my life DID depend on it.)

The GS nearly jerked my arms off, but somehow I managed to get it off of the carousel and (using every ounce of strength I possessed) pulled the colossus about five toward the exit.

And that’s when the wheels cracked and flew off.

Oh, shame and mortification!

Luckily, two men standing nearby took pity on me and helped me wrangle the embarrassment that was the GS out to the curb where the car service employee thankfully took over.

All right, so flash forward three weeks. The morning I was about to leave to return home (I had a fantastic time by the way, learned a lot and made great friends) I’d gotten all of my worldly goods back into GS and somehow (I think praying and a lump of sugar were involved) got the thing zipped up. Next, I needed to find a way to get Ginormo across campus to the spot where the car service was set to meet me.


Now, if you’ve ever been to the Brown University campus you know that it’s a little…hilly. That’s actually a kind way to put it. For a girl who’d come from the flatlands of cornfield country, the campus seemed like it was on the top of a mountain. So not only did I have to get the biggest suitcase in the universe across campus, I had to traverse some rather steep terrain along the way.

I was sitting in my room, contemplating my dilemma, alternately staring and cursing at GS, when one of my new friends happened by with her dad. She lived within driving distance of the campus. “Hey, Valerie, do you need any help?” she asked unwittingly.

Do I need help?! Oh boy, do I!

Dear Reader, I shall spare you the gory details, but let’s just say my friend’s dad was a rather heavy-set fellow and by the time the poor man lugged GS across campus, he was an extremely unhealthy shade of purple (I’ll call it rutabaga), sweat was streaming down his face, neck, and back, and he was breathing so heavily, I was wondering which building I should race into to call 911 (also before cell phones).

He immediately sat down on a nearby bench and wiped his brow with a tissue, desperately trying to regain his breath. He looked ill. His daughter looked frightened. And even though he assured me he’d be fine and he hadn’t minded helping me in the least, I was completely mortified! I wanted to sink into a hole in the earth.

The car service came soon after and I profusely thanked the nice father and daughter team who’d almost met with doom that morning and quickly jumped into the backseat, waved goodbye, and winced, hoping to high heaven I’d never see them again. I could just picture the girl’s mother saying, “Who’s on the phone, dear?” “Oh, you know, Valerie Bowman. The girl from Brown who almost killed dad.”

I honestly cannot recall the details of how I got GS into the airport. I’m sure some poor soul must have helped me. I can’t be sure. All that remains burned into my memory is the visage of the man I nearly murdered with my luggage and the overwhelming, bone-deep conviction that I would never, ever overpack again. Ever. Never. Ever. I would not put myself in such an uncomfortable, embarrassing, helpless situation again.

It’s been many years since that fateful day. Cells phones were invented and luggage now comes with really useful telescoping handles and sturdy wheels, but I’m pleased to report that I’m now known among my family and friends as the lightest packer EVER. I pride myself on the fact that I once went to Italy for ten whole days with nothing more than a carry-on. Woot!

Who knew a potential luggage crises could so mold a young lady? Yep, because of a traumatizing incident in my teens, I know how to pack light and that’s the type of person I like to think I am too. Simple, unfussy, easy-going. So when I create a character like Lily who would never kill a guy with her luggage, that’s exactly what I mean.

So tell me, are you a light packer or an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink sort? One commenter will win a copy of Secrets of a Wedding Night

Valerie has a degree in English Language and Literature from Smith College and lives in Jacksonville, FL with her rascally dog, Roo. You can find Valerie on the web at www.ValerieBowmanBooks.com and on  Facebook and Twitter.


Danielle Gorman said...

Great story. I would say I'm a moderate packer. I always try to pack a few extra outfits "just in case" but somehow by the end of my stay I've somehow worn everything and have nothing to wear for my trip home. It always seems to happen without fail.


Valerie Bowman said...

