Archive for the ‘Reads’ Category

Amy’s Notebook 04.09.14

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Chalkboard Bunny Easter Bucket

Source: Sugar Bee Crafts

 

I’m just over the moon with how cute – and simple! – these chalkboard bunny Easter buckets are. What a fun change from a regular basket.

Oh, this creamy corn casserole with bacon seems like the most perfect comfort food – Drool.

This is a completely adorable ‘Be Happy” printable bunting that would just be the sweetest decoration for a kids room or any bright, colorful space!

This horse-themed birthday party idea is really unique and any horse-crazy kid would love it!

I totally agree with Alice’s one rule for perfect cake pan prep.

I’m so intrigued with “zoodles” – zucchini noodles – and am looking forward to trying them in this lemon-garlic spicy shrimp with zoodles recipe. Sounds just about perfect for my new gluten-free life!

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I hope you enjoyed this collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, and thrifty ways to spruce up your home. Nothing brings me more joy then to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

 

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Sundays With Writers: Hush Little Baby by Suzanne Redfearn

Sunday, April 6th, 2014

Sundays_With_Writers-1

One of the highlights of running our MomAdvice Book Club has been our author interviews. It is truly a dream come true to share these interviews with you and to get to ask writers my questions about their process, their pieces, and their own recommendations for great books.

With that in mind, I am starting a new series called, “Sundays With Writers.” It will not be a weekly feature, but as I read books that I think you will love, I will share an interview with you about them and about their books.  It gives me the chance to continue sharing about incredible books and the beautiful minds and thoughts behind their creation. It also gives me a chance to swim a bit more in their words and hopefully share about an author you may not know about.  So grab your coffee and let’s chat about beautiful books together!

We will begin our series with an incredible book that I hope you will run out and pick up! It is called, “Hush Little Baby,” written by Suzanne Redfearn. It is a well-paced psychological thriller that I could not put down. The recommendation came from my friend Kristen, at Dine & Dish, and as I closed on the final pages, I knew that I needed to interview her.

Hush Little Baby by Suzanne Redfearn

Hush Little Baby is the story of a woman named Jillian Kane who has the life that she always dreamed of. She is a successful businesswoman, she has two beautiful kids, she wants for nothing financially, and her husband is a well-respected cop who every woman wish she had. Jillian is living with a secret though.  For nine years, her husband has abused her and he is calculating enough to abuse her in ways that no one would ever suspect that she is a victim.

When things escalate too far, Jillian decides to run away from him with her two kids. Unfortunately, she has no money, no plan, and no one that she can turn to.  It is in this most pivotal moment of her life that she develops unlikely friendships and learns to finally save herself and her kids. Her husband though, is a cop and is determined to do everything in his power to get his children back…and kill her.

I could not put this book down because I was so worried about Jillian and her kids. For two days, every moment I had, I was reading this to make sure that they could get to safety. When I say that I had my heart all wrapped up in this one, it would not be an understatement.

Today I am talking with Suzanne about her amazing book and a little bit about her process in writing this!

Suzanne_Redfearn

The abuse that Jillian suffers is so painful to read through and yet illustrates how important it is for her to break free. Did you struggle with this as you were writing these scenes?

In order to accurately depict what Jillian was going through, I needed to do extensive research on domestic violence and reading the first person accounts and testimonials of victims was very difficult.  And then internalizing what I’d read so I could use it in the story was exhausting.  Writing is a lot like acting, in order to do it well, you need to get inside your character’s head, put yourself in their life, and experience what they are going through.  Jillian is a lot like me in some ways, so it wasn’t difficult to feel her plight.  The nice thing about being an author is that, unlike my characters, when it gets to be too much, I can step away and return to my real life, the one that is loving and warm and not full of violence and fear.

 One thing that really struck me in your book was that Jillian often thinks of herself in pivotal moments and not her children. This part really pulled at my heartstrings, but I wonder if it was meant to do that. Was this meant to showcase the guilt that we all have as mothers in putting our own needs first?

