Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Year in Pictures


As the year comes to a close, I thought it would be cool to reflect on some of the highlights. And they are…


We admired the gorgeous cherry blossoms in DC.


Our home underwent a major renovation, which certainly came with its share of headaches.


We said goodbye to the best dog in the world.


It warmed my heart to visit with two young men my husband connected with on his trip to Haiti a few summers ago.


I published my first book. Successful launch. Visiting book clubs. Loving it!


We also visited Cape Cod for a soccer tournament, spent time with friends and family, enjoyed a weekend jaunt to Chicago, celebrated fourteen years of marriage, and spontaneously attended my twenty year high school reunion. It was a year of adventure, loss, reunions, and connection. Finding gratitude in and through it all.

Highlights of your year?

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!
Catch you here next Wednesday.


“We must not see any person as an abstraction. 
Instead, we must see in every person a universe with its own secrets, with its own treasures, with its own sources of anguish, and with some measure of triumph.” ~ Elie Wiesel

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

What Does Your House Say About You?

The main character in the book I’m reading, THE GOOD HOUSE by Ann Leary, claims she can tell
everything she needs to know about someone by looking at their house.  “I can walk through a house once and know more about its occupants than a psychiatrist could after a year of sessions,” admits Hildy Good.

I thought I’d have a little fun with this today. Who doesn’t like to psychoanalyze themselves every once in a while?

Here’s what a walk-through of my house at this moment says about me:

  • Disinfectant wipes on both bathroom counters = Taking care of children with the flu all week.
  • Sticky Note Central = I don’t use an app to remind me of things. I still love the old-fashioned way…posting sticky notes over every square inch of my house.
  • Piles & Piles of books to be read, cards to be written, rapidly breeding clothes on my bedroom floor = I have priorities and cleaning my home until it’s spotless has never really made it to the top of my list.
  • Christmas tree with both toilet paper roll decorations and beautiful dove ornaments = I have kids and I love them. I also like to try for a little class. Hence…a schizophrenic Christmas tree.
  • Jackets hanging on just about every chair = We make ourselves at home and we’re in and out a lot. I also haven’t found a hook rack I like well enough to buy yet.
  • Half-finished homemade Christmas presents in random places = I have good intentions, but my kids have the flu.
  • Earrings and rings on the kitchen counter = When I’m home, I’m home and I take off all the trimmings the second I get in the door.
  • A dog leash on my beside table = I still miss my dog terribly and I’m counting the days until we get a puppy.
  • Dozens of apples & bananas on my dining room table = Did I mention my kids have the flu? (B.R.A.T. diet, anyone?)
  • Candles in every room = Because I happen to believe candles make a home more homey.
  • Dust bunnies, vacuum left out, dishes still to do = Again with the priorities and this week you can just call me Flo Night. (Wow, and yes, I’m lacking that much sleep).
  • Painted furniture in almost every room = I like to DIY furniture and I’m not half bad at it. I’m half good.
  • Books about writing and WIP (work in progress) notes in every room where I write = I spend a lot of time writing.
  • Christmas cards spread out on my piano = I love my friends.


Wonder what would your house reveal about you?

*Congratulations to the five Goodreads Giveaway winners of my novella!

*After Christmas & in the New Year, I’m MOVING to Wednesdays! Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Book Club Fun, Giveaways, and More


I’ve been having a blast visiting with local book clubs discussing my debut novella, The Disappearing Key.





Please contact me if you’re interested in having me come to your book club (I'm also up for Skyping).

Diane Estrella’s 2013 Debut Author Giveaway Hop ends TOMORROW. 
Enter to win a free copy of my book!

Chance to win one of five autographed copies of my book.

Grateful to guest post at Jenny Hale’s yesterday. 
If you missed it, I answer more insider questions about my book and what’s on my bucket list.

*Also, if you've read The Disappearing Key & you enjoyed it, I'd love for you to post a short review on Amazon or Goodreads. Thanks for helping me spread the word!


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

How Will We Read in the Future?


