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Why is My Hair Curly?

Today I have the opportunity to welcome a wonderful friend and fellow author, Lakshmi Iyer, to the blog! I first met Lakshmi at the Philadelphia Writer’s Workshop in April of headshot2017. She’s been a confidant for my self-doubt and a cheerleader of my work, and I’m beyond excited to get to cheer her on in return as her book, Why is My Hair Curly?, debuts this week. I couldn’t be more thrilled! Please join me in welcoming Lakshmi to the blog.

LRS: Welcome! I’m so glad you’re here. I can’t wait to learn more about your story.

LI: Good afternoon! I can’t wait to get started.

LRS: What prompted you to write Why is My Hair Curly?

LI: Last May, I woke to a message from an editor from Westland Publisher asking if I was willing to talk with her. I was skeptical, so I did some googling and decided to talk to her. She said she reads my blog occasionally and was curious to know if I was willing to write children’s fiction. I blanked out. I have up until then written largely personal essays. The one fictional work I attempted languished in some hard drive somewhere. I said I could try. After a lot of discussion, I wrote up a proposal for a series. Then we whittled it down to one book. The story took shape as I wrote the proposal.

Until that point, I had not actively considered writing fiction. Now that there was an opportunity to address the most impressionable of ages, I had a choice. I wanted to take on difficult topics. Our changing bodies, sexuality, bigotry etc. The publisher was keen however not to take on heavy subjects. Her mantra was ‘keep it light.’

Adoption is something I think about a lot. I write about our lives. I write about openness. I talk to so many couples hoping to adopt. This publisher is based out of India. Openness is not common. Talking to children about birth history and birth families is not easy when you have very little chance of finding the birth families even if you wanted to keep the adoption open. I grappled with the fact that if I did write it from the point of view of a child, I really would be speaking for an adoptee despite not having the lived experience of being an adoptee.

This was an idea that would not let go. Each morning as I walked or showered or cooked, Avantika haunted my thoughts. I have no idea where that name came from. She just was in my thoughts and wouldn’t let go. It took about two months for me to have an outline that worked. I wrote down the first draft in ten days. The revision happened over the course of the next few months. A year after the publisher reached out to me, the book will be out into the world.

LRS: I love this. A character who won’t let go! So, who is your target audience for the book?

LI: Children between the ages of 8-12. The story is simple, the language simple. The topic is universal.

LRS: What do you love most about your main character?

LI: I love that she thinks a lot. When Avantika wrestles with huge feelings, she writes in her diary. She explores her thoughts to make sense of it. She does not suppress them. She works on them and does not hesitate to go down the hard parts.

LRS: That’s a great message for children. Are any of the characters in the book built on people you know or experiences you’ve had in your own life?

LI: Almost all of them. It comes from being a creative non fiction writer. My life is my muse. Avantika’s preoccupation with books and her need to write was me as a child. Avantika’s mom as she runs around frazzled and rarely smiling is all of my mom friends. Avantika’s dad is a combination of my dad as he was and as I wanted him to be. Saraswathy paati is the wise person I want to be when I grow up

LRS: What’s next for you? What are you working on now?

LI: I have an old manuscript that is dear to me. It explores the Indian immigrant experience. It traces two couples as they grapple with infertility, memories of #Metoo and trying to find closure. The entire plot is set in the past which wise literary people tell me won’t work. Someday, I hope to find an agent or a publisher willing to take my raw, honest work and shape it into something that sells. I also have my memoir outlined and partially written. I even have a proposal to go with it. I have been putting off querying and trying to find a home for it. Perhaps, a part of me is hoping the universe will conspire and send a publisher my way. 🙂

LRS: If the awful virus hadn’t waged war on the world, where would you be traveling to promote the launch of your book?

LI: India of course. I would have been in Chennai, Coimbatore (both places featured in the book), Delhi, Mumbai, Pune and Bangalore. In fact, I would have been happy to travel anywhere so long as it was paid for.

LRS: Lastly, if you could have any superpower, what would it be?

LI: The ability to forgive myself when I say or do something I know is wrong. I am exceptionally harsh on myself even though it does nothing to prevent me from making the same mistake again.

LRS: Forgiveness is so important. Hugs to you, my friend!