Great question and one I haven’t been asked.  This was a result of the research I did as well as my experience of being a mom myself.  Oftentimes this is the dilemma an abused woman faces, save herself or stay to protect her kids.  Fear plays havoc on the psyche and self preservation is an instinct that is hard to override.  But you’re right about the resulting guilt that occurs after a woman has those treacherous thoughts.  Even if she doesn’t act on them, it can be devastating.  Some readers have told me they didn’t like Jillian because they didn’t think she was a good mother.  I would defend that she is a real mother, one who is not perfect, who sometimes made mistakes and had selfish thoughts (haven’t we all?), who had been beat down to believe she wasn’t a good mother, but who ultimately risked everything to save her kids.

There is a pretty scary scene for me, as a mom, when Jillian finds her son torturing a frog at a birthday party. Was this meant to show us how the abuse had weaved its way into Drew’s life?

Thank you for picking up on that.  I think it was a pivotal moment foretelling of the perilous path Drew was on to follow in his dad’s footsteps.  Abuse begets abuse, and I believe it is because of that moment that Jillian realizes something needs to change, if not to save herself, to save her kids.  I contrasted the frog scene with the gift scene of the Hollyhock seeds to show that Drew is at a crossroads and that there is still hope to save him.

I had a secret hope that you would bring Jillian back to the Flying Goat and reunite her with the people that helped keep her safe. Did you consider bringing her back or weaving those characters in at the end?

So many readers have mentioned this, and I too fell in love with Goat and Paul and the entire crew from Elmer City, but the story told itself and ended where it was supposed to.  I will leave it to the readers’ imaginations to figure out when and where their paths cross again.

 I find it so unbelievable that this is your first novel- the writing is so beautiful and the scenes were woven together so well. It reminded me a lot of some of my favorite books from Heather Gudenkauf or Diane Chamberlain. Since you are an architect by profession, what brought you to this moment in your life to pursue writing and was this a difficult career transition for you?

 I am what someone termed an accidental author.  I did not go to school for writing and never considered becoming an author, but one day I sat down with an idea for a story and started to write and it poured out of me (that was seven years ago and it was not Hush Little Baby), and I discovered that I love to tell stories.  My grandfather was a storyteller, and I believe I inherited the gift from him.  I was hooked, and since architecture had tanked with the recession, I had time on my hands, so I set out to learn the craft and kept writing.  Hush Little Baby is the fifth novel I wrote but the first one to get published.  I still love architecture, and, if inspired, I will switch hats again and build something.  It’s not one or the other for me, it’s wherever I’m at in any given moment of time.  For now, the stories continue to flow, so I continue to peck at the keys, but who knows where this crazy path will lead or what I will do next.

 If you could tell anyone to read one book (other than your own) what would that book be?

 The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay.

 What do you have in store for us with your next project?

I am very excited about the next project.  It is another story about a mother protecting her children but in a very different context and with a very different protagonist.  I can’t disclose more than that, other than to say, it’s another rollercoaster ride of emotion.

*This series may contain affiliate links! 

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It’s The 3 Little Things: Americans, Eczema, & Undergarments

Friday, April 4th, 2014

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Happy, Friday, friends! I am excited for another round of, “It’s the 3 Little Things,” and sharing three things that are making me happy this week! If you have missed any of our past weeks, you can check them out here! I am also opening the post up for you to share your own list of 3 things that are making you happy this week! I’d love for you to participate either on your own blogs or in the comments below! I love ending my week on a high note, don’t you?

 

This American Life

This American Life

Oh, dear, I have become QUITE the NPR junkie this year.  Every day I learn something new from listening to NPR and one of the things that my husband & I discovered was our absolute adoration for This American Life. Since we are rarely listening to the radio at the scheduled time, I splurged for the This American Life app for my iPad ($4.99) and now we are able to listen to the shows anytime we want.  If you haven’t discovered it yet  This American Life is mostly true stories of everyday people, and the best way I can describe it is that the show is like listening to a movie about these people.  It is typically told in three acts that all interact around the same theme. It is the best kind of storytelling and usually leads to a beautiful discussion about your own viewpoints after the show.

