What Makes You Smile?

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When I finished my workout this morning at Fit4Lady, I joined a few other post-workout women at the large table for a cup of coffee. On the table was a sign up sheet. I glanced at it, discovering it wasn’t a sign-up sheet after all, but a question: What made you smile today? The grammatical incorrectness of the gym name always makes me smile, but I couldn’t very well write that down without pissing off a whole lot of Dutch lady. The two girls at the table playing brain-teaser games while waiting for their mom to finish her workout had already made me smile, so I wrote that down. I was only the second to answer the question, but the day was still young. Now that I’m home and preparing to start my work day as a writer, this question comes back to me in present form. What makes me smile? My puppy playing in the sunshine, my child, the gift of health, that first mug of coffee. These are all givens. But 2019 also puts a smile on my face. How can the concept of a year make you smile? In this case, it’s because of the label I have put on 2019. It is my gift year.

A friend recently used the term gap year to describe my current state and this definitely got me smiling for more reasons than one. When I hear gap year, I think of a young adult taking a year off to travel the world after she has finished school and before she starts her career. Here I am, in the middle of my life (God willing), taking a gap year. The point is to simply enjoy and learn to take a full inhale and exhale without having to think about the next client, the next project, the next paycheck or, for that matter, the next stage in my career. But that’s not quite true either. This experimental gap year is the year of writing: a gift from my husband, a gift to myself.

My smile is full and genuine when I think of this gift. It’s about writing, but about creating space in my life to enjoy what is most dear to me. I love having time for my son when he comes home from school. I love that I can volunteer to help a friend with her documentary project (can’t share the details yet) and that I can play housewife in our egalitarian marriage, enabling my husband to embrace a strange new role of ‘the main financial provider’.

In this new, albeit temporary role as writer housewife, I can actually open up my cookbooks that have been getting dusty on the shelf and peruse them until I find an adventure worth taking. That’s the nature of my gap year.

Cookbooks are not the only thing being dusted off and opened up. Characters that have been trapped in my head or left dangling mid-sentence on a page are now getting attention. Problem is, they all want my attention at once. I’m trying to tell them to be patient, but telling a character who has earned monk-like status for all their patience, to continue to be patient? Patience is hard, but important for all of us, fictional or otherwise.

Stories require patience before they can come to life; even when you have the time to write them.

My current WIP requires a lot more research than anything I’ve previously undertaken. When it comes to writing, I’m a pantser. That’s someone who likes to write by the seat of their pants: spontaneously, when moved by the spirit, by the muse, by that flow of inspiration. Far as I’m concerned, research and pantsers are like oil and water; they don’t necessarily get along.

I was having lunch with the same friend who dubbed this my Gap Year. She asked how my writing was coming and I described the pantser/ research conundrum. She smiled knowingly and shared the following story:

When she was pregnant with her second child, her daughter kept asking when the baby would be born. She wasn’t willing to wait any longer.

“Why can’t you just have him now mommy? I want to play with him now.”

“He isn’t ready to be born. He’s not yet fully developed. He needs time for all his body parts to form, and that takes a lot of time. We just have to be patient.”

“Your story is just like that baby,” she said. “Research is just an unavoidable part of the growth process. The creative side of you just needs to be patient.”

I could have hugged her. Instead, I squeezed her arm and told her she was brilliant. Or maybe I’m making that up. But I definitely shared my enthusiasm for her analogy. It’s an obvious one, but she’s the type of person who can share this sort of thing and you can truly hear it and take it in.

img_6953My gap year might have a deadline, but I’ve made a commitment to myself and to all the projects I undertake this year. I will not force you. I will let you develop at your own pace. Yet I promise to give you the attention and love and time that you deserve. It is up to you if you choose to be born.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Signing at The Book Loft July 18th

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I just happen to be in California for the month of July. What better place to do a book signing than in my home town of Solvang? The Book Loft thought it was a good idea too. Thus, here is your invitation!