Ready to buy the book for a child you know? (Or for, you know…YOU?) Order your Kindle version here!  Paperback coming July 20th. Happy Book Birthday, Lakshmi! What a beautiful gift you’ve given the world!

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24 Hours Post-Op

I made it almost 41 years without ever needing surgery. (Wisdom teeth don’t count in my book.) So imagine my surprise when I needed it in the midst of a viral pandemic. Right after 10 y.o. broke her arm, needed surgery, and recovered, my foot decided to stop responding to the steroid injections I’d been getting. (Did I mention husband has hip replacement surgery coming up, too? Fun for the whole family!)

Anyway, since so many people are asking how my recovery is going, I decided it was best to get it all written here and share as needed.

In short? I’m good. (And also short, but that has nothing to do with surgery.)

Yesterday afternoon, I had a neuroma removed from my foot and a bone spur filed from a toe. They said they put me in a twilight sleep, but I have zero recollection of anything other than a nurse anesthetist putting something in my IV while someone took my glasses and mask off my face.

Fade to black.

I woke up to zero pain in my very large and bandaged foot. My time under anesthesia proved to be the best nap time I’ve ever had in my life. (Maybe that’s because no children woke me up, no dogs whined to go out, and no cats tried to sit on my chest. Then again, maybe just anesthesia. Who’s to say?)

The staff at the surgical center was amazing. From the time I walked in to the time I left, I felt zero nerves. (Ironic, given that I was there for them to remove a portion of a painful nerve.) Since being home, I’ve been taking Advil and icing, and keeping the foot elevated. Toes above the nose, baby.

And my only complaint 24 hours post surgery is…I’m bored.

I’ll call that a win.

(Oh, also, I miss playing with my chickens. I hear I’m missing some amazing weather today…)

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My home care nurse is the best.

 

Family, Life, and Things that Matter

I missed March, April, and most of May on the blog. I bet you can all guess why.

Wow.

What a heck of a year so far. Global pandemic, hundreds of thousands dead, and so many people refusing to do something as simple as wear a face mask to protect themselves and others. It’s mind-boggling.

Not going to lie, friends. I’ve had my ups and downs handling this over the last few months. As all of you have. Working from home, online schooling for 4th and 8th grades, a 10-year-old with a broken arm (because the pandemic wasn’t terrifying enough on its own…let’s head to a hospital for corrective surgery!), being around my family every single day all day long and never getting a break even though I’m an introvert and desperately, desperately need a few days of quiet…or just a silent house for…like…an hour. Yeah. It’s all been a bit of a challenge.

And I’m sure you’re all in the very same situation. We’re all facing difficult times. Stressful times. Unprecedented times. But it won’t last forever. Years, maybe. But not forever.

So take this time to tell your loved ones how much they mean to you. Do things with them. Appreciate nature. Enjoy your backyard. (Or your balcony. Or your porch.) Here are a few snapshots from my own life in the past two months. Crazy, yes. But not all bad.

Family puzzles.

Family haircuts. (She’s trusting.)

Finished manuscript. (Book II of The Tarrowburn Prophecies. It’s almost ready!)

Broken arm.

Surgery because the fracture was through the growth plate.

Family karaoke night.

Chickens in the house. Hooray! These little ladies will be earning their keep in about four or five more months.

Backyard garden work.

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New project inspiration!

New truck! (Because the old one left husband stranded 40 miles from home not once, but TWICE. And it’s been 21 years, I guess we’re due.)

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The World’s Greatest Invention

With all the technology that exists today, why, oh why, hasn’t a 16-year-old tech whiz come up with a way to record our thoughts as we fall asleep each night? I would hand my money over in a heartbeat. I’d pay yesterday. I’d take a second mortgage on my house to cover payments.

And so would every writer I know.

Lying in bed seems to be when my thoughts run free. It’s like someone has turned on a faucet and decided to let the ideas flow. Words that eluded me all day as I sat in front of an open laptop suddenly gush forward, ready to be released. And I struggle to remember them come the morning.

Oh, I know what you’re going to say.  “Keep a notepad by your bed and write these things down, silly.”

Okay, Karen. Let me just get a few things straight.