Danielle, I usually wear the same outfit I wore to travel to the destination back from the destination. I also try to wear the most bulky items while actually traveling so they don't take up precious room in the suitcase. : )

Rebe said...

This cracked me up, because I learned my lesson when I was 14 and had to lug my suitcase around the airport! Now I'm the world's lightest packer - I put my husband to shame!!

sheila said...

Ifinally learned my lesson. Went to Scotland 3 years ago for 2 weeks.....backpack, carry-on and 2 suitcases, then of course because I had bought so much stuff while I was there I had to buy another 'ginornous' carry-on. Impossible to find a push cart in the Glasgow airport so I was lugging all that crap thru customs there, then thru the Philly airport on this side. I have learned my lesson.

Angie Fox said...

I think I'm getting worse as I get older. In college, I spent two weeks in Europe with only the clothes in my backpack (and I even packed heels). But last weekend, when Jim and I went to Chicago, the poor guy had to lug two suitcases for me. Hmm...maybe that's the difference.

CrystalGB said...

I am an everyting but the kitchen sink packer. I don't want to be unprepared. :) Your book sounds good. Love the cover.

Chrisbails said...

I am an everything packer. When it is a family trip, I bring atleast 3 extra outfits for the kids, plus enough for however many days we are staying. I also pack non-refrig food and plates & plastic silver because with 2 small kids they need food. If it is myself I pack atlest 2 extra outfits, but in my carryon I also pack an outfit, cause you never know what will happen with your clothes. I also pack atleast 4 books, plus my nook & kindle are in my purse. You never know when you will be bored and have a chance to read & you never know what kind of mood you are in and what genre you want to read.
This book sounds great. This is a new author for me and always looking for new books to check out.
christinebails at yahoo dot com

MFH said...

I am trying to learn this lesson but it's a tough one. There are just so many things I "might" need. But I frequently forget to pack one thing that I need so I am learning that I can buy most of the essentials at most of the places I travel.

Anonymous said...

LOL! Great story! And it is so exactly what a teenager would do! I tend to over-pack, but I'm getting better about it. It's not like I travel to extreme and remote locations, so if I wind up desperately needing something not in my suitcase, I can probably purchase it.

And I agree - Lily would definitely travel light!

Blodeuedd said...

I do try to take a lot with me, cos you never know. Lately it has been food cos I have been taking these long car trips. Like you could starve to death without, lol

Jane said...

Congrats on your debut release, Valerie. I'm definitely a light packer. My cousin is a flight attendant so I've gotten some packing tips from her.

Anna Ch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anna Ch said...

Definitely a light packer! I hate carrying too heavy suitcases, so I end up only packing the things I really need.
Congrats on your release Valerie :)


Valerie Bowman said...

Thanks, everyone, for the comments. I love to hear other people's packaging TRUE CONFESSIONS. Ha!

BW said...

I pack everything including the kitchen sink and then some.

Valerie Bowman said...

I've heard that a good tip is to take 1/2 as much clothing and twice as much money as you *think* you'll need. Good advice!

Lexi H said...

You GS is famous! hahaha, great story. And now your description of your heroine makes sense =)

Anonymous said...

LOL. Great story. I would say I'm some what in between. Not so much yet a lot to also take up space in the luggage. Most of them are product stuff, no makeup, just facial cleansers and bath stuff. And hygiene stuff too. Then some light weight clothing, 1-2 or 3 books, a pair of shoes other then the one I'm wearing already. Yup, now I'm good to go.

Valerie Bowman said...

Thanks to Angie and the other Something Wicked ladies for having me. I had a great time!

Barbara E. said...

I'm definitely not a light packer, you never know how things are going to go and what you might need. My suitcase is always heavy because of the books I bring as well. I now have a Kindle and I still pack books. :D

Debbie Mccreary said...

I'm just a basic packer. I pack what I need and then a little bit more "in case I need" stuff. But, up till now, I haven't attempted to kill anyone! lol