My husband and I sit in our respective chairs and hang on every word. Every. Word. It’s become one of our favorite things to do in the evenings, further solidifying the exciting type of senior life you might expect from us in the future.  If you aren’t listening to NPR, you are missing the boat. And I can say this because I missed the boat for years and now I can’t imagine my life without it.

Aveeno Eczema Cream

Aveeno Eczema Cream

I have been having a bad struggle with patches of eczema that just didn’t seem to heal. I read that coconut oil was a great solution and although it moisturized really well, it never cleared up my eczema. I started using this Aveeno cream and it has changed my skin completely. No more dry, itchy, irritated skin for this girl. Just a little dab seems to go a long way and my skin feels completely different especially on those patches of eczema that I have battled for forever.  If you or someone you know is struggling with this, definitely give this cream a try. It has finally healed me!

 

Vassarette Soft N' Smooth Bra

Vassarette Soft N’ Smooth Bra

If you are the type of woman that benefits from things like extra support, underwires, and wide comfortable straps…please carry on with your day. If you do not benefit from such an arrangement, I have found the world’s most comfortable undergarment ever. This bra has no lines if you wear it with t-shirts or tank tops and it is comfortable enough that you could sleep in it. I had one that I wore to death and then decided that I would buy a few more.

I went to Vassarette’s site directly, but it was $5 more than Walmart so I ordered it through Walmart instead. You can’t beat $9.48 for the world’s best bra. I bought myself five and got rid of the ones that weren’t comfortable. I would call that “something that makes me happy,” indeed!

And for those that asked why I wasn’t in that cardio dance video, I had the pleasure of being a part of one of Abbi’s tapings! If my list of randomness doesn’t make you happy, this dance will! Happy Friday, friends!!

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though.

 

Now it’s your turn, what makes you happy this week? Feel free to share in our link up below and link back to this post to participate!

Share 3 things that are making you happy today!

Amy’s Notebook 04.02.14

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

teacher-appreciation-gift-idea

Source: Confetti Sunshine

 

Oh my gosh, isn’t this teacher appreciation gift idea the cutest thing ever?

These beautiful watercolor flowers are just the thing I need to add a bit of spring to our house – bonus that they last forever and are no maintenance!

Here’s another blogger’s take on dying plastic eggs, using water color and gold leaf on the eggs – so fun!

You probably know that I’m a big fan of homemade versions of take-out meals, so it’s probably not a surprise that I’m dying to try better than takeout chicken fried rice…mmmm.

I’m loving this diy mason jar spice organizer – my mind is turning with all the other applications for this, too: buttons, small craft supplies, office things – awesome!

And I think you’ll agree with me that toasted pistachio toffee brittle needs to go on the to-make list, asap – drool.

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I hope you enjoyed this collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, and thrifty ways to spruce up your home. Nothing brings me more joy then to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

 

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MomAdvice Summer Book Club Selection: Love With a Chance of Drowning

Friday, March 28th, 2014

Love With a Chance of Drowning

First, I just want to thank everyone for your feedback today about the MomAdvice Book Club. I hope you didn’t feel like I was coming down too hard about it, but the MomAdvice Book Club was a special project for me this year.  I have spent an unbelievable amount of time investing into reading so many books to find the perfect books, coordinating with publishing houses to get free books to giveaway, gathering questions for authors, and then posting/sharing each discussion. In all honesty, it became a little part-time job for me on top of my full-time job.

I didn’t mind doing it until the discussion and participation dwindled.

Based on your feedback, you are 1) very busy mamas 2) are waiting for library copies 3) didn’t have time to read this year.

Again, I get that! I totally do.

