Tuesday, November 20, 2012

My Next Big Thing

Author Nicky Wells sent me an invitation to tell you about my Next Big Thing.  This chain of author blog posts was started to let readers know about the works in progress.  I’m so thankful she tagged me and asked me to share a little bit about what I’m working on.  She's the best!  

What is the title of your book?
Ashes to Ashes is the working title, unless lighting strikes and something else permeates my brain.

How did you come by the idea?
My husband, Mike, and I attended one too many funerals this past year.  Seeing our friend Aaron’s young life end too soon really got my gears turning.  Listening to his friends share eulogies for a man who lived large in his young thirties, I started thinking about the relationships that I have had during my life.  How they have ebbed and flowed; how they evolve and sometimes are severed.  I wanted to explore the relationships between three people who come together after a person they have in common dies, due to her unusual request of them.  It has taken on such interesting dynamics!
What genre does your book fall under?
Women’s Fiction, with a dash of Chick Lit.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters if it were a movie?
First, I have to tell you that I want actresses that are fabulous, and not twenty-something in the roles.  Now that I have spoken my peace, here we go… 
Samantha (the woman the town has come together to burry[so they think])- Rachel McAdams; Jack (Samantha’s first boyfriend and the former high school football star living a life he wishes was not his)-Bradley Cooper; Jenna (Samantha’s high school BFF [she’s not as sweet as you might think])-Diane Lane; Tabby (the high school nemesis of Samantha has her own secrets she wish would stay buried)-Maria Bello; Marnie (Jack’s bride who realizes the man she married will never be hers)-Idina Menzel; Jeff (Jenna’s husband who adores her through thick and thin waistlines)-Damien Lewis; Emma (Marnie and Jack’s only child)- G. Hannelius from the Disney television show, Good Luck Charlie; Molly Anderson (Tabby’s daughter, a twin, living life with a chip on her shoulder)- Jennifer Lawrence; Ally Anderson (Molly’s twin sister, light-hearted, close with her mother, Tabby)-Emma Stone.
*Did I just price my movie out of existence with that cast and their salaries?* 

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
The darkest of secrets unearthed from memories best left forgotten, rise from the ashes of the one who chose three people to grant her, her final resting place.

Will your book be self-published or traditional?
I will shop it around first to see if it is picked up.  If not I will be going indie with it.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I’m half way through writing it and will be finished with it by the end of November.  I used the inertia of NaNoWrimo to get it up and running from the story map it once was.  This is my first time participating in the event, and I’m so glad that I did.

What other authors, or author’s work, would you compare this story to within your genre?
There is a little bit of a Beth Harbison feel to the story (I adore her work).  I love the twisting of relationships, and things not revealed until time comes that she does so well.  I like providing that air of suspense for the readers, yet you are not uncomfortable with the loose ends while reading.  

Who or What inspired you to write this book?
I’ve been asked by people, other than my mom (God love her), to try my hand at writing fiction.  As I played with the idea and stretched the characters, I felt the story breathe itself onto my keyboard.  I know that sounds kooky, yet totally true.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I wrote it while jacked up on M&M’s and Bottle Caps.  Some days I wrote in my pajamas.  Oh wait…you mean about the actual story, right?  The story takes place in my hometown of West Lafayette, Indiana.  You will see some of my favorite places pop up in the story.  As a salute to my friend, Trish, who died this spring from cancer, her store Collette is featured in the storyline.  Trish loved the stories about my daughter and her infatuation with Matt Lauer.  She couldn’t wait to hear what my daughter, Gracie, would say next.

Who’s on deck next week!  
You lucky ducks will be treated to hearing about The Next Big Thing from the fabulous Tonya Kappes and Erik Atwell.  Both wonderful authors,  cool cats, and lovers of karaoke, as far as you know.  Make sure you stop by their blogs and see what they are up to in the world of writing.

Bless and be blessed,

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Final Countdown: Q&A with Nicky Wells

It is my honor on this lucky thirteenth day of November to welcome Nicky Wells back to Princess with a Pen on the official last stop of her blog tour for the rerelease of Sophie’s Turn.  *Jen breaks into slick dance moves yet is glad you cannot see her* I adore Nicky!  She’s so fine, she blows my mind!  So without further ado, here she is!        

