“So Many Books, So Little Time…” Throw Pillow Giveaway

Hi everyone! This summer has been amazing, but really, really busy. So I’m sorry if my postings have been a bit all over the place.

A few weeks ago I reached out to Darlene Nudy after coming across her Etsy store, which you can check out here. You can also visit her Facebook page here, and don’t forget to give it a like! Darlene is a seamstress who does custom sewing and embroidery. What really caught my eye was her throw pillows.

Why? Because anyone who loves decorating loves throw pillows. And, anyone who loves decorating AND books can’t help but love Darlene’s book inspired pillow!

To my delight, Darlene agreed to work with me to bring this wonderful giveaway to you! She sent me two pillows, one with Keystroke Blog’s logo on it, and the other saying “So Many Books, So Little Time…” (which perfectly describes my life at any given moment).

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I am so happy with these cute little pillows! They are a good fabric and are sewn very well. And they are so adorable! I am so happy to have the chance to give one lucky winner one of these pillows.

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To enter the giveaway, follow the rafflecopter link below. Good luck!

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/e20309ab3/?

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Book Review- Don’t Even Think About It

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Don’t Even Think About It by Sarah Mlynowski
Published by Delacorte Press on March 11, 2014
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Paranormal, Fantasy
Pages: 317
Goodreads
Amazon

We weren’t always like this. We used to be average New York City high school sophomores. Until our homeroom went for flu shots. We were prepared for some side effects. Maybe a headache. Maybe a sore arm. We definitely didn’t expect to get telepathic powers. But suddenly we could hear what everyone was thinking. Our friends. Our parents. Our crushes. Now we all know that Tess is in love with her best friend, Teddy. That Mackenzie cheated on Cooper. That, um, Nurse Carmichael used to be a stripper.

Since we’ve kept our freakish skill a secret, we can sit next to the class brainiac and ace our tests. We can dump our boyfriends right before they dump us. We know what our friends really think of our jeans, our breath, our new bangs. We always know what’s coming.

Some of us will thrive. Some of us will crack. None of us will ever be the same. So stop obsessing about your ex. We’re always listening.

Don’t Even Think About It is a cute book, there is no getting around that one. It is written in a first person plural tense, which is really unique. It’s like one big collective mind split into different bodies, but telling the story as one person. So, for example, instead of using “I”, it uses “we”.

The story itself is pretty interesting. It follows classroom 10B as they get ESP powers and can read minds. A lot of secrets are brought out and there is definitely a lot of drama. But its not the kind of drama that made me want to roll my eyes and put the book down… it was the kind of drama that made me laugh a little and really want to find out what was going to happen next.

As I said earlier, the book is written in a first person plural… the plural being the 22 students of 10B that got ESP. However, each of the characters is still unique, which made for a great read. There were the students that I loved (hi Olivia and Cooper!), those that made me laugh (BJ), those that I kind of sort of hated (*ahem* Courtney and Pi), and those that I don’t even remember the names of because they aren’t that important to the story.

I really did enjoy reading Don’t Even Think About It, but it wasn’t my favorite book in the world. I feel like there could have been more to the story. That being said, I still want to read the second one to find out what happens next!

I am going to give Don’t Even Think About It four out of five hearts.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

 

Book Review- Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

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Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Random Riggs
Published by Quirk on June 7, 2011
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult, Fiction, Paranormal
Pages: 352
Goodreads
Amazon

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of curious photographs.

A horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

I did it. After having Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children sitting on my shelf and staring at me for almost six months, I picked it up and read it. And wow, was it amazing.

The beginning of the book was a little slow, giving a lot of Jacob’s backstory. It was very interesting, and introduced his relationship with his grandfather and the magical stories he used to tell.

On of my favorite things about the book was the pictures, which were placed throughout the book. Ransom Riggs described each one before it was shown, making them all the more interesting. Each one was perfectly woven into the story and created an unforgettable reading experience.

The way the peculiar children lived was remarkable. It was explained so well, and I can’t help but think that maybe–just maybe–these so called “loops” really exist.

The end of the book was a huge surprise. I had to reread the page just to make sure that I had understood it correctly. It made me rethink the events of the entire story, and put it in a new light.

I am going to give Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children four out of five hears. I can’t wait to read what comes next!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Author Q&A- Diana Stevan

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing the self-proclaimed Jill of all Trades; Diana Stevan. She is truly an amazing woman, and has accomplished so much in her life. Her next novel, The Rubber Fence, was inspired by her work on a psychiatric ward in 1972, and comes out in paperback and e-book on March 3th.

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Q: When did you start writing?

A: I started writing in my early twenties. I joined the Manitoba Authors Association, scribbled some short stories, but didn’t bother publishing them. I did however publish a few newspaper articles on travel and fitness in Winnipeg’s major newspapers and ended up getting an honourable mention in a fashion essay contest for Flare Magazine (now defunct). I left writing on the back burner because I had children young and supported my husband to get his Master of Social Work degree. Writing, as you know, is an occupation with no guaranteed income.

Q: What inspires you to write? Do you have a muse?

