A Cinderella Mother’s Day Thanks to Amazon! Part Two

IMG_7751A91I5364Mother’s Day starts with a homemade pumpkin waffle, a little basil sausage, and some slightly crunchy eggs. The girls even whip up a cream cheese topping, but I can’t lie. I’m looking forward to the day when one of them learns to work the cappuccino machine. A lady needs her latte.

 

The car arrives at 2:30PM on the dot, and hubby miraculously makes it home in time with flowers and snacks for the road. And with the two plus hour commute into the city, the Pringles and lemonade serve as a welcomed treat. But nothing makes a drive like the song on the radio. So minutes after getting on the highway (how did I wait that long?) this mother of a music-loving family shamelessly asks our driver, Dio, “How’s the sound system in here?”IMG_1274

 

A91I5612He smiles in the rearview mirror and asks, “What kind of music do you like?” thus filling the air with tunes to keep us company. Best part is when Sun plays Hamilton through the stereo and the girls sing every word just as we pass the big Hamilton Billboards before entering the Midtown Tunnel.

 

The hotel drop off meets us with an afternoon shower, but a little rain cannot dampen our excitement. The moment we enter my complimentary upgraded room at the Knickerbocker (Thank you, Amazon!) who would be the first to fall back on the bed like they do in the movies? The husband. I want to take pictures of every second and every detail, but I stop myself and just enjoy the moment. Many moments.

 

FullSizeRender (2)Like when the girls play with the remote to control the window shades or when the three out of four of my girls snuggle under the king-sized bed covers just to “test them out.” Or when my oldest takes the other three on a field trip to the rooftop only to discover the New Year’s Eve Ball! “Mom, it was across from us. So close. It was right there!”

 

IMG_7724After some scrumptious takeout from Carmines, the girls and hubby and I exchange hugs and kisses before the car picks up and drives the family back to Long Island (Thank you, Dio!) and I am on my own. Nothing like a big comfy bed to cozy into with a box of strawberries and a good story. On screen this time. After watching two episodes of Prison Break, I force myself to turn it off so I won’t end up that girl who slept through her alarm clock and arrived at Nasdaq with her dress on backwards.

 

FullSizeRender (7)And truth be told. I don’t sleep well at all. Maybe it’s the temperature. So I turn it down. Maybe it’s the lights. I cover every last tiny light in the room. Maybe it’s just me. Worried I’ll be that girl who slept through her alarm clock and arrived at Nasdaq with her dress on backwards. It is 2:30AM and there is only one thing I can do about that. Get a jump-start on getting ready for the morning. Yep. I take a long shower, blow out my hair, and if the clock didn’t read 3:30 in the morning, I might have started to do my make-up. I make a second attempt to sleep and I must have because when Tracey Chapman’s voice streams into my dreams, I have no choice. It is go time else risk becoming that girl who slept through her alarm clock…Not going to risk it.

 

FullSizeRender (3)Up and on to the first battle at hand. My hair. Curling irons on, I alternate straightening my unruly waves with pressing cans of ice cold coke under my eyes (a little trick I learned from the Wolverine’s Instagram once right before he had to host an award show.) Hair on fleek, creamed up feet, and dressed now, I dab on a touch of eye liner and mascara, and move to put on the finishing touch. Something I do often when I have a big moment but can’t take my kids and hubby with me is I take a piece of them with me. Today was one of those days, so I latch on earrings from my third daughter, a necklace from my second-born, a charm from my nine-year old, and an anklet from my first girl. I finish with a silver bracelet hubby gave me for our tenth anniversary. After washing down a couple of strawberries with a swig of water, I grab my clutch, and head down to the lobby ten minutes early with one mission. Find coffee.

 

FullSizeRender (5)Latte in hand, I meet three of the VIP’s with Ty Rogers (the Amazon guy who helped make all this happen,) and we are off the Nasdaq headquarters—a hop, skip, and jump through Times Square, clear security, and head up the elevator to a lovely-scented, warm breakfast, and yes. More coffee. But I can’t eat. I don’t want to chance spilling food on my dress or having to run to the girl’s room in the middle of pictures. Hey, welcome to the forties. But most of all, I know there will be pictures, and pepper teeth is not going to my nickname this day.