Jen!! *Nicky squeals loudly and gives Jen a big hug* Thank you so much for having me on your blog AGAIN today. I am so happy to be here with you on Princess with a Pen and I hope we can spread some joy and sunshine today. Also, I sincerely hope you have those Margaritas ready because we have to celebrate: this interview marks the end of the blog tour for Sophie's Turn and I am delighted that you are the Grand Finale. We will have to have an after-party in true rock star style! But first... the questions:

You were born and raised in Germany?  Did I ever tell you that I spent time in Darmstadt as an exchange student in 1989?  We were so close yet so far from each other!

Darmstadt, wow! *Nicky hustles to Google maps quickly to check the location of Darmstadt relative to Essen, having become woefully ignorant on her native country's geography over the past 20 years* Yes, we were close then! And what an exciting time for you to be over there ~ did you get to witness the Wall coming down? Awesome!

Jen’s Sidebar (I’m fond of sidebars): I was a freshman in college, sitting in my dorm room with eyes glued to the TV and watching history as the wall fell.  I had tears in my eyes, and told my rommie, “You have no idea what this means for Germany.” It still gives me goose bumps!

But I digress. Yes, I was born and raised in Germany, in the town of Essen right in the industrial heartland of the Ruhr. I grew up in a green and leafy suburb and have memories of playing in small but wild woodlands, paddling in brooks, flying kites on fields and generally being a bit of a tom boy. I once sat high up in a cherry tree aiming cherry stones at hapless passers-by; I had terrible aim and missed every time, but it was a thrill-and-half! As a teenager, I appreciated the city delights my home town had to offer: discos and clubs and ice-cream parlours and dancing studios, cinemas and museums and shops. There was  a little bit of everything on offer and it was a great place to grow up. Alas, when I turned 20, I needed to leave. I just *had* to get away. I don't quite know why. I had fearful visions of a tombstone engraved with my name that read, 'Nicky Klippert, born in Essen 18 December 1972, lived in Essen all her life, died in Essen'. That was just too terrifying a prospect. So I upstick'ed and came to England instead.

I know the writing bug bit you at the age of 10.  Do you still have a copy of the little alien story you wrote back then?

*scratches head* Well. I ought to. I know I kept it. However, when my dad passed away in 2001, I had to return home to help my Mum deal with the fall out, including giving up the flat my parents had lived in for well over 30 years. The clear-out was manic and rushed, with furniture being sold, books being donated to the library (my entire collection of over 50 Enid Blyton books!) and boxes being packed with random belongings. We knew that Mum wouldn't have much storage space going forward, and I was limited in what I could take back with me on the plane to England. So ~ I would *like* to say I still have it. I can see it in front of my inner eye, and it is possible that it is languishing in one of the boxes in our attic. I haven't checked because it's been too painful to go into those boxes. BUT! It is well preserved in my head and I could easily write it again. The synopsis?

When the alien's year abroad goes horribly wrong, a group of young earthlings unwittingly but determinedly step in to save the day (and the planet ~ Jupiter, not Earth!)
 You know what?  My friend Cory Edwards has a new film coming out in February with The Weinstein Company called, Escape From Planet Earth.  I think he took your notes!  *Jen is totally kidding Cory*

You know that I have a HUGE crush on Grammy winning rock star, Seal.  Tell me about your celebrity crush and if you had a face-to-face moment, what have you rehearsed to say?

Oh God Jen, I couldn't possibly divulge this; since the writing of Sophie's Turn, this is classified information. Especially as Sophie's Turn is all fiction!!! **clears throat**

That is some SERIOUS hair!

Let's see what I can come up with. My biggest celebrity crush was probably a certain Joey Tempest of rock band, Europe. Remember The Final Countdown? *Jen sings: It’s the final countdown!!!* My God, I had it bad. I even had the hairstyle to match (see attached photo). I taught myself some basic Swedish so I could converse with my future husband in his native language, and I had our wedding all mapped out. (I was thirteen!!).

I did get to meet him for a fleeting moment at a concert in Bielefeld; I had a boyfriend in tow and all the conversation boiled down to was asking for an autograph. I remember Joey laughing but that's all. *sigh*

However. There is more. Not much more, but a little more. Nothing to do with Europe, but everything to do with a band I saw supporting Europe at that same concert in Bielefeld. They were outstanding live and they made a deep impression. They're not very famous, and I don't have a big crush on any of the band members; their music, yes, but not the individuals. Absence of full-on crush didn't stop me from going to see them again when they played near my home town in Germany. On that occasion, I was also in autograph hunting mood and I missed my opportunity because I got delayed at the merchandise desk by a very flirty roady. (LOL, it's all so predictable). When I jokingly complained that I'd missed the band for autographs, he looked at me, took me by the arm (yes, it was *right* as though from a movie) and said, totally deadpan: "Well, let me take you backstage."