A: Life inspires me. I have no trouble coming up with ideas for stories. What I have trouble with is managing my time and distractibility. Being a curious soul, I gravitate to all kinds of news and need to discipline myself to keep at my writing projects. I have a folder with story ideas and many full journals, but so far, because I have so much on the go, I haven’t referred to either lately.

Q: You call yourself a ‘Jill of all trades’ because you have done so many things. What job(s) have you found the most enjoyable? Which do you regret?

A: Good question. I can truly say that I’ve enjoyed them all, because of the people I’ve worked with and the knowledge I’ve gained from each experience. But of course, some were more enjoyable than others. I loved my job as both a school social worker and school psychologist at the Child Guidance Clinic in Winnipeg. I did a lot of family therapy back then and teamed with a speech pathologist to do some ground breaking work with families. I also loved professional modelling—especially the couturier shows and a memorable one I did in a concert hall with synthetic snow falling as we walked down the ramp. As well, the acting gigs gave me an inside look at some stars I admired, like Jack Lemmon, and Penelope Anne Miller.

As for what I regret. It was not the work but my behaviour. It was during the year I spent as a freelance writer broadcaster for CBC television’s Sports Journal, I wish I’d had the courage to stand up to a bully, my co-host for a national special, whose ego was massive. I regret that I didn’t fight back during the filming in Hawaii. Because of the circumstances and his rude and irresponsible behaviour, the program never saw air. I was a rising star on the network, so to speak, and obviously threatening to him.  I had been a team player but learned very quickly that in the media, you have to be tough. I learned too late and decided to leave television behind and return to social work. What I did get out of this experience though was invaluable, the seeds of another story.

Q: Your family immigrated from Europe before you were born. What effect did this have on your life?

Dad came from what was then Austria when he was 2, and Mom came from what was then Poland, when she was 14. Both areas are now part of Ukraine. Because my baba (grandmother) lived with us from the time I was a baby, my first language was Ukrainian. And like all immigrant parents, mine wanted me to know a bit of the culture they came from. So I ended up learning how to read and write the language and some of the country’s history. Because of my roots and the fact that I also experienced prejudice growing up (even though I was born in Canada) it’s helped me appreciate those who are discriminated against.  I have great sympathy and empathy for those who’ve suffered and been misunderstood because of their ethnic background, colour of skin, religion or sexual orientation.

Q: You published your debut novel, A Cry From the Deep, in October of 2014. Tell me a little about the book. Was it influenced by events in your life?

A Cry From The Deep was a story I couldn’t let go of.  It’s a time-slip novel about a love so powerful it spans several lifetimes. When Catherine Fitzgerald, an underwater photographer covering a hunt for one of the lost ships of the Spanish Armada, buys an antique Claddagh ring, she is troubled by nightmares that set her on a path to fulfill a promise made centuries before. It’s turned out to be a unique book, in that it’s genre-bending and for that reason, difficult to know how to promote it. It has mystery, adventure, paranormal and romance.

The story was definitely influenced by an event in my life. As a child, I had seen a movie, I’ll Never Forget You, in which a scientist goes back in time, falls in love with a woman there, and then returns to find her in the present. So when I met with a fellow screenwriter, who wanted me to help him write an epic romance, one that had a theme of reincarnation, I was bitten. We parted ways without coming up with a story we could agree on, but I massaged those seeds in my mind and came up with my own twist. I’ve always been fascinated by the mystery of what happens once we’re gone. And I’m a romantic. So, I began to develop a story that encompassed both a bit of time travel and romance, brought in some psychics and a ghost into the mix, and of course a therapist who’s alternative. I met a number of those over the years in my practice. As for making my protagonist an underwater photographer, I have no idea how that came up, except I love snorkeling, fascinated by what lies in the sea, and also love photography. That meant a lot of research into scuba diving and salvaging, especially what’s involved off the coast of Ireland. Also, in the story the dive team is  hunting for one of the lost ships of the Spanish Armada, which meant more research into these vessels and the time when they went down.

Q: You have also published a novelette called The Blue Nightgown. What inspired you to write it?

A: The 1950s inspired me to write it, as I was a teen back then. Compared to today’s open sexuality, the 1950s was a more innocent time, and yet, what was going on behind closed doors back then was not that different from what goes on behind closed doors today. I also grew up in a rooming house ‘For Girls Only’. As a teenager, the young women, who lived upstairs, were fascinating to me. I’ve written a few short stories about that period and plan to write more, which I then hope to put into a book along with The Blue Nightgown.

Q: You hope to publish your Baba’s (Grandmother’s) story, which you have titled No Time for Tears. Can you tell me a little bit about your Baba and what is in the book?

A: I’m no longer using that title, since I discovered there are too many books already with that one. I shared a bedroom with my baba until I was fifteen and yet she talked little about her past. Thankfully, my mother, who was a wonderful storyteller, left me with many anecdotes which I’ve now strung together with a lot of research. What struck me about my grandmother was her incredible strength and courage. She was a peasant farmer in what is now Western Ukraine, during WWI, the Bolshevik Revolution and the Polish Occupation. What she went through and somehow survived is an incredible story, one that I hope inspires many. It’s also about family and what one woman had to do to keep it together.