You are cordially invited to join me for my first U.S. presentation of
The Things We Said in Venice.

Wednesday, July 18th, 2018
4:00pm to 6:00pm
The Book Loft
1680 Mission Drive
Solvang, California

 

Hope to see you there!

Exclusive Interview with Sarah Turner

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Today is special in three ways; 1) It is my niece Niki’s birthday, 2) I went for an early morning run with my old running partner (she now lives in Berlin) and 3) Author Karen King provided me with a rare opportunity of interviewing Sarah Turner.

If you don’t know Sarah yet, this is a chance to see how she thinks. Sarah also imparted some great advice for women who are trying to heal themselves; advice that is equally applicable to men.

Check out this exclusive Sarah Turner interview here!

Small Press and Indie Authors

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Pumpkin Spice Latte

First, let’s talk coffee. Imagine you’re on a trip and need a cup of gourmet coffee. You check your coffee app, and discover there are two coffee shops within walking distance. One is a Starbucks and the other is The Daily Grind, a small, locally owned coffee house just a bit further away.  If given a choice, would you go for Starbucks coffee or would you seek out that independent coffee house? In other words, do you want guaranteed taste, consistency and quality no matter what part of the globe you find yourself in, or do you want to take a chance on the unknown little guy?

Of course the decision isn’t that simple. If The Daily Grind looks low budget from the outside and doesn’t have any customers, you’ll most likely go for Starbucks. But, if The Daily Grind has a cool looking storefront, a decent number of 4 and 5 star reviews online, a good vibe and contented looking customers hanging about, it’s indie-character might win you over.

Personally, I don’t mind hitting up a Starbucks once in a while, but I prefer supporting small, locally-owned coffee houses.

Now what goes better with a cup of coffee than a novel?  Okay, maybe a newspaper or bagel might have been your first thought, but I certainly love a date with a novel in a coffee house, sipping a latte while diving into a fictional world.

img_2606.jpgThis got me thinking about my reading choices. Quite a few of the novels lining my shelves are of the Starbucks variety; novels already proven by the industry, published by one of the big five publishing houses (Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, Hachette, Harper Collins, Penguin Random House) or an imprint of the big five.

When eBooks came out, the make up of my book shelf changed. I now have a large number of self-published and small-press authors on my Kindle–authors I would have never discovered in a book store, but have come into my line of sight through my reading preferences or my online blog reading.

I’ve written about Francis Guenette, a Canadian author I discovered online as well as Rebecca Lawton. Both authors published by small-presses. But I haven’t really explained what I like about small press and indie authors.

When I find a good indie novel, I have a feeling that I’ve discovered something that the world hasn’t.  Call it selfish, but when you are the one who discovers a gem (indie novel that grabs you) among a sea of plastic debris (indie novels that are poorly written, lack plot, are loaded with typos), there’s a sense of pride and strange possession. You might think to yourself; I am one of maybe five hundred people that has heard of or read this author. They’re no Tom Clancy, Nora Roberts or Margaret Atwood, but still, even if the prose aren’t as polished, even if the plot has a bit of a diamond-in-the-rough quality, there’s an integrity to the writing that keeps you going.

As the author of only two novels thus far, I’m particularly impressed with prolific indie authors. How do they keep coming up with all of those characters and stories and creativity and how do they make the time to breathe life into all of them? Today, in honor of her birthday, I’d like to shine the spotlight on a fellow indie author Jo Lambert.

Jo is a self-published author who released her first novel, When Tomorrow Comes in 2009. She writes drama-driven romance, ranging from generational stories that follow a series of families over time, to focusing on just a few central characters. She describes her writing as typically British and often written around village life.

Her first three novels were released under the name Joanna Lambert, whereas the last four are written under Jo Lambert. I’ll have to ask her why she chose to shorten her first name, as this makes it a bit tricky to find all of her titles in one place.

As an author, I have no shortage of ideas. I also have no shortage of self-sabotaging behavior. As mentioned earlier, I’ve managed to publish two novels so far, but I have six WIPs (works in progress) that are in various phases of completion. Thus you can see why I admire Jo.