  1. When I go to bed, it takes me forever to fall asleep to begin with. WHY WOULD I DISTURB THAT TO WAKE MYSELF UP AND WRITE SOMETHING DOWN?
  2. Writing something requires light. I am not about to turn on the light when I am finally adjusted to the dark.
  3. If I wake myself up to write something, I must now reinitiate the process of trying to sleep all over again. It will be 2 a.m. before I get any semblance of sleep. If I’m lucky.
  4. My handwriting sucks even with light. Supposing I tried to forgo the light, I can’t imagine trying to read that chicken-scratch in the morning if I wrote it in the dark.
  5. Also, I sleep in the same room & the same bed as another person. Can you imagine how thrilled he’d be if I sat up to write down every random musing?

So yes, I would pay money hand over fist to the first person to invent a machine that somehow translates my nighttime musings into actual words on a screen. Come on, already, geniuses! Someone give me a hand and figure this out.

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Do It Anyway

Dear friends,

As this last day of the year fast draws to an end (and my kiddos would be the first to remind me that it’s ALSO the end of a *decade*), I want to talk about something that I’ve been thinking about for a while.

Which is weird…

…because I can’t think of the words I want to say in this blog post.

It has something to do with fear and chasing your dreams and doing the right thing, but my words are all jumbled and I’m not entirely sure I know what any of these things has to do with the others.

So let’s just start with the fear thing, eh?

Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. It occurred to me that when I feel fear, I tend to want to head straight into whatever makes me afraid, and I don’t mean things like rollercoaster drops (no, thank you) or turning and running straight at a grizzly that’s chasing me down (also VERY no, thank you). I mean the kind of persistent fear that creeps into your life and bares its fangs at every turn. The kind of fear that turns into a perpetual state of anxiety that makes you believe you can’t go out (something bad might happen), you can’t eat one more cookie (you’ve had enough, you’ll make yourself sick!), you can’t donate blood (what if you pass out?), you can’t join the gym and workout and do protein shakes like a meathead (your body will rebel – it’s not made for this – you’re a bookworm!).

(Yes, all of those thoughts *really* occurred. Welcome to my brain.)

So yeah, I did the exact opposite of what I wanted to do in each of those scenarios. Instead of running away, I joined the gym and got a trainer & nutritionist and have even been drinking protein shakes for just shy of two months now. They’re gross, by the way, (the shakes, not the trainer & nutritionist – they’re both perfectly delightful), but I’m healthier with the activity and I feel better overall than I have in a very long time.

And I’ve indulged in PLENTY of holiday junk this week. (After many weeks of being REALLY good with diet and exercise, I’m due.) I’ve gone out and done things and seen people and filled my calendar with activities week after week, day after day, even though my introvert self really wanted to hole up in my bed, read a book, and ignore the world some days. Yesterday, I donated blood. Again. For the 3rd time this year. Because it scares the crap out of me and *grits teeth* because. I. can. No fear is going to stop me, especially not my own fear.

On the matter of the chasing your dreams thing, this year has been one heck of a whirlwind. I made the decision in October 2018 to publish A Thousand Years to Wait in 2019, and publish I did. The book launched on April 30th and I could never have imagined the kind of support I would receive from friends, family, and perfect strangers. My love for all of you is so much more than you could ever know. The year was filled with events, signings, and yes – even an audiobook that literally happened in less than a month from conception to finished product. And still, each of you stood by my side and helped make my dreams a reality.

Did I think I might fail? Certainly. Was I terrified of doing so? Hell, yes. Still am.

But what’s that thing I mentioned about fear? Oh, right. Do the thing that scares you most.

Honestly, if it scares the hell out of you, you’re doing something right.

Huh. I guess that’s it. That’s what I’ve been trying to say and that’s the lesson for 2019. Onward and upward. My wish for you in 2020 is that you find what terrifies you, and you tackle it anyway.

Love and hugs, friends. I believe in you.

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2019 Wrap Up

Welcome to December! I should be working on my WIP right now instead of tallying up numbers from this year, but what is a writer if not a procrastinator, right? So I bring you my 2019 writing stats. People often ask me how long it takes to get a book written and what a writer does (besides the actual writing part), so here’s a little peek into what 2019 looked like for me.

