Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

Julie Valerie. . . just when I thought you couldn't get any cooler you sent me this nomination for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award. Wow! Thank you. Julie is an awesome women's fiction book blogger. We recently traded spaces which was a blast and this is turning out to be just as fun!

Here's the skinny on the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award. . .

1. Thank the nomination giver (Julie Valerie in this case)

2. Post 7 things about yourself (who doesn't love talking about themselves?)

3. Pass the award on to 7 other bloggers of your choice and let them know they've been nominated.

4. Include the logo go the award in the post of your blog. 

I will fulfill these now. . .

Thank you Julie Valerie. It means so much that you thought of me!!

7 Things About Amanda Aksel

1. I love sleeping late on Saturday mornings, then enjoying coffee on the couch with the latest episode of Grey's Anatomy. I think that's what heaven's like.

2. I wish I could play piano and sing like Sara Bareilles. Still trying. . .

3. Emily Giffin is my favorite women's fiction author. I aspire to have a career and wardrobe like hers. 

4. My family includes an adorable little maltipoo named Lani (hawaiian for heaven).

5. I consider myself a non-dairy-pescetarian. I'm basically a vegan that eats fish. Does anyone have a better name for that? 

6. I love burgers!! My favorite is In-N-Out. I just don't eat them anymore :( 

7. The one person I hope to meet is Daisaku Ikeda.

And the blogger nominees are. . .

Saturday, December 14, 2013

A Conversation With Julie Valerie . . .

If you read and write women’s fiction (like me), one of the best places to find book recommendations is book blogs. Book bloggers have a huge influence with their reviews, and because they’re on the internet, their outreach could be global.

Julie Valerie’s Book Blog is one of my favorites, and it caused me to wonder about the woman behind the blog. So, I was thrilled when she agreed to do this interview.

Amanda: Julie, what inspired you to start a women’s fiction book blog?

Julie: I've always wanted to start a blog and knew from the beginning that I should pick a topic I was passionate about or risk losing interest, fall behind in posting, and eventually abandon my blog and its readers. Because I absolutely love reading and writing, I don't think I'll tire of it any time soon. (Like, never?) Each new book I read or write gives new material to explore on my blog. Because stories and storytelling are the lifeblood of what it means to be human, the possibilities for blog content are endless. There can never be too many book blogs.

Amanda: What’s the first women’s fiction novel you remember reading?

Julie: I remember getting permission to read a novel off my grandmother's bookshelf during a family vacation. I believe it was a Danielle Steele novel and from what I can remember the storyline featured a main character who falls in love with a patient who was disfigured in an accident. She later learns this patient is her husband, believed to have been killed in an automobile accident. It was a "clean" romance - one that was written without the slightest shade of gray (if you know what I mean) and I believe I was around 13. I couldn't put the book down and fell for the story hook, line, and sinker. It never occurred to me the patient might also be her husband until she unwrapped the bandages and their eyes met. Oh, my gosh. I cried!

Amanda: What’s your favorite book and why?

Julie: Favorite book: the Bible. Second favorite? Winnie-the-Pooh because something happened to me after reading it for the first time as an adult. I was in college, read it from cover to cover, and was so amazed by the writing and the author's ability to make stuffed animals come life, that while I was reading it and certainly after I put it down, I decided to get serious about my own writing. 

Amanda: What women’s fiction novel do you want to see on the big screen and who would play the protagonist?

Julie: Love, Rosie by Cecelia Ahern because I loved P.S. I Love You and I know it would be mawkish. In a good way. I love mawk. Protagonist? Hhmm ... Natalie Portman because the novel takes place over a long period of time and she can probably look youthful and mature all in the same film.

Amanda: You’re a writer too. What are you working on now?