I’m with Bueller on this one.  “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you
could miss it.” I feel that way about how technology is rapidly influencing the way we experience books. Within the past few years e-book readers have exploded and audio reading is on the rise. The mind can only imagine what reading will look like ten years from now. (Who am I kidding, the way things move, probably two years is more like it?)

What will it be like to read in the future. I brainstormed a few potentials.

Five aspects of reading I predict will continue to develop in the future...

Sensory
My recently released novella, The Disappearing Key, portrays a teenager who is a synesthete (Oriana experiences sights and sounds on a more intense, comingled level).

Picture tapping your finger on a sensory button on your Kindle Fire that would enable you to smell the fragrance described or to hear the exact trumpet sound or song the author wrote into their scene.

Interactive
Will readers be able to select alternate endings to novels? I envision authors setting up this option through different means. Authors could very well provide their work in stages. This is already taking place in the case of beta readers  providing insight for authors as they help them to refine the revision process.

Anyone who doubts the influence of interaction only has to look at the powerful sway reviews have regarding book sales.

Involvement
Call me crazy, but I just can’t get enough of book clubs. I’m visualizing future book clubs interacting with authors not only after a book has been written and published, but even during the process. Similar to how Goodreads has a section for quotes and trivia, I’m imagining a reading experience with games, trivia, probing questions, and an Ask the Author section built right into the book.

I also wonder if readers will continue to play a more vital role as they have opportunities to create their own powerful reactions on Youtube, by developing and/or directing a movie version of what they experienced.

Imagery
Have you encountered a wee little website called Pinterest yet? It’s only one of the fastest growing social media sites out there. Need I state the obvious? People are attracted to pictures. I’m willing to bet we’re going to see a lot of creative imagery in future books. I recently finished  reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. It suited the main character to tell his story with pictorial depictions. My gut says this is going to become more and more common as readers crave and respond to images.

Interconnected
I know you’ve seen it, authors who write a book with wonderful descriptions of meals and then they have the wisdom to include detailed recipes in the back of the book. This is only a hint of what’s to come. I’m envisioning links to all sorts of local resources tied in to the book. Guides to cooking, listings of local cooking classes, tutorials, links to Youtube How-tos, etc.

I’m not arguing whether this influx of resources will add or detract from the reading experience, but I am guessing it’s something we’ll see in the future.

When I worked at Microsoft I remember sitting in on some pretty intense brainstorming sessions. People were constantly trying to come up with the next greatest thing.

Personally, it always has and always will come back to a good story for me. I won’t be looking for the bells and whistles to enhance my experience. I’ll try them because I’m open-minded and curious as all get out, but I’ll always hunt for a story with the power to climb inside my soul and nest there.

What about you, how do you think our reading experience could change in the future?

*I’m giving away FIVE autographed copies of my book via a Goodreads Disappearing Key Days Giveaways for the Holidays starting tomorrow at midnight. Make sure to check it out.
**Also, I’m visiting five book clubs this month that have signed up for my Key Book Clubs from Coast to Coast Contest. Please contact me if you want to involve your book club. (See sidebar.)



Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Why Do You Read Fiction?


Keepin' it short and sweet today with a question inspired from Jodi Picoult’s The Storyteller. In her latest book, one of the main characters contemplates, “That’s why we read fiction isn’t it? To remind us that whatever we suffer, we’re not the only ones?”

Agree? Disagree?


Why do you read fiction?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What’s in a Name?


My family has spent the last month trying to come up with a name we can all agree on for a puppy we’re planning to buy in the spring. On more than one occasion someone will throw out a name and three out of the five of us will be on board. At other more unfortunate times, four of us give the thumbs up and one will veto the suggested name.

As an author, I understand the significance of names. I’ll confess I’ve taken week long hiatuses from my novels if I keep getting the feeling I’ve misnamed one of the characters. It rubs me wrong. So wrong I need to walk away from the book until I get it right.

So, what’s in a name?

Many of us don’t give it much thought. Though, I have come across several people in my life who’ve loathed their name since birth.

I like to be intentional when it comes to my character’s names.

In my recently released novella, THE DISAPPERING KEY I chose names with specific significance. At a book club discussing my book recently, individuals asked me about this. (A related question regarding names is listed as one of the book club questions at the back of the book.)