Q: If you could travel back in time to when you were a child, what would you tell yourself?

A: Enjoy these moments, the good and the bad, as nothing is wasted. Also, listen and learn. Value each person who comes your way. Each has a unique story to tell.

Q: What advice do you have for young writers?

A: Have faith in your own voice. If you have the passion to write, don’t let the naysayers change your mind. But do listen to those who’ve come before you, especially those who want to help make your voice stronger through craft and story. I’ve been blessed to be a member of a couple of writers’ critique groups. I don’t always agree with the criticism, but when more than one voice says the same thing, I pay attention. When you are close to your own material, it’s hard to see the flaws. It helps to show your work to someone you trust, not just friends and family who are supportive, but to those who can be more objective. When I wrote my debut novel, A Cry From The Deep, I ran it through my critique group first and then before publishing, I hired both a macro (substantive) editor and a copy editor. To do less, I thought would be insulting to the reader. And I wanted to put my best foot forward. You owe it to yourself to do the same.

Q: What is one thing you want the world to know about you?

A: That I take a lot of lessons from nature and that I’m very lucky to have a good man at my side, one who supports my obsession to write.

For more on Diana Stevan:

Website: http://www.dianastevan.com

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/dianastevan.author

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DianaStevan

Amazon link for A Cry From The Deep:    http://amzn.to/1Lmx7nq

Amazon link for The Blue Nightgown: : http://amzn.to/1Kaqdl4

Amazon link for pre-order of The Rubber Fence: http://amzn.to/1lBnb3e

A Cry From The Deep is also available on Barnes & Noble, Chapters Indigo, Smashwords, Google Play, and iTunes. 

Beginning a Novel

Today marks the day that I am starting my second novel. Unlike when I started my first novel, I decided to do some research before starting this one. It’s hard to understand how confusing a novel can be to write until you are sitting at your keyboard and trying to pants your way though the first chapter. Needless to say, my first novel was a train wreck.

This time around I decided not to be a pantser. A pantser is someone who doesn’t make an outline, and just writes as they go along. I’m not saying that pantsing doesn’t work (it does- just ask JK Rowling), I’m just saying that it didn’t work that well for me. I ended up forgetting about characters and leaving huge plot holes that pure editing can’t fix.

For the past couple weeks, I have been scouring the internet looking for the best ways to go about plot planning. I have never been much of a planner, even when I wrote essays for school. However, I also don’t like editing, so that puts me in a bit of a pickle; how can I write a great book that doesn’t require too much planning or editing?

The solution for editing is an easy one. There are amazing websites such as https://reedsy.com/ that can get you in contact with professional editors, cover/interior designers, and any other service you need. Then, you can negotiate your own price with them first hand. That being solved, the only problem I had left was how am I going to plan my plot?

In my creative process, I get ideas two main ways. The scenes will pop into my head,  or I talk with my older brother/a close friend. So how do I take these seemingly random ideas and put them together to make a killer plot?

The answer for me was a chapter by chapter breakdown. I spent a good three hours organizing all the little notes I made into a sort-of-legible story line, and went from there. It was pretty easy from that point to fill in the missing points and see what needed more developing.

I’m not saying that my plot skeleton is perfect- it is just a skeleton. I still have a lot of work to do on it, and it will most likely change as I go along. However, the way I did it gives me a great deal more freedom than completely planning out my novel. It allows me to change directions at the end of a chapter- or switch a chapter out completely) if I don’t like it. Being a lover of pantsing, I feel like this plan gives me a good amount of space to let my creativity grow, while still sticking to a story line.

Now, I just need to see if my planning works. I guess you can call this a bit of an experiment. So wish me luck! I’ll post an update about it soon.

The Boy- Flash Fiction

It was only a few weeks ago that I discovered flash fiction. I was scrolling though a writing forum (http://www.writingforums.org/) and came across a flash fiction contest. Upon doing some quick research, I discovered that flash fiction is basically a story told in around 100 words. It was pretty tricky for me, considering I tend to be on the wordier side, but I decided to give it a shot. Here it is!

Cold winds swirled though the empty streets of Aberlon. Winter had come suddenly; taking many by surprise. Farmers and cattle froze in the fields. Wives and children cuddled under blankets, tears turning to ice on their frigid faces.

A lone boy could stand in the cold. He was bundled with coat after coat; until he doubled in size. He was small, but he was their only hope.

“Go,” urged the people. “Save us.”

The boy was terrified. Surely he would freeze. But he had to go. He walked the frozen roads for days and days. He found scraps, anything that could be rolled in his ever growing ball. He pushed and shoved until it grew far beyond his bundled body. He struggled and shouted as his shivering bones ached to move the mound.

He made it. He came home chilled to the bone with his big ball of yarn. He rushed door to door; banging and screaming. “I’m home,” he called.

There was no answer. The town of Aberlon was silent but for his cries. He ran for his mother, cradling her icy bones; her crystal skin. He wept for her, his tears creating an icy cocoon, morphing him to stone.

 

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