Book Review: “‘Before, Afdre, and After’ Strange title? Read on….”

I read Maureen Twomey’s “Before, Afdre, and After” in one evening, thoroughly captivated. It’s not just her story — suffering a stroke at age 33 — that hooked me, and not just the sheer achievement of being able to write after not being able to speak, but the astonishing sense of humor and wryness with which she tells her story. It is worth the read. You will not forget Maureen.

Maureen Twomey

(Eric Sinclair, author of Man, Dog, Stroke) http://mandogstroke.com/2015/07/17/a-message-from-california/

“‘Before, Afdre, and After’ Strange title? Read on….

Maureen Twomey was 33 in 2000 when she had a massive stroke. A young, energetic copywriter for an advertising agency with a great sense of humour, she had a promising career in front of her and was living life in San Francisco to the full … The stroke she suffered in June 2000 left her unable to read, write or speak, along with many of the other delightful consequences of a major stroke.

Do you begin to see the implication of that title now?

… Maureen’s story is a great example of the triumph of the human spirit over seemingly insuperable odds. Why not read her book for yourself? You will be moved and entertained.”

maureentwomey.wordpress.com/befor-afdre-and-after/

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Tales of generosity (and good eats) on the road.

Traveling from one town to another, to see friends, family, and brand new people (a much better term than “strangers”), I am experiencing all kinds of generosity — and eating far too much good food.

I am keenly aware that this is one of the bountiful times. I let the phrase “This too shall pass” whisper across my mind. It’s not to be negative — quite the opposite. It is to remind myself to bask, as much as it is to free myself from any guilt that things right now are good. Life will bring other times (when the same phrase will help).

We let the kids off this leg of the book tour, staying with their grandparents (and their dogs), where everyone is happy without us. Count that a win-win-win.

In New Canaan, Connecticut, Saturday blossomed as a picture perfect day in a picture perfect town. Elm Street Books welcomed me to sit outside and flag down passersby to tell them about (and sell) my book.

 

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The view from behind the table.

It is not for shy people, or even outgoing people in a shy mood. You must take a leap and believe that people are of good will and that nothing bad can come of you telling someone, “This is my novel. I think you’ll like it.” The good people of New Canaan believe in books and in their bookstore, and they welcomed me warmly.

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Elm Street’s booksellers Melissa, Sydney, and Sarah.

There were fathers and daughters, mothers and sons, grandmothers and grandchildren. There were people who entrusted me with their stories of loss or discovery, and who took a copy or three to share with others. There was a woman walking two dogs who called to me as the dogs pulled her past, “I read that book in a day and a half! Loved it!” And there were those who passed by and said, “I only read non-fiction.” God bless them all.

Did I mention my eating too much? For post-selling sustenance, we chose Rosie’s, with the most riDONCulous apple carrot muffins, crystallized sugar coated apple slices on top.

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And in New Canaan there were also old friends, not seen enough. Jim and Kate and Warren and Ross, Pete and Kelly and Tommy, and Elena who drove all the way from New York City. To be with people who have known you since before you did anything much is an emotional palate cleanser. You jump right in. You promise it won’t be so long the next time.

But there were more towns to visit, and right away. We breezed into NYC to visit with my cousin Jody, whose fed us a delicious brunch and family stories, and who strolled us through her neighborhood to Book Culture, whose booksellers graciously allowed me to sign a few copies before breezing out again.

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Cousin power!
Deirdre, Sam, Cari & Jacob
Book Culture booksellers Deirdre, Sam, Cari & Jacob

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Without much time to say our goodbyes, we headed to Watchung Booksellers in Montclair, New Jersey, and experienced the generosity of author Jenny Milchman. Jenny is on tour with her third suspense thriller novel, As Night Falls (which just happens to be about two convicts who escape from prison running through the Appalachian mountains. Spooky.) Jenny is the epitome of a successful, generous writer who helps other writers. She spent hours with me on the phone months ago, when I reached out about her epic road trip book tours. She invited me to join her at two events. She is funny and charming, and her books are terrifyingly good.

Jenny Milchman's latest book, As Night Falls.
Jenny Milchman’s latest book, As Night Falls.

Watchung Books tempted me with its excellent selection, and I ended up buying a children’s book called Billy’s Booger by William Joyce. It’s about a boy who doesn’t fit into the “box” at school, who would rather make up new sports than play traditional ones, well…it sorta reminded me of someone.

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Inside Watchung Books
Inside Watchung Books

And, of course, there was the good eats to go with the good books. Watchung Booksellers is connected to a cafe. Tiny Elephant. Grilled cheese of the week: provolone with apricot jam and grilled peaches.

In Tiny Elephant, looking through toward Watchung Books.
In Tiny Elephant, looking through toward Watchung Books.

With our bags heavier with new books, and our bellies heavier with good meals, we headed toward the Hudson River Valley.

Behind the Book Tour!

Greetings from Bucks County, Pennsylvania! It is verdant, beautiful, lush with luxurious gushing rain and thunderstorms that made us ask, “did someone turn on the hose?” and, “will the river be too high for the fireworks barge tonight?” and other homey questions that sound foreign to our L.A. ears.