I’m going to give you some of the answers today. See, it pays to pay attention. ;-)

Oriana (fourteen-year-old main character’s first name) = dawn, gold, to rise

Nephesh (last name of seventy-year-old main character, Viola) = Hebrew word commonly rendered as “soul”

*More information about the character’s names to come in future posts.
**Btw, we chose a name for the pup. I’ll keep you in suspense a little longer on that though.

I miss my One Question Fridays. If you haven’t visited Thoughts that Move for long, years ago, on Fridays, 
I’d throw out some obscure (and sometimes not so obscure) question and accompany the inquiry with numerous photos.

Here’s a nod to those Friday questions…

What I want to know today is…what would you like to be called other than your name? If you could select a new name for yourself what would it be & why?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Launch Party to Remember


Last night I felt like I was living a scene right out of It’s a Wonderful Life. Friends, acquaintances, and regular book club attendees gathered at a local coffee shop to discuss my book, ask me questions, and have their books signed. Neighbors, women from my book clubs, fellow writers, librarians, church members, folks from the local elementary school, and good friends, old and new, showed up.


Not only did I sell all of my copies of The Disappearing Key, I felt an overwhelming amount of support.


Toward the end of the evening, I answered questions and received invaluable feedback that reminded me why I was excited to get my work out there.

Oh what a night, indeed! One I know I’ll not soon forget.

Thanks to all who made the effort to be there! And for those who couldn’t make it, you were missed.


*In case you missed them, I wrote guest posts for Julie Jarnagin (From Puddle Play to Stain Removal: Novel Writing from Mud to Clean) & Lindsay Harrel (The Heart of a Lonely Writer) yesterday.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Creative Ideas for Hosting a Disappearing Key Book Club

One of the most common reactions I’ve received from people who’ve read The Disappearing Key is that they are eager to talk about it. I seriously wish I could sit in on every single book club scheduled to discuss my book.

Did you know, over the course of the next year I’ve challenged myself with a goal to have at least one book club from every state read my novella?

Today, I’d thought it’d be fun to present you with some ideas if you’re the one hosting The Disappearing Key discussion.
(Inspired by details found in the novella.)

Food
Serve key lime pie
Prosseco toast to good friends and great discussions
Locate an Italian bakery & purchase, then serve cannolis (Gabrielle’s favorite)
Buy Trader Joe’s Spanakopita, heat, and serve
Cook the classic English dish of fish & chips
Bake key cookies. Feel free to take a bite out of one. Hey, they’re supposed to be disappearing, aren’t they? ;-)

Here are two ideas from Pinterest:

Decorations & Ambiance
Have Edelweiss or potted Sweet Williams “Wee Willies” as Viola calls them on the table
Set colorful place settings in honor of Oriana’s synesthesia
Use key decorated place markers or wine charms
Place a Bavarian “looking” music box as coffee table centerpiece
Program Michel BublĂ© or Jack Johnson on Pandora

Giveaways
Offer “key”psakes
Hand out bookmarks with a key stamped on them
Give any of the aforementioned cookies away
Buy & pass out extra copies of The Disappearing Key for members to use as stocking stuffers for family or friends (or hostess gifts)

Points of Interest
Talk about the movie Return to Zero 
If you’re hosting a mom’s group, encourage guests to bring ultrasound photos & create a game where everyone tries to match mom to baby picture
Cut out scrap pictures of what you imagine the characters to look like. Discuss similarities and differences
Talk about what it might feel like to have synesthesia.
Go through Book Club Questions located in the back of the print version of The Disappearing Key and the end of the ebook version of TDK.
Feel free to contact the author. I have a gut feeling she’d love to be in on your book club action.
**

Now for a chance to win a set of “key” imprinted cards, you tell me a creative book club idea related to keys or details of The Disappearing Key plot that would enhance a book club experience. Most creative answer gets the key cards! I’ll announce winner next Tuesday.

New England: 7
Florida: 2
Pennsylvania: 1
Iowa: 1
*If you know of a book club that is planning to read The Disappearing Key, please ask them to notify me so I can include them in my Key Book Club from Coast to Coast Contest. Thanks!




Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Characters Review THE DISAPPEARING KEY


The reviews are coming in, people! Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to provide feedback about my novella.

I’ve noticed a few similarities keep cropping up in the reviews. I’ve divided them into three different categories and pulled direct quotes from my fantabulous reviewers.

Can’t put it down

I could not stop reading this book from the first sentence.”

“It was a riveting page-turner I couldn't put down!”

“While reading The Disappearing Key, I experienced something very rare for me...I actually did not want to put it down and was glued to the book until I finished!”

Great book club selection

“As soon as I finished this one, I wanted to talk about it. Which is why I'm excited that my book club will be reading it!”

“If you are tired of the same old, same old stories and want something fresh, original, and masterfully crafted, this should be your pick.”

“Can't wait to tell my book clubs about it!”

“If you love stories chock-full of intrigue and fodder for your next book-club conversation, I can't recommend this one enough!”

“I think this is a great choice for a book club. There are so many aspects to discuss.” 

Connecting with the characters

“I love to really be able to ‘feel’ the characters with their struggles and growth.” 

“The plot is unique and amazing, the characters are real and 3-dimensional, and the writing is superb.”

“The interesting characters reveal themselves throughout this absorbingly well written, science-meets-mystery tale.”

“I always judge a book by evaluating if I want to read more about the characters and in this case, the answer is an overwhelming ‘Yes’!” 

“Each of the characters was painted with realism, drawing me in and making me want to see them find what they desired.” 
*

For fun, today I thought I’d take a closer look at the three main characters in THE DISAPPEARING KEY by asking them what they thought of the novella…

Gabrielle

It’s always challenging for me to be introspective, to take a hard, honest look at myself. This book made me do exactly that. I know many women (moms in particular) will relate with me, however, I’m still hard on myself. I’m just so thankful I grew by the end of it.

Oriana

Even though I knew exactly how it would play out, I still found myself engrossed in the story. I wanted to see what would happen between me and Topher…still kind of wondering about that. Oh, and I wish every single one of you could tell me your perspective on the key and what went down at the very end…have a feeling I’d love hearing all your thoughts!

Viola

I found myself amused while reading some scenes and my heart broke while reading others. So much of the rawness of life came through in this work. The author didn’t hold back, and though at times I was splayed out on the page vulnerable as a newborn, I wouldn’t have written it any differently. My favorite scene was with my brother in the cottage…for many reasons, oh, so many reasons.
*
Grateful for every single review!

Do you read reviews on Amazon or Goodreads before buying a book?

*Later this week I’ll be announcing some exciting news regarding my novella!
**I also noticed a theme in the reviews about readers looking forward to my next work. I’m working hard to make that happen.

***Don’t forget to notify me if your book club is interested in being signed up for my Key Book Clubs from Coast to Coast Contest.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Story Behind the Dedication

I dedicated my novella, The Disappearing Key to my friend from college. Years ago, I could not stop bawling when I heard Erin’s story. Her loss settled so deeply inside me I felt compelled to write about it. So began the first scene in The Disappearing Key.



Recently Erin agreed to answer a few questions for my readers…

1. Erin, I’m moved you’re willing to visit with me to share about your experience. What would you like people to know about your loss and what life has been like for you since?

First of all, I am so very touched that my experience helped to inspire The Disappearing Key.  I appreciate the opportunity to share a little more about it.  Hopefully it will enhance your readers’ experience with the novella as well as in their own lives, as so many of us have been impacted by pregnancy or infant loss in some way. 

I never imagined that after an uneventful almost 39 weeks of pregnancy that I would have to say hello and goodbye to my first born child at the same time. My son Colin was born still on March 1, 2008.  He was a beautiful, healthy 7 lb, 6 oz little boy, the spitting image of his daddy. Colin's death was completely unexpected and I was utterly unprepared. I was fortunate to have some amazing support right from the start, but the grief process was long and hard. I don't think it is something that I have ever "gotten over," but I have learned to live with it, made room for it in my life, and moved forward.  It changed me in so many ways and I hope mostly for the better. 