In order to make things more relaxed and fun again, we will be selecting a quarterly selection moving forward. This gives you plenty of time to get books, read them, and have questions for our featured authors. On alternate months, I will just share my book reviews as we have done in the past. 

Love With a Chance of Drowning

This summer we will be reading the AMAZING memoir of Torre DeRoche called, “Love With a Chance of Drowning.” It is our first non-fiction selection and I am so excited to share this book with you because I am enjoying it so much.

Not sure if you can get on board with a non-fiction pick? Just picture me laughing until tears are rolling down my cheeks ever since I picked this book up. Then picture me reading aloud almost the entire book to my husband, while trying to read it to him, still laughing with tears rolling down my cheeks and trying to catch my breath so I can read every word to him. It is that funny and that awesome.

Here is a book synopsis from Amazon…

City girl, Torre DeRoche,  isn’t looking for love, but a chance encounter in a San Francisco bar sparks an instant connection with a soulful Argentinean man who unexpectedly sweeps her off her feet. The problem? He’s just about to cast the dock lines and voyage around the world on his small sailboat, and Torre is terrified of deep water. However, lovesick Torre determines that to keep the man of her dreams, she must embark on the voyage of her nightmares, so she waves good-bye to dry land and braces for a life-changing journey that’s as exhilarating as it is terrifying.

 

Somewhere mid-Pacific, she finds herself battling to keep the old boat, the new relationship, and her floundering sanity afloat. . . .

 

This sometimes hilarious, often harrowing, and always poignant memoir is set against a backdrop of the world’s most beautiful and remote destinations. Equal parts love story and travel memoir, Love with a Chance of Drowning is witty, charming, and proof positive that there are some risks worth taking.

Our discussion for this book will be the last Tuesday in July! I will touch base with you in the upcoming month if I am able to secure a discussion with our author. If not, I still think this is a book that is perfect for your beach bag!

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In the meantime, this month’s selection, “The Bear,” is a short and powerful novel that I think you will be able to finish in just a couple of short days. It is hard to put down and is an author discussion that I am excited to participate in. I am doubly honored since Claire was featured in a glowing review from People Magazine, that she would take the time to chat with us.

I hope that you can join in and thank you for being candid in your thoughts about what works best for you!

xo,
Amy

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It’s the 3 Little Things: Please Join In!

Friday, March 28th, 2014

3_little_things

I am so enjoying your comments and lists on our new weekly, “It’s the 3 Little Things,” feature! I had a few people request to join in and share their own list of three things that make them happy so I am adding a linky at the bottom where you can share what is making your heart happy. It’s fun to end the week on a high and in a time of gratitude!

40_bags_in_40_days

40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge

One thing that has been making me happy in my house is that I have been working to cut the clutter in our home. I was inspired by my amazing friend, Ann Marie from White House Black Shutters, to join in her 40 bags in 40 days challenge. So far I am about ten bags down, but (as a disclaimer) I had taken several carloads of stuff from our house right before the challenge so I am really pleased with my progress.

The two things that have surprised me the most about this? I thought that I would need to add on to our kitchen, but when I cut out the clutter, I discovered that the size and storage are just right. We still plan to remodel, but I don’t feel like we need to make an addition anymore.

The second thing is that I found a huge stack of gift cards that we never cashed in…which was a super happy surprise for the whole family. Had I not cleaned out one of my purses, I would have never found them. The person that thought “found money,” only happened to other people just got schooled.

I love the surprises from this challenge!

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Cardio Dance With Abbi

I bought a Groupon for 10 classes at a local dance fitness studio and never expected just how happy this would make me. They offer a Cardio Dance class a few times a week and I went once and was forever hooked.

My face hurts from smiling at the end of class and I never feel like I am working out. The instructor, Abbi, is absolutely phenomenal and it brightens my week to get to have a midday dance break.