Julie: I'm finishing a final draft on a (hopefully) funny book about the culture of overachieving moms behind the gates at Pimm's Academy, a fictional elementary school. I'm a mother of four and often marvel at the impossible tasks we take on as mothers in our work life, at home, and in the school life of our children. My book uses humor to expose truth, and flirts with satire much like the Desperate Housewives of Wisteria Lane (ABC TV Series, 2004-2012). I believe the title is going to be Pimm's Academy: It's Not About You. It's About Her. I imagine this to be book one in the Downward Spiral Notebook Series I've been developing.

Amanda: Is there a women’s fiction trend you wish would die?

Julie: No, not at all. All books and all trends in fiction have a place on the shelf so long as there are readers to read them. I'm so grateful for the recent rise in indie and small press publishing because I think readers are now able to get their hands on books that don't have to follow any "declared" publishing trends or have to first be vetted by a select group of people in New York. 

Amanda: If you could commission any author, who would it be and what would you ask them to write about?

Julie: Jane Austen. I'd love to see what she'd write about and how she'd write it if she were alive today.

Amanda: What is the best thing about being a book blogger?

Julie: Hands down, the people you meet through blogging. Blogging is like a conversation held over a cup of tea (or coffee or glass of wine). You can sip and write, talking to yourself, and if all that's accomplished is your own fulfillment of having contributed in some small way to the word count in the universe, then that's enough. That's wonderful, really, truly. It has to be a personal journey, first and foremost. But then, you never know, someone might pass by, be interested in what you're sipping and saying, and decide to sit with you for awhile. And if that happens, well then, that's mighty fine, indeed!

Amanda: Thank you so much Julie Valerie for engaging in this fun conversation with me! I hope we can chat again soon. 

Check me out on Julie's Blog- www.julievalerie.com/amanda-aksel/

Please check out Julie Valerie, Book Blogger & Writer

Blog: “Julie Valerie’s Book Blog” www.julievalerie.com

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Things That Matter Most

On Halloween morning I was sitting at my computer about to start an important conversation with my book editor, when she gave me the news.

Michael Palmer had passed away just a day earlier. Suddenly.

My heart stopped for a moment and fell to the pit of my stomach. I don’t think she realized Michael was not just an author we looked up to, but he was a friend. He meant a great deal to me, and I mourned him that morning with tears, filled with sorrow and regret.

You see, I met Michael just two years ago at a writer’s conference. I remember talking with him before the conference started with my friend Carine. The three of us talking casually. I didn’t realize whom he was or that he was the keynote speaker that morning. He was just a nice guy.

During his speech he said something that was so profound, that it became my motto within my work. He said, “Writing is hard, be fearless.”

When he returned from the podium after his keynote, I called him Dr. Palmer. With a big laugh, he wrapped his arm around my shoulder and said, “Ah Fuck, call me Michael.” Through out the conference he forged a friendship with Carine and me, one that left us with his warm spirit and wise words imprinted on us forever.

When I listened to the heartfelt words of his three sons during his funeral broadcast, I learned that many people have had the same experience. It was a combination of his compassion and enthusiasm. He had a way of making you feel like you were a special person. As if he could see the true value in everyone’s life. I remember that often and try to live that way too.

Michael lived a life that I not only admired, but sought after. He was a physician and a successful author. I wanted to know how he did it, how he spent his days, what was his best advice for a new author. For whatever reason, I put off having that conversation with him. I think because I didn’t want to jeopardize his time, though I know he would have given it joyfully.

Finally, in early October I contacted him to set up that meeting. I was traveling to the west coast and we planned to speak when I returned and before he went to South Africa. I started Oath of Office on the plane to California and wanted to finish it before our talk. But when I returned my schedule became busy with more travel and long hours at the office, that it was difficult to find time and finish the book.  

All of that seems trivial now, because by the end of the month he was gone. And all of those things that kept me from doing the thing that really mattered felt pointless. It was a shock. I never thought time would run out, but it had. When someone passes suddenly everyone says, “Live like you’re dying…etc”, but it wasn’t until it directly affected my life, until something was taken unexpectedly that I realized how important it is to stop waiting.