Colin's little brother and sister entered our lives 16 months after he was born. They bring so much joy and love to our home. I thank their big brother for them because, without him, they would not be here. They know about their big brother and ask questions at unexpected times like 4-year-olds do. It is so bittersweet when they talk about him and wonder why they can’t play with him.  It brings me so much peace that Colin is not forgotten in our home. I think that is important for anyone who knows someone who lost a child during or shortly after pregnancy. The loss is real and it never goes away but the pain does diminish and is replaced by the life lessons and unexpected gifts that the experience brings. 

2. I’m grateful you sent me a poignant letter about what it was like to deliver a stillborn child. It truly helped shape my first chapter. What was your reaction when you read the first chapter of The Disappearing Key? And your response to the novella as a whole?

Knowing a little about the novella's subject matter and story, I was not sure how I would react to reading it or even if I would be able to read it. Oriana's birth brought back memories of my experience giving birth to Colin (along with a slight pit in my stomach).  I related to Roy and Gabrielle’s panic and desire to fix things.  I would have done anything to bring my son back to me. 

Once I started reading, I had a hard time putting it down.  I quickly became engrossed in the characters and wanted to know what was going to happen next.  It stopped being about the stillbirth itself and had me thinking about our role as parents, medicine, the effects of grief…loved it.  I am ready for your next book, Wendy!  

3. Thank you for letting me know that October 15th (today) is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day (& that October is the Awareness Month). This topic is close to my heart. Why do you think it helps for people to gain a greater understanding regarding infant and pregnancy loss?

I had the opportunity to connect with others who experienced a similar loss after Colin died and I know that is what got me through it. I have also had the opportunity to serve as a resource to families beginning their journey with loss.  Although the stories and details are different, we are connected in a way that only those who have experienced this loss truly understand.  Pregnancy and infant loss are more common than people realize (or want to realize) and it is not commonly talked about (by myself included).      

Pregnancies are celebrated and honored in so many ways, with so much anticipation and excitement. Yet when they do not go as planned, often people do not know what to do or say. Since it is not something that is commonly talked about, it can be a very isolating and lonely experience. By better understanding it, we are better able to support those around us who are touched by the experience. Importantly, a greater understanding honors and remembers the children that were so highly anticipated, desired, and loved. And hopefully, it will bring increased focus and resources within the medical community to better understand the causes of stillbirth and other forms of loss to reduce the instances in possibly preventable situations. 


Readers, how did Erin’s responses move your thoughts today?



Erin always takes pinwheels to the cemetery and has them at her house 
as a reminder of Colin. 



***
Here’s an updated picture depicting the numerous book clubs already participating in 

&


The winner of Spreading the Key Chain Love Contest is Beth Vogt (with the creative vote going to Heather Day Gilbert). Beth, I’ll send you the key chain & Heather gets a coffee treat!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Spreading the Key Chain Love


I’m excited to announce a way for you to win this beautiful key chain. I’m celebrating the recent release of The Disappearing Key. It’s been so rewarding receiving initial reactions. As many of you know word of mouth is king in the world of publishing.

Here’s where you come in.

We’re going to play our own little version of six degrees of Kevin Bacon.

Six Degrees of The Disappearing Key.

Women are natural connectors. We chat on the phone, text, and FB with our friends and family.

I want you to do some “key” connecting by keep a tally of how many people you personally (phone, text, FB, but keep it personal) tell about The Disappearing Key. (Dogs don’t count. I mean, they count, but not in this contest.)

Let me know in the comments how it’s going and how many family members and friends you’ve shared with. 

I need all tallies by Sunday, October 13th 9:00pm. (EST)

Here’s simple logic for you, the person with the highest number wins the key chain.

On your mark, get set, go!


*I’ll present a bonus gift to the person who comes up with (and shares in the comments) the most creative way they spread the word about The Disappearing Key.

**Next week I’ll post the latest map of the U.S. highlighting Key Book Clubs from Coast to Coast (see this post for more details)

***make sure to stop by next Tuesday to see who wins and to read a powerful post when I introduce you to the woman I dedicated The Disappearing Key to. (Call photo by stock.xchng.)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Key Book Clubs from Coast to Coast (+ Release Day for The Disappearing Key)


To celebrate the RELEASE DAY for THE DISAPPEARING KEY, 
I’m announcing a Coast to Coast Contest!