My book tour has moved eastward. It is one month and one day since the hometown crowd packed Diesel Bookstore in Brentwood, and we’ve been to San Diego, San Francisco, Marin, all before Independence Day.

My first visit to Ramona, CA, in eastern San Diego county.
My first visit to Ramona, CA, in eastern San Diego county was worth the trip.
Bank of Books, Malibu

Let me just get it out there: there is nothing not good about a book tour. I love it. I don’t care if no one shows up (it has happened), because I am still in a bookstore, chatting with booksellers for an hour or so, making new friends and seeing new places. It’s better when people do come, of course, because then we talk about the story, about writing, about perseverence and low times and persistence.

More that I love: the excuse to spend time with friends and family.

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Maria in Oakland
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Becki & Peretz in San Francisco
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Laura in New York
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Heather in SoHo
Joyce in Maplewood
Joyce in Maplewood
Jody, Pam and Susan in Maplewood
Jody, Pam and Susan in Maplewood

As we leave the kids in the comfort of their grandparents’ home while the parents head off for more friends and more bookstores, I wish you all the things that make you happy, and count you as my blessings.

Meet Laura

 Shelter Us Available Now

paperback   IndieBound   Barnes & Noble   Amazon

ebook   Kindle   Kobo   Nook

 

I’m starting to feel like a braggy broken record: “My book! My book! My book!” But I have to remind myself of what I learned from the world-changing Op-Ed Project, an education organization out to increase the impact and presence of women’s voices in Op-Ed pages: the world deserves to hear what we have to share. With that, I give you more of my novel, Shelter Us.

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Shelter Us, a novel, by Laura Diamond Shelter Us, a novel, by Laura Nicole Diamond

Penn Grad, Laura Nicole Diamond goes on tour with her debut novel, Shelter Us and we want to hear all the details!

Tell us about your ties to Pennsylvania. “Even though I grew up in California, I always wanted to experience the East Coast. I loved my four years at Penn (class of ’91), especially being part of the theater community with Quadramics, Penn Players and Art House Dance. Five years after graduation, I ran into Christopher Heisen (also Class of ’91, and a Mask & Wig member) at an alumni event in Los Angeles. We started dating…and this year we will celebrate our 17th wedding anniversary. Christopher’s family had deep ties to Pennsylvania, and his mother, father, and grandfather all attended Penn. He grew up in Yardley, and most of his family lives nearby in Philadelphia, Bucks County, Main Line, and New…

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The Fatherhood Economy: Spend Time, Pay Attention

In honor of fathers, an homage from the archives. The best gift of all is yourself.

Laura Nicole Diamond

When I was pregnant with our first child, a stack of pre-natal and parenting books towered perilously high on my bedside table.

On my husband’s side of the bed was a single book for first-time fathers, bought by some well-intentioned friend (okay, maybe it was me). Giving our “friend” the benefit of the doubt, at the time there weren’t many fatherhood books to choose from. And maybe this friend didn’t read the Table of Contents. Had she, she’d have known that the book’s sole message to fathers-to-be was: You Man. You Earn Money.

I discovered this one night as we lay in bed preparing for parenthood in the way we lawyers knew how – reading, studying – and I heard him groan. I turned in time to see him holding that book, his face contorted with disappointment, the words crushing his natural excitement for his impending fatherhood.

When he explained…

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I’m Using You in My Next Book, Right Now

I’m sitting in my local library, taking an hour to write. It is not a commitment I live up to every day, though I have no excuse not to. As one guest at a book party for Shelter Us gently pointed out, my next novel need not take 7 years; I have no more pre-schoolers hampering my writing time.

I listened, dear reader. I’m here, ready to write.

And all I can think is When did the library get so freakin’ LOUD?? It’s not just the kids and babies, although it is partly the kids and babies, their shouts and cries very much part of the mix. It’s the adults! The people talking to the librarian, the librarian talking to people, a guy at a computer talking either to himself or people via Blue Tooth (it’s unclear)…and now two adorable little boys have discovered the electric pencil sharpener???

Settle down, I tell myself. You have a choice: leave in search of a more opportune place that may not exist, or stay and use this moment in your fiction. Hmmm. It takes me three seconds to realize that the protagonist in this next book — a teenage girl — is working on a research project that will take her interesting places. Let’s put her at the library, shall we?

There we go. One of my most reliable methods to create realistic, genuine characters and situations is to take something I have experienced, or am experiencing in real time, and twist it to fit the fictional story. The emotions are real, but the place or circumstances are tweaked. (Perhaps that explains the reason for multiple scenes at Starbucks in Shelter Us.)

At the L.A. Times Festival of Books, one of my favorite authors, Hector Tobar, described this method as “casting” passersby in his fiction. Lady with dyed magenta hair who walks with a cane? You’re in! Boy sneezing into his elbow? Gotcha!

The library has quieted down now.

I suppose I’ll need to start making stuff up.

 

 

 

Recommended Summer Reading: “a perfect book for the summer…more than fluff”

I woke up to a foreign sound in LA — rain. Normally I’m thrilled when we are doused. When a storm broke out last month, I ran out to greet the downpour, singing and dancing in the puddles. I have witnesses.