To date, Jo (Joanna) Lambert has seven published novels under her belt with an eighth on the way.  Eight!  Her novels are mainly set in England. Her debut novel in Somerset, for example and Summer Moved On and Watercolours in the Rain  in South Devon. Her novels sometimes wander into other landscapes such as Tuscany in The Other Side of Morning, but it seems she remains true to her cultural heritage by keeping the others within her home country of England.

Jo is currently working on her eighth novel entitled The Boys of Summer (not yet released). Her latest novel is based around a small fishing town in Cornwall.

When I asked Jo what motivates her to write, she had the following to say:

“I simply have to write, to make up stories, create parallel universes.  It’s there and I can’t think of anything else I would rather do!”

Happy Birthday Jo! Learn more about Jo and her novels through the links below.

 

BLOG: http://jolambertwriter.blog

BOOK WEBSITE: http://jolambertbooks.com

GOOGLE PLUS:google.com/+JoLambert

TWITTER: @jolambertwriter

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/jolambert185

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Things We Said in Venice

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It’s such a blessing when someone reads your novel and understands the characters and their struggles so well. This post by Stefania Gioffrè, an English teacher in Rome, really struck home. I am so thankful for her post!

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Venice, Italy — A gondola, Venice, Italy — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

There are many reasons why we enjoy traveling. The desire to see dreamlike places, the thrill of meeting new cultures with their art, food, drinks and folklore are of course the most common ones, but sometimes for somebody traveling could also be a way to heal wounds, thus giving the scars the time they need to be barely seen. A change of scenario could reasonably be regarded as the most natural way to turn your back to a distressing past, put all the pieces together and give yourself a new chance.

This is what the two protagonists of Kristin Anderson’s novel “The Things We Said in Venice” have in mind. Sarah Turner, a high school counselor in her late thirties has recently faced a dolorous divorce. She decides to leave her job and home in Bend, Oregon to…

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Somebody Feed Phil Vegan Mozzarella

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In January 2018, Netflix launched an original documentary series entitled Somebody Feed Phil.*  Phil Rosenthal, a rather famous foodie, is taxed with traveling all over the world in search of mouth watering cuisine.  Instead of focusing on high-end restaurants, Phil enlists his happy disposition to chat up locals and discover everything from the best street food to restaurants and pubs. In the opening lines of the trailer, he says “food is the great connector.” A sage older woman weighs in saying “just find out what people like to eat, and you make them happy.”

17311457_10154268386862213_983549551_oApparently, one episode of Somebody Feed Phil takes place in one of my favorite cities: Venice. As you may have gathered from my second novel The Things We Said in Venice, I also love food, travel and Venice and of course a great love story that makes people happy.  That’s why I’m so excited about this show! Restaurants– both real and fictional–pop up throughout my novel as well as discussions of food, veganism and how our diet effects the planet. But back to love; they say the best way to a person’s heart is through his or her stomach.  Fokke van der Veld, a travel writer like Phil, knows the heart-value of food; he seeks out a vegan restaurant in Venice to woo the vegan of his eye, Sarah Turner. Espen also gives this technique a whirl. Who is Espen? A Norwegian man who also attempts to reach Sarah’s heart through her stomach by making vegan mozzarella.

Based on the trailer, Phil loves all things animal, ranging from pork tacos to lobster fried in egg. I wonder if Phil will add vegan gastronomy into his travel pursuits.

Doing research for a travel novel with a lead character who is vegan required quite a bit of research, including making vegan mozzarella!

Watch this Happy Pear video to see how!

What do you think? Should Somebody Feed Phil Vegan Mozzarella? Would you like to see Phil try some vegan food in the exotic places he visits? Do you think he will? We could tweet him and suggest it! (Twitter handle is @PhilRosenthal )

*Unfortunately, it looks like Somebody Feed Phil is not yet available on Netflix in The Netherlands. Is it available in your country?