Get your copy on Amazon
(& soon Nook)


Help your book club win gifts!
I’m taking names…of book clubs that is.

My goal
from October 2013 – October 2014
is to have book clubs from EVERY STATE reading
THE DISAPPEARING KEY.

Here’s what I need from you:
A contact person from your book club to email me (see right sidebar for my contact info.) with…
  • their name
  • contact information
  • the name of the book club (as appropriate)
  • how many members are in the book club
  • which month you will be reading my novella
  • if you’re interested in having me Skype with you or visit
  • picture(s) of your club for fun

Upon receiving each email, I will attach a key with the book club name (or contact person) on the represented state. I'll post regular updates.

All clubs will be entered into a raffle to win the final prize(s).

Let’s do this!


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Fun with Fictitious Endorsements


Know one thing I’m loving about the approaching release date for my novella? I’m receiving exciting
feedback from endorsers. And it’s beyond thrilling—to read their responses, to let it sink in how my words moved them. Ah, it feels awesome!

Today I’ve decided to have some fun. I’ve created a list of fictitious endorsements, because, hey, why not?

Without further ado…

THE DISAPPEARING KEY bent me all the right ways. – Gumby

The characters in this book made me want to rock down to Electric Avenue. – Eddy Grant

After reading THE DISAPPEARING KEY, I’ll never be hungry again. – Scarlett O’Hara

It made my day. – Clint Eastwood

I’d say this novella was the cat’s meow. It certainly wasn’t Odie-ous.” – Garfield

I liked it. I really liked it. – Sally Field

The prose made me want to love it and list it. – Hilary, Love it or List It, HGTV

You should read THE DISAPPEARING KEY. And when you do, make sure to say hello to my little friend. – Scarface

THE DISAPPEARING KEY made me feel like I’m king of the world. – Leonardo DiCaprio

This novella completed me. – Tom Cruise

If you plan a boating trip with all the people who are going to love this book, you’re going to need a bigger boat. – Roy Scheider

THE DISAPPEARING KEYS was peas. We go together. – Carrots

This novella was one to grow on. – 80s PSA commercial creator 


If you could have someone give one of your projects a fabricated endorsement, who would you choose and what would they say?

*Get ready for “Key Giveaways” in October to celebrate the release of THE DISAPPEARING KEY in ONE WEEK!
**photo by stock.XCHNG
***Note: No one really said any of the above during the making of this blog post. Hence the word fictitious. No one was hurt either.





Tuesday, September 17, 2013

6 Things the Writer in Me Wants to Tell the Mother in Me...




6 Things the Writer in Me Wants to Tell the Mother in Me
There are times when finding the right word usurps having the last word.
Pay attention. You’ll blink and they’ll be out of the house. Small moments count.
There’s always a story. Moods, distance, erratic behavior. . .always a story.
The best investment you can make is to pour into character(s).
Growth as a parent equates to that of countless edits. Take the time needed to make necessary changes.
You can read about how to excel at your job until your eyes dry out, but the best way to learn is to practice.

6 Things the Mother in Me Wants to Tell the Writer in Me
Relationships are the pulse of a good story.
Your children have a tendency to surprise you. Characters shouldn’t be too predictable.
Like babies, solid ideas take time to incubate.
You’ll poke your eye out if you write to impress or seek validation from others.
Adjust your expectations. Your baby will poop at the most inopportune times.
Nothing compares to knowing you’ve invested your time in something meaningful. No matter if you’re bombarded with advice, cut to shreds regarding your style, and/or judged ruthlessly or relentlessly. Devotion to craft will reveal itself in time.




*Gearing up to announce GIVEAWAYS linked to THE DISAPPEARING KEY that you’ll want to write home about!
**Would love for you to visit my guest post at Married with Fiction 

***photo by stock.xchng

A Book Is Born—THE AFTER GLIMPSE

At book clubs I’m often asked where my ideas come from. The concept for THE AFTER GLIMPSE (available now) was first sparked in an ice c...