Abbi has a YouTube channel and I am sharing an example of what I am doing because it is so dang fun. Picture me doing this, but much less coordinated and starting with the wrong foot.

Even if you don’t live near me, you can learn the moves on her channel. That’s some fun stuff!  It has become my new weekly addiction and brings me so much joy that my husband didn’t even grumble when I begged for a monthly membership.

Of course, that guy has some MOVES and also likes midday dance breaks so it helps that he gets me.

got_to_dance Netflix Documentary Binging

I go through phases where all I want to do is read and then I go through phases where all I want to do is Netflix binge. I think my work is tapping me out so in the evenings, I just want to sip my tea and watch a good documentary.

Although I can’t say all the documentaries make me happy, I can say that knowing about the world and the different views in it makes me happy.

After we watch our documentaries, I try to share the best ones on my Reality Bites Pinterest board. I also try to note the family-friendly ones, since most documentaries are not rated!

Now it’s your turn, what makes you happy this week? Feel free to share in our link up below and link back to this post to participate!

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though.

April Book Club Selection: The Bear by Claire Cameron

Friday, March 28th, 2014

The Bear by Claire Cameron

I am so excited to announce our next book club selection and giveaway for April. This month we will be reading, “The Bear,” by Claire Cameron.  The past three books have all been historical fiction so I wanted to branch out a bit from that and try a different style of book this month.

I found, “The Bear,” at my local library and immediately was swept away in the suspenseful story of Anna & her brother Alex (nicknamed Sticky). While camping with her family on a remote island, five-year-old Anna awakes in the night to the sound of her mother screaming. A bear has found their campsite and her parents become the bear’s victims.

As her mother lays injured on the ground, she convinces Anna to take her brother in the canoe, getting them away from the bear and (hopefully) to safety. Anna & Sticky must fight for survival as they are lost and alone in the wilderness.

Told through the eyes of five-year-old Anna, we see the struggles and triumphs as she tries to find safety with her brother.  A survival story unlike any other I have read, it is one that you just won’t be able to put down because you must know what happens to these children.

Claire Cameron

Born in 1973, Claire Cameron grew up in Toronto. She studied History and Culture at Queen’s University. She then worked as an instructor for Outward Bound, teaching mountaineering, climbing, and white-water rafting in Oregon. Next she worked in San Francisco for Pearson Plc before moving to London in 1999. There she was director of Shift Media, a consultancy whose clients included the BBC, McGraw-Hill, and Oxford University Press. Her first novel was the taut thriller, “The Line Painter.”  Claire lives in Toronto with her husband and two sons. You can become a fan of Claire Cameron on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, follow her on IG, and on GoodReads.

Claire Cameron has graciously offered three of our readers the chance to win her book. She has also offered to answer your questions, which I could not be more excited about! 

MomAdvice Book Club

Our book club discussion for this novel will take place on April 29th. I will try to collect your questions for the author before that though via our Facebook groupSign up for our newsletter to stay informed and connect with me on GoodReads too!

To enter to win a copy of, “The Bear,”  please enter via the Rafflecopter widget below!  Just leave us a comment and let us know your thoughts on our book club and book club selections so far! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Amy’s Notebook 03.26.14

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Make-spring-rolls-Like-a-PRO

Source: How Does She

 

I simply adore springrolls and I’m looking forward to making Vietnamese springrolls like a pro with these directions – and hopefully with rice wrappers to be gluten free!

I’m loving these ideas for 5, 10, & 15 minute plans to painlessly clean your house – perfect for easing into spring cleaning.

Here’s a really easy way to make a no sew bench cushion for any wooden bench – plus a great tip to save on the most expensive part of any cushion, the foam.

Oh, goodness, these really awesome black bean burgers look so good, I don’t think I’d miss the meat at all!

Not only does this robin’s egg nest chocolate cake look delicious, it’s absolutely beautiful, too!