I waited too long to do something that was important, something that mattered to me. And now… the moment is gone and I can never have it back. It filled me with regret and a sense of urgency. In the short time I knew Michael, he taught me so much, but he taught me the greatest lesson in his death.

Don’t wait on the things that matter. Forget about the right time, about ducks in a row, about what’s in your way. When you stop to think about what’s really stopping you, the answer is usually YOU.  And why should you be an obstacle to your pursuit?

To my friend Michael Palmer: You were a world-class gentleman with a heart of gold. One of the best I've ever known or will ever know. You are truly missed.

For more information on Michael and his work, please visit http://www.michaelpalmerbooks.com  

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Is Monogamy A Myth? Part One

Infidelity and the temptation of it are not uncommon themes in literature. My writings are included. The theme of The Man Test is discovering infidelity. I've always been fascinated by the psychology of lying and how we can be so deceitful. Trying to uncover one of the most of unforgivable acts of deceits, I came across infidelity,which is the act of being sexually and/or emotionally unfaithful. 

I find this subject extremely fascinating. Why are people, particularly men, unfaithful? What causes it? Can it be prevented? Is the act of infidelity really so black and white? This series of questions and research led me to the ultimate question, because we know that women can be unfaithful too. Are humans made to be monogamous?  

Check out this video by sex columnist Dave Savage that I really enjoyed and let me know your thoughts. I'll share mine in a later post. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Small World Happenstance

It’s no surprise or coincidence that life is full of surprises and coincidences. Okay, I don’t really believe in coincidences. And though I’m a writer, I couldn’t have made this up. Let me explain…

I just returned from visiting my hometown of San Diego where I stayed with my new friend who is also my old neighbor. Back in April, I attended a conference in Florida at the Florida Nature and Culture Center. I was there with friends and saw many familiar faces, and I was quickly introduced to a new one. At least, I think you can call it a new one. Her name was Samantha and there was something familiar about her. A significant connection perhaps? I couldn’t place it in the moment and finally decided that she resembled my favorite singer Sara Bareilles.

I was partially right, as she was also a fan. That evening we found ourselves in the main hall playing Sara B. on the piano. So yeah, I liked her right away. Later that weekend, I learned she had been stationed in a neighboring city and knew many of my friends. She even attended some of the same events that I did, but for some reason we never crossed paths. Through more conversation, I found out that she grew up in the same San Diego neighborhood that I did. Finally, I asked her what street she lived on and guess what? We lived on the same street!

Samantha and I googled our old addresses and realized that not only had we lived on the same street, but lived next door to each other for almost four years and didn’t know it. On top of that, we dated brothers at different times as teens. Coincidence? Hmm…

She is about four years younger so we never attended the same schools. Neither of us really remembers each other. I do remember her cute little white dog getting into our yard a lot. Funny…I have a cute little white dog now. She remembers stealing lemons from my backyard lemon tree. So this is a legitimate story.

After learning all of this, I realized the connection I felt to her wasn’t so much about Sara Bareilles, but something bigger. The universe clearly wanted us to meet and tried several times to bring us together, but it wasn’t until a conference in Florida that we finally connected. We got along so well, but it made me sad to know that we missed out on sixteen years of friendship. That’s why it was great to spend some more time with her in San Diego where she currently resides. We visited our old neighborhood and met the young gentleman who lives in my old room. The neighborhood has changed and our old houses are sporting new paint, but being there with her was an amazing experience.

She has been a wonderful addition to my life, and I look forward to our growing friendship. It really is a small world. In the meantime, I wonder what else or whom else the universe has in store for me. How many others have been set along my path that I’ve missed?

I’m sure many of you have a story like this. Please share it with me.

This is me in front of my old house. I love this house.

Samantha and Me
This backyard used to have a lemon tree and no grass.
I like the new white picket fence.