 

Shortly after, the woman in charge of directing the morning invites five of us along with Brian Olsavsky, Amazon CFO, to a conference room to quickly rehearse. I only have one question when she asks. “Is it okay to shout out a ‘Woooo!’” She enthusiastically says, “Yes! The more woo-hoos, the better!”

 

A91I5316Next there are pictures. Lots and lots of pictures. And I am always directed to stand to the right of the CFO. And when the speaking starts, Brian shares a little about each of us five, giving a generous shout out to my books and to the sisters who asked me to “Please keep writing” in a letter I carry around in my purse.

 

I have three jobs. 1. Stand and smile. 2. Cheer loudly and clap when Brian is about to ring the Opening Bell. And 3. Do not cry.

 

IMG_7731Thankful I speak with the other woman VIP right before we walked up to the podium about what to do with my hands. “Keep them by your side she said, that way you won’t fidget with your hands.” It works. And I smile a lot. Shout out plenty of hoots and hollers, even though I’m pretty sure the SmugMug guy next to me out-cheered me. And believe it or not, I manage to keep my emotions in check.

 

FullSizeRender (9)Then the Nasdaq woman in charge directs all the other forty or so Amazonians to stand behind us and of course, more pics. Lots and lots of photos. And if you can’t tell on TV, there’s no literal Bell that’s rung. It’s a digital bell that gets tapped by Brian after a ten-second countdown followed by more cheering. And that is it. Well, almost.
We follow the camera crew down into Times Square and crossed the street so the huge Nasdaq jumbo screen stands behind us. Then comes… you guessed it. More pictures. Lots of shots. Some with the five VIPs and Brian. Some individual shots. And some large group shots. They even do a surprise birthday shout out! And then we all turn and look at the jumbo screen and to everyone’s delight, the very pictures they just took flash on the jumbo screen.

 

A91I5579There I am. In the middle of Times Square. Looking at myself on the jumbo screen in Times Square! I’m still in shock that it even happened. And then it’s over. Well, pretty much.

 

But some of us return upstairs to pick up some fun goodies, like t-shirts, jackets, 20th Anniversary cookies, and for me… breakfast. Bacon never tasted so good. And I have to admit. I have another cup of coffee.

 

A91I5383And the part that I’m about to share might not make sense to some of you, but that’s okay. Everyone has a story. This is mine. And I want to tell the whole story, not leave anything out, because many years from now, when I’m long gone, like all of us, I will be remembered for something. And even though my childhood dream was to be an author, being acknowledged by Amazon at the Opening Bell of Nasdaq is an outstanding honor, and a fun-filled night in New York City is an absolute treat… these are not the things I want to be remembered for.

This is.

When we first arrived in the city, after exploring the hotel room, we ventured two blocks over through Times Square to Hillsong. And for my music-loving family, attending a service at the Playstation Theater is like going to a concert. But not one we just listen to, but one that we actively participate in. Because as I stood there under chandeliers staring down the row at my four girls, some with their hands raised, but all of them singing…I couldn’t help but get choked up. There were a million and one “fun” things to do in the city that never sleeps, and they chose to be here. They wanted to be here. Because life moves fast. Busy is everyone’s pace. But here… here was a chance to hit pause. And acknowledge why we breathe. How we breathe. The giver of every breath. Yes, God. And to thank him for his love. For his gift of forgiveness through his son, Jesus. And for his daily grace that sustains us through the madness of it all. This is what it’s all about for my girls, their dad, and me.

 

And all I could do was close my eyes and whisper the words, “Thank you.”

 

Thank you IMG_1301for meeting my girls. For showing them you’re real. More real than any and all the material blessings they do and will ever experience. Thank you for filling a place in their hearts that nothing or no one else can. And thank you for, in the words of my mother, “Keeping their feet on the ground and their heads held high.” This – loving my family and loving God – is what I want to be remembered for.

 

Well, I check out of my hotel at noon as planned after lots of thank you’s and a few hugs, Dio loads my luggage, and we’re off. He tells me all about the drive home the night before with my family. Apparently they were wiped out, and the car got really quiet when he rolled up to the house.

 

IMG_7767And when I arrive home, my bed is calling, but that isn’t an option quite yet. Not yet. I start dinner. Two need to be picked up from track. Another needs her hair done for the Spring Concert. And one needs a hug and reminding that she will get through this season of tests. Life stops for no one.