Now I *was* supposed to be on my way home again. It was a school night (well, university night) and all that. Then again, I was nineteen and not subject to any kind of curfew. There was the small matter of the pesky boyfriend in attendance, of course. Why do these things happen to me? (I should say that our relationship was on the way out and we were just kinda hanging in there for old time's sake. Although as I write, certain Sophie-parallels can't escape my notice, hmmm!).

Anyhoo, I went along (and boyfriend too) and was introduced to the band. We had beers. I got my autographs. I was told that I was very pretty (*swoon*) and invited to sit down and chat (and boyfriend too). We hung out until the bar chucked us out at 3am!!!! What did we talk about? Anything and everything. Music. Touring. Equipment (musical and male; yes, conversation went the obligatory lewd way after a few too many beers had been had by some, but it was *way* over my head at the time).

It was AWESOME. I have a huge smile even thinking back to that night now. NOTHING happened, I hasten to add. Nothing at all. I went home (with boyfriend), reputation and innocence intact. No regrets. But it was great.

That is awesome!  My hubby, Mike, ounce went backstage to meet the guys from the 80’s band The Outfield.  Do you remember them?  “Josie’s on a vacation far away…”  I cannot believe how much signing we’ve done together already, Nick!  Ha!

You can purchase Nicky's book here

I am a huge fan of Sophie from your breakout novel, Sophie’s Turn.  I love that you are bringing her back for a second and third book too.  Can you give us a little tease of what to expect in the new book and maybe a hint at what you’re cooking up for the last installment?

*blushes* Thank you so much ~ I am so happy that you enjoyed Sophie's Turn! Book 2, Sophie's Run, takes Sophie and Dan on a little detour; well, it has to, otherwise there wouldn't be a book 3, right?  Sophie's Run is out on 7 February 2013 and here's the blurb:

Her famous star remains her rock as life takes her on a little detour

Who says that the road toward true love is straight and even? Sophie is certainly discovering that it is anything but.
So she has finally found the man of her dreams. Well…she knows who he is, even though she hasn’t actually quite met him yet. When she misses her opportunity, her life goes crazy. Rock star and ex-fiancĂ©, Dan, keeps getting in the way of her new romance—even if he is just trying to be helpful. A fire, an impromptu mini-trip with Dan, and a dreaded wedding later, Sophie is still struggling to meet the love of her life. Just as she is getting it together with her perfect man, best friend Rachel commits an act of unspeakable betrayal. And to top it all, her new boyfriend leaves her lying in the mud.

Sophie has had enough. Confused and distraught, she decides that it is time for radical change. Surprising herself and shocking her friends, she embarks on a secret journey that eventually gets her life back on track.

Book 3, Sophie's Encore... well, there's a hint in the title! Sophie's Encore comes in three parts: New Beginnings, Falling and Grand Finale. It starts with a ... big event and things progress from there... I can't give away too much as it'll spoil not only Book 3 but also your enjoyment of Book 2! I'm 30,000 words in and hope to have a full draft complete by end of March 2013. The book is due for release in September 2013!!

With the holidays quickly approaching, do you and your family have any traditions you keep going year after year.

Oooh, we certainly do! First of all, we light candles on an advent wreath, one on every one of the four Sundays preceding Christmas. Typically on a Sunday we will also bake cookies and then chat and eat and sing by candlelight in the evening. Doesn't always happen that way but we do try!

On 6 December, we celebrate St Nicholas day. Yes, St Nick ~ his feast day is 6 December! In Germany, the kids put their wellies outside their front door and hope that St Nick will fill them with sweets, nuts and a little treat overnight. I remember watching out of the window myself all night long waiting for the sleigh to appear! My kids put their wellies inside our fire place (as our local foxes are known to make off with abandoned footwear) and we sing songs and hope for the best. It usually works!

Christmas is an elaborate affair as we have to reconcile German and English customs. Here's how that goes. On 24 December, the 'big' day in Germany, we have lots of lovely special food; we light candles and reveal the Christmas tree and hang out stockings. In the afternoon, we usually go the children's service in our local church. Normally we let the children have one present each that night, brought by the Christ Child (uh-huh, in Germany it's usually the Christ Child who brings presents, although Father Christmas features too... it never occurred to me how many customs co-exist until we had kids of our own!), although we are experimenting with what works best and what honours the spirit of Christmas most fully.