2019 Writing

Books published: 1
eBooks published: 1
Audiobooks produced: 1
Signing events attended: 5
Independent Book Award Entries: 4
Independent Book Award Finalist: 1
Independent Book Award Losses: 1
Independent Book Award Unknown Outcome: 2
Manuscript words written: >90,000
Manuscripts finished: 1
Manscripts queried: 3
Query rejections: 40
Requests for partial: 1
Requests for full: 2
Total accumulative completed manuscripts (2011-2019): 5
Online pitch contests entered: 2 (if you count tomorrow’s #PitMad on Twitter)
Blog posts written: 26
Number of new SCBWI critique group members discovered: 3
Writing friends made: too numerous to count

Happy Holidays, friends! I wish you a happy, healthy, and successful 2020!

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If I’m Dreaming, Don’t Wake Me Up

So a little thing happened today.

A Thousand Years to Wait was listed as an Award-Winning Finalist in the Fiction: Fantasy category of the 2019 Best Book Awards sponsored by American Book Fest!

Someone pinch me.

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12 Books—Month 9

It’s time for another Twitter friend book review and this time it’s Roselle Lim’s Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune.

I didn’t think twice about picking up this book. It has everything I love – a romance, a little bit of magic, a girl finding her place in the world. I wouldn’t think of missing it!

Natalie Tan's Book of Luck & Fortune

What I found when I opened the pages and dove in did not disappoint. In fact, it’s such a unique story that I almost don’t want to delve into the details and give anything away…

Suffice it to say the story follows a young woman who returns home to San Francisco’s Chinatown after many years away (and a not-so-happy parting with her agoraphobic mother). She returns because her mother has passed away, and she’s plagued with sorrow and guilt at having left her mother on bad terms. She finds her community in disrepair and longs to help in a way she couldn’t have before she’d left. According to a mystic, the neighborhood will prosper if she makes three recipes to help three neighbors.

Because Natalie Tan’s recipes come from her grandmother’s magic recipe book–a book that features recipes for the tastebuds, but ingredients for the heart, her cooking contains just as much magic, repairing damaged relationships and helping love to flourish. It’s the story of a woman who finds her place in this world.

But it’s also a story of suspending disbelief, of allowing magical realism to take over. Lim’s descriptions are poetic, her writing lyrical. The book was a delightful read full of mouth-watering recipes that made me wish I had my own personal chef.

In the end, I have only one question. Who cleans Natalie’s kitchen after all that meal preparation?

12 Books—Month 8

Hooray, we’ve reached one of my favorites in my Twitter friend book reviews. This month, I read Jean Grant’s Will Rise From Ashes. If her name looks familiar, it’s because I’ve mentioned Jean before on my blog. Several times, actually, as Jean is a critique partner and beta-reader extraordinaire. In fact, I mentioned Will Rise From Ashes when I featured an interview with her several months ago.

Now I get to tell you all about how much I loved it! Will Rise From Ashes is a women’s fiction, near apocalyptic, mother’s journey and romance that will take you on a ride. (And not just because A.J., the main character, is traveling thousands of miles to find her missing son.) I’m talking emotional rollercoaster.

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Before I had kids, stories like this would have been entertaining. Now? Now they’re terrifying. As a mother, there is nothing more horrifying than the feeling of helplessness where your kids are concerned, and Grant captures it perfectly.

Our main character A.J. has already faced emotional loss with the accidental death of her husband a year prior. Now, with help from her brother, she vows to take her two children to Yellowstone National Park–a vacation they were supposed to take as a family before her husband died. There’s a catch, though. It’s not an easy trip. A.J.’s older son Will is on the autism spectrum, which makes hectic airport environments challenging. When Will has a meltdown in the airport due to a delay caused by an overbooked flight, A.J.’s brother insists that she and Will take the last two seats, that he and her younger son Finn will catch the next flight.

The only problem? The super volcano beneath Yellowstone erupts, causing devastation and havoc while A.J. and Will are safely on their way home. When A.J. learns what happened, she’s determined to get to Finn at any cost, even though all flights are grounded. She loads Will into the car and the two begin a cross-country journey from Maine to Colorado (where her brother and Finn were supposed to catch a connecting flight). If they are still alive, that’s where they’ll be.

As if the tension weren’t enough, Grant throws in a hero by the name of Reid, and a sizzling sweet romance to last the ages. It’s a fantastic read that has everything one could want in a book. I keep hoping the right person will read this and make it into a movie… (Hollywood, you hear me? I’m talking to you!)