SO many incredible ideas I’m getting in these 12 craft closet makeovers…now just to put them into use, ha!

amys_notebook

I hope you enjoyed this collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, and thrifty ways to spruce up your home. Nothing brings me more joy then to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

 

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March Book Club Discussion With the Author: A White Wind Blew

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

A White Wind Blew by James Markert

A warmest welcome to all of our readers today as we discuss our MomAdvice Book Club pick for the month of March. I am particularly honored to have James Markert sharing his own thoughts on his book with us and I hope you will find his answers as fascinating as I have!

Tuberculosis and how this illness affects its patients, and those that love them, are often the central focus of this book.  After I finished reading this and then reading the historical notes about Waverly Place, I immediately went in search of more information about the illness and the backdrop for this book. Although the book goes into great detail of symptoms of TB and what the patients experience, it does not delve into why people have it because, in this time period of the book, people do not know how to cure it or why it lies dormant in some, while killing others.

Tuberculosis, is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It typically attacks the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body. It is spread through the air when people who have an active TB infection cough, sneeze, or otherwise transmit respiratory fluids through the air. Most infections are asymptomatic and latent, but about one in ten latent infections eventually progresses to active disease which, if left untreated, kills more than 50% of those so infected.

As we are able to read in this book, treatment for progressive cases often included removing ribs to help the lungs and all patients were encouraged to get as much fresh air as possible, even in wintery weather conditions, because fresh air was believed to help cure this illness.

Delving into the book, we have an unlikely band of friends that have gathered together to create an orchestra who are working together to perform a concert. I love how the author pulls together these unlikely people and then, oftentimes, paints a very different portrait of what we expect them to be like and then tells us the true story of who they are when we dive further into the book.

Rose’s death, for example, takes me completely by surprise as I believed it was one way and it was not.  McVain, who begins the novel as an unlikeable bully, later delves into his story of his true wartime injury and the unlikely love he discovered. Herman, when given a little love and attention from Susannah, steals the show with his beautiful voice. And, one of the most pivotal moments for Wolfgang, is when he finds out the death of his father is very different than his childhood interpretation of what really happened.

I loved this book from start to finish. Although the book is filled with death and disease, it offered a surprising amount of hopefulness in it. There is so much love and beauty as the patients join forces to complete and perform the requiem and the beauty of these unlikely friendships and loved is solidified because they are all battling this same fight.

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James Markert is a debut novelist and screenwriter, which is why his writing feels oh-so-cinematic. James  lives in Louisville, Kentucky with his wife and two children. He has a history degree from the University of Louisville, where, in his senior year, he was honored as the school’s most outstanding history major. He won an IPPY Award for The Requiem Rose, published by Butler Books.

With Requiem’s local success, James was signed by Writers House Literary Agency in New York, and the book was sold to Sourcebooks, Landmark in January 2012. Rewritten and retitled, it became A White Wind Blew.  James is currently working on his next novel, The Strange Case of Isaac Crawley, a story that takes place in the late nineteenth century and involves the theater scene, a lunatic asylum, and the theatrical version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde…and possibly a few gaslights, cobblestones, and an eerie fog.

He runs his own blog called Markert Ink where you can read about some of his thoughts on books and writing. I know you will want to become a fan after you read this one and you can follow James on Twitter!

James has graciously answered all of our questions about the setting, inspiration for the book, and who inspires him in his own writing. I am particularly excited for you to read his thoughts on adapting A White Wind Blew as a screenplay!

James Markert

Upon reading the historical notes about Waverly Place, we find that this sanitarium is considered one of the most haunted places in the United States. Why did you decide to set a book here and do you think you hint at the darkness of Waverly Hills (the Death Tunnel and the suicide scene in the book) in nod of this history you discovered?