On 25 December, the kids wake to a magically filled stocking and a pile of presents under the tree. We have a big breakfast and then we gather round the tree, opening one present at a time, trying it out straightaway. For example, if it's a game, we play it; if it's Lego, we build it; if it's a book we start reading. That way, the present side of things stretches out and we sometimes have to have lunch in the middle!

Nicky, thank you so much for stopping by! You can Find Nicky Wells on TwitterFacebook, and purchase her book here.  Thank you too, to all you fabulous readers who pop by and spend time with me.  Have a wonderful week!
Bless and be blessed,

Monday, November 12, 2012

Find Your Strengthening Medicine with Pj Schott

You know, sometimes even the biggest of extroverts (yes, that’s me), needs some down time.  This week, I wanted to extend that to my dearest Pj Schott, yet she turned her overwhelming moments into something for us all to learn from.  Yet another reason I adore her and her spirit.    Pj Schott has lived in several U.S. port cities, Europe, Greece, and the Middle East. A marketing professional, mystery writer, and futurist, Pj is known to those with whom she works as a problem-solver, an innovative thinker, a top-notch communicator, a visionary, and the soul of a group. She is the owner of the Boston, Massachusetts based company GENIUS and is the woman behind the new Facebook page and blog, Survival for Blondes, where Pj is entirely surrounded by imagined disasters and learns to rise above.

Find Your Strengthening Medicine

In which Pj is dragged to the depths of despair and is saved by a virtual hug

“Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.
"Pooh?" he whispered.
"Yes, Piglet?"
"Nothing," said Piglet, taking Pooh's hand. "I just wanted to be sure of you.”

Researching dire global situations and imagining how to prepare for them should they hit home is part of what I do on a daily basis. Most of us know the world is a mess. Who wouldn't get depressed and overwhelmed by the daily bombardment of seemingly hopeless images from around the globe. All of us have experienced the occasional feeling of powerlessness. But we take it in stride. We count our blessings, say a prayer or two, and carry on.

Last week, when calamity struck my home town of New York City, and its surrounding area, I suddenly had nothing but trouble on my mind. That I was nearly in the direct path of Hurricane Sandy made me thankful disaster preparedness is a passion of mine. But my heart still ached for those who were not prepared. And when a Nor'easter suddenly landed on these folks, compounding their suffering, I found myself searching for a reason to get out of bed.

Even people who know me extremely well would find this hard to believe. But the most capable and intelligent of humans sometimes find it difficult to cope with anxiety and depression. Count my legs. My reaction was completely normal.

My turning point came this morning when our beloved Jen Tucker told me not to worry about coming to visit you all this month. Her kindness and compassion humbled me and gave me the gentle prodding I needed. "Now is the time to ask the obvious question … What Would Pooh Do?"

A master of the art of living in the Here-and-Now, Pooh didn't dwell on the past or worry about the future. Even in the face of disaster, he would have remained relaxed, balanced, and focused. When faced with thoughts of despair, the Zen-like bear would no doubt remind himself that "Some people care too much … it's called love."

Winnie and his friends were always there for each other. When little Piglet's worst case scenario – a bath – had him sprawled on the floor sobbing with his head in his arms, Rabbit said, "There, there, Piglet." And Owl added "Baths don't last forever." Little Piglet sat up, dried his eyes, and replied, "But afterward comes … the Strengthening Medicine."

One thing that triggers anxiety and depression is not feeling "connected." The problems in the world, and all the news that plays on our fears, makes us feel isolated, and distanced from each other. But by the miracle of technology, we have been given the gift of what I call our Astral Family. People we have never actually met, but with whom we feel a tremendous bond.

My Strengthening Medicine, the kindness of someone, who in the not-too-distant past would have remained a total stranger my entire life, suddenly bridged a gap in time and space and made me feel connected again. Now filled with inspiration rather than hopelessness, before this day is over I resolve to reach out to another person and urge them to take a small step in the direction of healing.

I recall something Charlie Brown (no doubt inspired by Winnie the Pooh) once said:

Listen, Linus, friendship isn't about who you've known the longest. It's all about the friend who comes and stands by your side in bad times.

And this group hug is dedicated to all my dear friends in Cyberspace. May the Pooh force be with you all.

Does Pj know how to make me tear up, or what?!  I love you Pj, and am so thankful you are a part of my life.  
Bless and be blessed!