 

When my head hits the pillow, all I can think is Wow! A Mother’s Day full of bells and whistles. A weekend to remember. And a moment to reflect on what I want to be remembered for. Thank you.

 

Amazon Found Me! And Wrote About my Books!

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Just thought I’d share this fun news with all my readers!

Last summer, I received an email from a guy who worked for Amazon. I must admit, I didn’t believe it was legit at first, even with “Amazon” in his email address. But the letter was long and sweet, thoughtful and very encouraging—and this Editor from Amazon read my first book, Swimming Through Clouds! And he loved it!

I boldly asked him if he read the sequel and he hadn’t. Yet. A few days later I received another email raving about Seeing Through Stones. He wanted to talk to me. So I dialed his number and we had a lengthy conversation about my short but exciting writing career. And he wanted to know more, so he asked if he could interview me formally and propose an article to his manager to be published on Amazon’s site.

He wanted to share my story with Amazon customers, and October came along and hubby had to travel to Seattle for business. I joined him, and at this point, four months had passed and no interview with the Amazon guy happened. I once again boldly emailed my new friend over at Amazon, and said, “You know, I’ll be in the neighborhood if you still want to do that interview. We could do it in person rather than on the phone.” He agreed.  And with Amazon headquarters right there in Seattle, he worked a few blocks from our hotel so we met downtown, and he showed me his Amazon badge, and even up to this point, I wondered if this whole thing was real.

Then he said, “It’s such a beautiful day. We should find a place that Talia and Lagan would want to go to do the interview,” and we walked a short distance to the only ‘park’ in the city. One that did not have a willow, and during the summer did have a waterfall, but it was turned off at this point. I was touched by this alone and then we sat at a table and talked for over an hour, his laptop and mic set up, and the backround of traffic off in the distance.

It was a sweet interaction and maybe I’m just used to being open, but I answered all his questions and felt comfortable to tell him the ups and downs of my publishing journey. When we rose to part ways, he walked me back half way to my hotel since it was on the way to Amazon and this is the part that I’ll never forget. The direction of the interview changed and he shared a very tough time that he had gone through. I was moved by his vulnerabilty, and I was reminded one more time why I write. Because this life is tough to navigate. The extremes of what we go through catch us off guard and we fumble and fall as we try to walk through another day of madness. These are the stories I want to write so that, maybe, together, we can learn how to walk these waters. And swim through the clouds of life, together.

Months go by, and as in most big companies, things take time, and there were certainly days when I doubted anything would come of the interview. But the story is now live and  ready for your reading and listening and sharing!

Thanks always for all the book love and support!

Stay true. Stay real. And love while today is called today.

-Raj

LINK to ARTICLE: https://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?docId=1002999561

Latest Reviews, Guest Posts, and Waterfalls

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So I’ve been blogging here and there and feels like everywhere some days, but I didn’t want you to think I quit writing or anything. Here are a few places you can find me, reviews on my books and the occasional interview that was posted in the last couple of months. Thanks, always, for reading and telling your friends about my crazy Masala-marinated YA world.

On USA TODAY, Serena Chase reviewed Swimming Through Clouds, calling it “Must Read YA,” saying, “It is no wonder this novel has received so many award nominations and has garnered praise from critics, bestselling authors, and readers, alike. It is a work of art.” Serena is a YA Author herself so her opinion is valued and valuable!

At Brown Girl Magazine, I did a little ditty on my writerly life and the crazy Cinderella life I lead.

On MasalaMommas, I wrote about a special moment when my seven year old blew me away with her celebration of the family. Through a fashion show. :)

And Masalamommas shared the recent blog with HUFF-POST Canada Living on Top Ten Ways to be a Contagious Parent. Thanks to my seven year old who keeps giving me material!

At The Write Conversation, I guest-posted a Ten Step, Crash Course on how to navigate Instagram, hoping to trend #MaryPoppinsLeap by the end of the week, so pop on over and post yours!

My young blogger friend, Saloni of My Fantabulous Bookshelf, who I met at YAFest, recently posted an author interview and fun VLOG-review of her May Reads which included a sweet shout-out to Talia, Jesse, and Lagan!