But today? The one day that I have been nagging everyone to go out and attend a book party? Really, rain?? Don’t you know how fragile we Angelinos are? What’s it going to take to get my peeps out to the bookstore tonight? Champagne, wine, festivities, cookies, and THIS REVIEW!

I was drawn to Shelter Us by Laura Nicole Diamond because I love family dramas. Sarah Shaw is the stay-at-home mom of 2, well 3 if you count her daughter that only lived a few short weeks. Though it has been a few years, Sarah has not been able to pull out of her grief and it is putting a strain on her marriage. But this isn’t the part that captured my attention. It was the homeless woman with a small child that captured mine and Sarah’s attention.

I knew how Sarah felt as she passed by the young woman. I so want to help someone who I see is in need. Sarah feels an extra attachment to the young woman because the death of her daughter. She can’t get the woman out of her mind. She must do something. Her greatest desire is to bring her home and give her shelter. Yet her husband isn’t keen on the idea obviously.

The story is told through the eyes of Sarah. A woman who cares deeply for her family, even the child who didn’t live to see her first birthday. However, it is the all consuming grief and guilt that keeps her from fully being in the moment with her family. It’s all she can do just to go through the motion. Until she meets Josie, the homeless mother. This may just be what Sarah needs to pull herself past her grief.

The story is so well told that you begin to think of Sarah as more than a character in a book. She could be the woman you see in the pick up line at preschool or the mother sitting on the park bench as her children play in the sand box.

Normally I would not think of a story like this as a summer read. I typically think of fun and fluff. Yet, I do think Shelter Us would be a perfect book for the summer. There are layers of emotional depth without being too heavy. There are enough sweet moments to balance out the grief and guilt. The writing also has a beauty to it that makes the story flow effortlessly.

If you are looking for more than fluff this summer, then I highly recommend Shelter Us by Laura Nicole Diamond.

I’m looking forward to seeing you tonight!

With deep appreciation to the reviewer and my community,

Laura

Books Everywhere, For Everyone

Two book-related tidbits I’ve got to share, before I turn in for the night.

First, I have one more exciting book giveaway, the last before Publication Day, June 8! I appreciate the support of these authors. In the path to publication, I have found authors as a whole to be a generous, supportive bunch, oozing camaraderie. To reach the giveaway, you can go to my Facebook author page and click Authors You Need to Know About Giveaway tab, or just click on the “Shelter Us Giveaway” link in the right margin.

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The second book-related anecdote I must share is the e-mail I received today from our intrepid 4th grade Room Parent — a saintly woman — who desperately sought to squeeze out one last burst of parental volunteerism on behalf of the school book fair (wherein our kids blow $40 on “educational” toys and erasers, and we parents wonder why there are no new books in their backpacks).

Her entreaty:

Final two days of book fair!!! Can you help out?  I know everyone is exhausted and it is the last thing you might want to do – volunteer again. But the kids love it!!!! And who wouldn’t want to handle a bunch of sweaty dollar bills and count tons of pennies?

I signed right up.

Happy reading, whatever’s on your bedside table…

 

Recovering from Mother’s Day

With one week to go beforel Mother’s Day, I’m hit with a bout of PTSD from the disaster two years ago: losing our then-8-year-old son on the Venice Boardwalk; bringing in the police; and all because we wanted to take a bike ride and leave our cell phones at home. It turned out it was our version of Home Alone. This year we’re going to try camping. With our track record, there will most certainly be bears.

Laura Nicole Diamond

I had my worst Mother’s Day, to date. No one woke me with burnt toast. I was awakened by Emmett, actually, but it was with a beautiful hand illustrated book he had made about how much I love him.

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And a bracelet made from paperclips and tape.

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All good. Aaron gave me nothing, because in Middle School the teachers don’t do that shit for you, and he didn’t get around to doing it himself. That’s another discussion.

But I didn’t want gifts for Mother’s Day. What I wanted for Mother’s Day, all I wanted, was to go on a bike ride on the beach.

Aaron was happy to oblige. He was dressed and ready to go. But Emmett, oh that darling, sloooooow and “I don’t wanna do it” Emmett, was not cooperating.

You know what? I can’t even bear to tell you more. It’s too harrowing to relive…

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To Welcome the Weekend…SHELTER US Book Giveaway!

We have been speaking a lot of Spanish since welcoming Maria into our family. To return the favor, my boys recently taught Maria to say, “Thank God it’s Friday.” 

Heck yeah.

What better way to start the weekend than with the promise of a new book? Head on over to Goodreads, where you can enter for a chance to win 1 of 10 Advance Reader Copies of my forthcoming novel SHELTER US.

Just click here: http://bit.ly/ShelterUSGiveaway

While you’re there, you can try “Ask the Author” — questions about writing, publishing — heck, even Spanish. I can’t claim to have any answers. You can add me to your “Want to Read” shelf, too, if you’re in the mood.

I wish you the best of luck. And, of course, tomorrow is Independent Booksellers Day, a great day to visit your local indie bookstore. Tell ’em I sent you. 🙂 And enjoy the weekend.