Book Review: OFF BOOK, by Jessica Dall

Hello Readers!

I read this book a while back, and just realized that I never posted my review!  So here we go:  OFF BOOK, by author Jessica Dall🙂

Quirky, off-beat, but quite charming, I really liked the unique premise of OFF BOOK, from REUTS Publications.

Many of us (I expect) have wondered what it would be like to exist in a story, or what character’s lives might be like after the novel is over. But author Jessica Dall goes one step further here, and presents the reader with a world of characters before they are written into novels.

This pre-novel existence poses many questions to those characters who are unwritten. For example, when they finally get chosen, would their existence span a long time, as a main character within a series?  Or would their literary existence be brief, as in killed off, or somehow written out another way. What would happen to them, then? Another character reality…what if their author starts writing them into a novel, but never finishes it (writer’s block…)? What happens to those characters then?  Jessica Dall presents us with the perspective of a character, believing they may never be chosen to become part of an author’s book.

As both a reader and author, I have sat at both sides of the table: The author who brings the characters to life on the page, and the reader, welcoming the characters into my life.

From an authorly standpoint, reading OFF BOOK has given me the motivation to finish writing all of my novels, so that my characters, who I adore so much, will have some sort of completeness in their lives!  Weird?  Maybe.  But that’s my reality, and that is the hook of Dall’s book.  If you are a reader who enjoys unique character perspectives, check this one out. Highly recommended!

Best Summer Vacation…Ever!

fireworks

Welcome readers!

About a year ago, I posted about my BEST BIRTHDAY MONTH…EVER!  Today, I feel s though I have come full circle in some ways.   This has been the Best Summer Vacation…Ever!

As you know, I teach music to Middle Schoolers, and summer vacations afford me the time to delve even more into my writing endeavors than I can during the school months.  This Summer vacation started off with a bang with my press release from REUTS Publications.  That day, My novel, WORDS IN THE WINDOWSILL, was announced along with author Katie Hamstead’s latest book as well.   Not only did my press release show up on REUTS’ own blog, but it was listed in Publisher’s Marketplace as well.  That was a huge feeling!!!

A month later, almost to the day, I received another message that every author dreams about:  Agent Jessica Schmeidler, of Golden Wheat Literary, sent me an offer of representation.  Jessica is amazing, and it is a privilege to be able to call her my agent.

The reason I feel like I have come full circle, is that back about a year ago, during my amazing birthday month, I actually met my agent for the first time.  She had requested to read one of my manuscripts based on a Twitter pitch I had made.  I am fortunate in so many ways.

So, this has been an incredible Summer!  In the span of a month, two of my writing dreams have come true, and I know this is just the beginning.  Thank you all for coming along with me as I sail into these new waters.  It is clear to me that I am in the best of company, with the most fabulous of followers.  I am filled with gratitude.

If you have any comments, please share them below.

Book Review: Hearts Anonymous: Wittiness and grit, within a dark sweet fairytale

Jonathan Dunne has proven himself to me through the years to be a writer I can depend on, and his latest book, HEARTS ANONYMOUS, again delivers.

 

First of all, I love how Jonathan Dunne talks about the inspiration for this novel in the front of the book.  I urge all readers of HEARTS ANONYMOUS not to skip over that part.  What he describes in those opening words sets the tone for the entire book in a way that connects the reader to the impending story.

 

Now for the story.  If we consider the phrase “All the world’s a stage, and the men and women merely actors”, we get a sense of the premise of HEARTS ANONYMOUS.  The difference I found however is that instead of existing as actors on a proverbial stage, Jack, Jeanie and Ruthy are living as characters in a fairytale, whose lives seem forever entwined, and whose story remains unfinished.  Jack and Jeanie appear to the reader as star-crossed lovers, who are destined to be together long after Jack’s heart stops beating, but in this book’s fairytale twist, we discover that Jack’s life has a more intricate trajectory, that he, nor this reader, could see coming.  Surviving a rollercoaster derailment is just the beginning, as he and Ruthy travel together to the origin of a fairytale that they have become embroiled in, or rather have existed in, for quite some time.  The ending I truly DID NOT see coming.