Oh, another little Instagram post for authors and readers over at Kim Vandel’s blog.

This Girl Reads A Lot (aka Jazmen) wrote up a pretty dizzying review on Swimming Through Clouds and added a fun little Instagram love too.

AND there are more, but I thought this would suffice for now.

What else? I’ve been enjoying a book club chat here and there and I love having the face to face about my books with readers. The conversation invariably starts with the daring first question, “How did you come up with such a cu-razy story?”

To which I answer, “Yeah. I’m still taking meds to recover from chapter two of Swimming Through Clouds. Kidding. But ya know, sometimes I wonder if I should get my head checked out.”

AND… kinda fun, okay BLOW-MY-MIND-AWAY fun to have two interactions this week with people of influence. For someone who feels like I’ve been one or two degrees of separation from someone famous for the last couple of years, it’s nice to make real contact with real people. The first came from a surprise email from a gentleman who works for Amazon. Sure, no big deal, right. Except that he was searching for a success story of a self-pub’d author and the reviews on Swimming Through Clouds made him stop and skim. Then he kept reading. And reading. And finished the book! Next he emailed me to chat and at first, I wasn’t sure if he was legit or just a salesman trying to get me to buy some expensive marketing product. To my surprise, he was legit. And we’ll see what comes of that.

The second was a shot in the air. Like a fishergirl, I throw out my line here and there and everywhere and wonder if anyone will bite. Yep. I’m the girl that mailed First Lady Michelle Obama my book. Ya never know, right? And she actually sent me a post card to say, “Thank you for the gift.” I hope she reads it. But the fun news of today was a tweet from the Executive Assistant to the Editor-in-Chief (say that five times fast) of Seventeen Magazine, requesting a copy of my book. Yes, I asked. A week or so ago. But when I didn’t hear back, I assumed my request got swallowed in the Bermuda Triangle of tweets. So I popped it into the mail and, once again, we’ll see what will come of that.

Little by Little. That’s how it seems to work. Like so much of life, and I’m okay with that. More than okay.

Happy Swimming, all. And Seeing too.

Best,
Raj

Tis the Season to Go Swimming!

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Looking for GIFT ideas for a friend or family member? Got any teens in your life who need a Good Read this Season? Want to stuff someone’s stocking with CLOUDS!! NOW AVAILABLE IN PRINT!! Just in time for Christmas!! 

AVAILABLE on Amazon! Less than $10. Tis the Season to go Swimming

Swimming Through Clouds… The Road to June 1st

sun rises every day2June 1st.

Who would have thought that when I signed up for the Tough Mudder nine months ago, that this day would also mark the launch of my first book, Swimming Through Clouds.

So for the past months, I’ve been alternating, not always equally, push ups and pen marks. Rewrites and runs. Marketing and marathons. And just when I was supposed to run my first half, my calf gave way. And seconds after I turned in the manuscript for Swimming, I had a name crisis. And for the last two weeks, my neck and left shoulder have been all out of whack. Stress, perhaps? Anxiety over the book release? Definitely.

But the truth is, the day my first book appeared on Amazon, I was fine. No cartwheels or cork popping. Just another day really. Filled with two dozen roses from Mom and Dad and some extra huge smiles and hugs from girls and Hubby, but besides that, the day felt fairly normal.

I’m guessing it’s not too different from a grand opening to a store. Just because the doors swing wide, and several browsers mosey on in, doesn’t mean they’ll buy anything. Or like it enough to come back and tell you. Or even better, tell others to shop there.

So it’s a lot more like a waiting room experience, now that I think about it. But it’s not a bad place to be. Feel so aware that to arrive this far is a blessing beyond measure already. So aware.

Here are the five things I’ve learned about myself this past year and a half from when my dream to be a published author really started to roll out of my  dreams and into reality.

1.  When I think I’ll get more done by not working out and just writing with that time, my back and neck remind me that they will not continue to be nice to me unless I give them chances to stretch and loosen up. Always a fail.

2. Sometimes I enjoy hanging out with my make-believe friends more than real people. Not often. But occasionally :) !

3.  I’m a much better mom when my laptop battery runs out, and I can’t find my iPhone. Yep. It’s true.

4. When I do take time away from a story to play and live and date and play. Did I say that one already? I return to my story with fresh eyes, new experiences, and a refilled tank of energy and enthusiasm. Breaks are crucial!