I grew up only a few miles from Waverly Hills and was always fascinated because of the legends and stories of ghosts there, but when I visited a few years ago, it was the history, the wooded surroundings, and grand architecture that drew me in. History seeped from every room. I went in wanting to come out with a story idea, something scary, actually, but instead, while I stood out on the fourth floor solarium porch, listening to the wind and watching the trees sway, I thought to myself: What if this place really is haunted? What if I am surrounded by ghosts? What is their story?  I imagined the sound of a violin, and, coupled with the fact that they had no cure back then, the story of musical medicine took root. Waverly is known around the world as a haunted building, I thought the real flesh and blood inhabitants, the people who lived and died there, deserved to have a story told that revealed their fight and struggles. But in doing this, I also wanted to incorporate some of the legends, namely the nurse suicide and the body chute.  And Big 15 was also taken from an actual man who worked there, doing the same job, and his name was Big 14 because of the size of his feet!

The whole book really centers on music and music therapy for the patients. What type of research did you need to do to prepare for this portion of the book?

My sister-in-law is a music therapist, so I did consult her. My sister is a pianist, and I think her constant practicing, although it annoyed me and my brothers as kids, really sunk in with me and inspired this book later in life. TB had no cure, and I feel that music can be really healing. I did a little research online, and have since become involved with the National Music Therapy Association, but since music therapy was not really a “field” during the time of the story, I intentionally didn’t research that much from current music therapy practices because I wanted it to come off as something new for Wolfgang as well, something unpolished and evolving.

When Wolfgang witnesses the horrific death of his father, he always blames his mother & never forges a relationship with her. When she comes to visit to take one of the instruments and Wolfgang discovers the true reason for his death, he invites her to the concert. Is there a reason why you did not write her into the concert scene at the end?

I did consider writing her into the concert, but ultimately decided not to. White Wind is a moving story.  It can be sad and funny in parts, and make you really think in others, and, although I wanted the concert to be uplifting on many levels, I didn’t want to wrap everything up too nicely for Wolfgang. It didn’t want it to seem like the concert solved everything for him, so I decided to leave her at home.

Who are some of your favorite authors or favorite books that have influenced you as a writer?

I grew up a huge fan of Stephen King. I was not a reader until sophomore year of high school. My English teacher told out class, “Ok, I know half of you won’t want to read the “classics”, and those who do probably won’t fully enjoy it, so we’re reading Stephen King novels all year.” And we did, but not his scarier stories.  We read Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, Stand by Me, etc… and we had great discussions because all the kids read them. That’s when I fell in love with books, and I then devoured every Stephen King book available. From there I moved on to Dean Koontz, and those two authors heavily influenced by first few unpublished novels. The way I write now, with historical fiction, I’d say my biggest influences are Ken Follett, Pat Conroy, Caleb Carr, and John Irving. I love how John Irving develops his characters. As far as suspense, I’m a big fan of Greg Iles. George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones books are probably my favorite to read at the moment. Pillars of the Earth is my favorite book. Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafron is also one of my favorites. I could read Pat Conroy and John Irving all day long.

The ending is left open to interpretation by the reader. As the writer, do you see Wolfgang choosing the priesthood or do you picture him continuing his work at Waverly Hills?

I go back and forth on this, which is only part of the reason why I did it. Whenever someone asks me why, I always tell them that I fell asleep halfway through that sentence. But the truth is, when I got to that part, and I honestly didn’t have an answer when I got there, I thought to myself that it didn’t matter as much to me. Wolfgang had already begun his healing by then and I didn’t want to lead him one way or another. The concept of faith is big in the book, but I don’t try to answer it.  The question: Where do we go when we die? Is also another big part of the book that I intentionally don’t try to answer either. Faith is an open-ended question with many answers that lead to many other questions, so that is the main reason I ended it that way. Like faith, I wanted the reader to take that on themselves.  I wanted to let the reader take Wolfgang where they thought he should go, and no matter, their answer would be right.

As a screenwriter, many aspects of this book feel like they would lend itself to a movie. Are you planning to develop this for the screen?