5. I can lose sight of what’s important when I get caught up in the journey, and I don’t want to be that person. Hot air balloons look pretty in Oz, but don’t let me get carried away. And there’s only one thing. One person. That grounds me. God.

So on June 1st, when the sun rises and I’m tanking up on a high-protein breakfast of Hubby’s famous eggs. When I’m out on the course and swimming in mud up to my elbows, I’ll think of you. As you dive in and go Swimming Through Clouds. :)

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Happy Birthday Book Baby #1! Sending you out into the world with kisses!

To find your place. And remember, you’ll always have a special spot on the bookshelf of my writer’s heart.

It’s your time. Make a splash! And swim on.

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And you? What have you learned about yourself lately? Any life insights that have dawned on you as you take up life’s latest challenge? Are you a survivor and proud owner of an orange Tough Mudder headband? Any last second advice for this “Not feelin’ so Tough” soon to be Mudder?

 

Dive into Masala-Marinated YA Fiction

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                                                  AVAILABLE NOW!!!    

 

 

                       Swimming Through Clouds Front Cover March24 2015SeeingThroughStones_Front_Cover_April2015

 

Awards for Swimming Through Clouds

B.R.A.G. Medallion for Young Adult Fiction

Finalist (2nd Place) NORWA (YA Fiction)

Finalist Women of Faith Full Manuscript
Finalist Wisconsin RWA Honorable Mention (YA Fiction)

“A work of art…”

-USA Today, Happy Ever After writer Serena Chase

 

“Tough and touching, resilient and raw…”
 -Tosca Lee, NY Times bestselling author of
HAVAH and The Books of Mortals series with Ted Dekker

 

 “A poignant but realistic tale ~Sheila Wray Gregoire, Syndicated Columnist, Canadian National Award-Winning Speaker, Blogger, and Author of  multiple books on Marriage and Intimacy

“…Characters who come to life in each page.Diana Mao, President of Nomi Network

“…Will leave you gasping for air, reaching for something  steady to lean on…”
~ Jennifer Murgia, author of the ANGEL STAR series & 
BETWEEN THESE LINES

 

“…Difficult to read but even more difficult to put down.”
~Brown Girl Magazine
GoodReads Book Review

 “Should be read by everyone … men and women, the young and the old.”~Masala Mommas Book Review by Angie Seth

“…This patient, subtle romance is intimate and enticing.”~Talking Cranes, Book Review by Viveka Kymal 

 “This is not a bubble-gum, high school sweetheart kind of story.” 
~Laura Anderson Kurk, author of
GLASS GIRL and PERFECT GLASS

  

                           

If You could “Revise” your Life, Would You?

Stephanie

 

Stephanie Morrill, Creator of GoTeenWriters, wrote a new book. Within a book. Sort of. Think Inception with a YA twist, but no one wakes up tied to a chair or sitting at a desk spinning a top. But her main character, Ellie Sweet, is a writer. And Ellie takes her “real” world and rewrites it into a fictional piece full of Lady’s, Princes, catty dames, sword duels and the whole nine yards. The people in her life, high schoolers in and out of her circle of friends, become fodder for her characters and scenes.

But the funny thing is her Prince Charming changes names. Because just when she thought she knew who she was falling in love with, at her high school, she finds herself drawn to another Prince, the kind whose crown isn’t apparent to the naked eye.

The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet is not your typical YA Read but I simply loved it. And I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I can tell you this: For a writer/reader who tends to choose sides (Team Edward, Team Gale, and Team Sawyer *from Lost) within the first few encounters of a story, I can say that this is the first time I didn’t choose. Because I couldn’t. Until right near the end of the book. I totally fell in love. Twice! I guess there’s always a first time for everything.

Stephanie Morrill Low ResMorrill’s fun YARead is available to DOWNLOAD Tomorrow at www.playlistfiction.com – a clickity click away! And you can always peruse the first pages on Amazon to get a taste test! Reviews are up too if you’re interested. Excited for you all to meet Ellie. She’s Sweet, in the most wonderful way! :)

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Have you read anything good lately, Young Adult-Fictionally speaking? Do Share! Have you checked out the other selections at Playlist Fiction? The library is a’ growin! :)