YES!!! I actually wrote the screenplay for this story before I wrote the novel because screenplays are quicker to write and the story, with the music, was so cinematic. I’ve always envisioned it as a movie. After I finish my next book in a few weeks I plan on rewriting the screenplay for A White Wind Blew. I’ve recently opened some doors with another movie I’ve written that could make A White Wind Blew a bigger possibility in the future.  It will be a movie someday, even if I have to produce it myself!

Who would be part of your “dream cast,” for playing these roles?

I don’t always do this with books I write, but I did with this one. I had three actors clearly in mind when I wrote it. For Wolfgang I imagined Joaquin Phoenix. For Susannah I imagined Amy Adams. And sadly, for McVain, I had imagined Phillip Seymour Hofmann. But my second choice for McVain would be Russell Crowe. And for Rose I’d always had Audrey Tautou in mind. She plays Mathilde in the French film, A Very Long Engagement, and she’s also in The Da Vinci Code.

Thank You so much to all the readers in your book club for reading my debut novel, and for the insightful questions. Please feel free to tell many other books clubs about it!

Best wishes,
James Markert

What did you think of A White Wind Blew? Can’t you just picture this as a movie? It is cinematic storytelling at it’s best.  Share your thoughts on our  book club pick below and offer recommendations for what you might like to see on our list in the upcoming year!

Our next book club pick will be announced on March 28th- this is a big departure from our past three historical fiction books! In the meantime, catch up on what is happening this year and explore our past book club selections here!

 

This post does contain affiliate links! 

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It’s The 3 Little Things

Friday, March 21st, 2014

3_little_things

I am so happy to hear that you guys are enjoying our new feature on the site. I loved hearing about your three favorite things too from your week. If you missed last week’s edition we chatted it up about plushy boot inserts for worn out boots, my obsession with BB cream, and my new favorite spring layering piece. Be sure to check that out!

Here are 3 little things that I enjoyed this week!

twice

Twice

Have you heard of Twice? It is my new little fashion obsession. Since I live in a small town, Chicago sometimes becomes the destination to have a wide plethora of shops.  Thanks to Twice though, I can find those wardrobe pieces, but at a fraction of the price since the items are gently used, typically 60% or more off their former retail prices.

The other bonus is that if you are weeding through your closet, you can send them to Twice and they can sell your items for you. Just let them know you need a bag and they will ship it to you to fill.

With Spring comes weddings, graduations, and summer parties. I plan to use this site to grab some fancy frocks this year and save a ton of money. Pictured above, is my first purchase. Anthro, pockets, AND polka dots? Be still my beating heart.

waterlogue

waterlogue 2

Waterlogue

Have you heard of the Waterlogue app? I am absolutely in love with the water colors you can create with this little app. My best friend’s birthday was coming up so I wanted to do something special for her day.  I snagged her family photos from when their home was being built and got frames to put them in to hang in their new home.

I then spent the rest of the day plopping all of our favorite photos in it to see what they would look like. Beach, travel, and landscape photos turned out amazing with this little app.

I just emailed the photos to myself and then printed it on heavy cardstock. I did 8×10 prints, but you could adjust your print sizes according to your frame. ($2.99)

sleepytime extra tea

Sleepytime Extra Tea

I’m trying to break myself of the habit of needing a nightly glass of wine in the evening to unwind.

Don’t judge.

With all my tummy issues, the dietician I saw suggested making the switch over to tea to help my stomach.  I have difficulty unwinding in the evenings and still needed something that would help me with that. I had been taking melatonin, but seeing this piece on it kind of freaked me out about that.

I found this Sleepytime Extra Tea and I don’t know what voodoo is in this stuff, but it makes me feel sleepy and relaxed at night. I actually do know what voodoo it is… it is valerian and it seems to work like a charm for me. I sleep good and I have no problems getting up and around in the morning. This has replaced my melatonin hangover and I have been really happy about this little life switch.

I add a splash of almond milk and honey to it and have really been looking forward to this in the evenings.

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though.

What’s making you happy this week?