 

Jonathan Dunne does a wonderful job developing the idea of a clock that can transport people through time. As the author of a time travel novel myself, I was intrigued.  The description of the clock and all of its intricately moving parts, I loved.  And the love story aspect was dark, yet sweet.

 

It’s no secret that I love the fictitious world of Jonathan Dunne’s novels.  He continues to develop Limerick and Old Castle even further with HEARTS ANONYMOUS, a treat for this fan-reader.  Not to be overlooked are Arthur Lawless, Bonnie, Mick Munroe, and Sinbad, who graciously have “cameo” mentions within this book’s pages.  HEARTS ANONYMOUS is written with the same sarcastic wit that I have grown to love and expect from Mr. Dunne.

 

In case you weren’t aware, there is an audio format of this book, which I have decided I NEED to have.  It would be really something to hear the author himself read the pages of this novel to me, in the way his author-mind intended.

 

I recommend this book to current fans of Mr. Dunne’s books, but also to any reader who likes a bit of a twist with their fairytales.

A Writer’s Roller Coaster Ride, 2.0

roller coaster

Welcome, Readers!

Thank you for stopping by my Writer’s Block! A few years ago, I posted on the topic of the writer’s roller coaster ride. I had just entered a contest, and earned a spot in the mentor and agent rounds.  It was HUGE!!!  Today, I write about this topic again, this time through the lens of an author with a book deal.  The emotions I go through are detailed below, on this Writer’s Roller Coaster Ride I am currently on.  I love it, and I wouldn’t want it any other way!  Maybe you have experienced some of these on your own writing journey.

DISBELIEF:  As many of you know, the process of submitting a book to agents and publishers is filled with twists and turns, and a lot of disappointment.  When I received the offer of publication from REUTS, I almost could not believe it.  I had gotten to know the team a bit through the years, and I hoped deep down that my book would find its home with them.  When it finally happened, it took a while for it to sink in.

PRIDE:  This really speaks for itself.  When a writer gets positive feedback of any kind, be it from a critique partner, a literary agent, or a publisher, the pride swells.  And that’s okay!  Enjoy it!  Revel in it!  Get ready for the next steps in your writer’s journey.  The day I saw the official press release about my novel in Publisher’s Marketplace and on the REUTS blog, I knew it was really happening!  My heart swelled!  I love my publishing team at REUTS, and know that my book baby is in the best of hands.

SELF-DOUBT:  I think as writers, we are very comfortable with self-doubt.  We know it well, and consider ourselves friends.  I say that in a jokingly sort of way, but truthfully, writers see so much in the way of “N0-thank-you’s” that we sometimes wonder if we are up to the tasks in front of us.  Eventually we do grow more comfortable with self doubt.  Now, as an author with REUTS, I still have my own doubts.  I think about upcoming revisions and marketing my book, and wonder what those processes will be like.  But through all of the wondering, I know I have an amazing support system in place; my family, friends, and my publisher are all part of my cheering section.

TRUST:  Trust can be tricky for writers.  We spend so much with our stories and characters while we write them.  It can be tough to see their world as anything different than what we envision in our own minds.  But part of the writing process includes trusting people with our book babies. It’s through the eyes of others that writers can create a more complete, fulfilling novel for our readers.  Through the years, I have grown more and more comfortable asking for criticism and critique from people.  I write about that topic a little bit here.  I also get more comfortable with trust by helping others sculpt their own novels.  There is something empowering about that. (see below)

EMPOWERMENT:   The feeling of empowerment is also a tough thing for a writer, or any creative artist, to feel.  We are always looking for what’s wrong with our work so we can fix it.  Sometimes we can’t ever get to the point where we believe it’s any good.  When writers learn to trust themselves with the writing process, and others with advice as they help you sculpt your book into a work of art, that’s when the magic happens.  Your book takes on a life of its own.  With that magic, comes empowerment.  It took me a while to understand this, but it’s okay to step back, look at your novel, and pat yourself on the back for a job well done.

PEACE:  Peace for me as a writer comes and goes.  Self doubt rears it’s ugly head from time to time, but then fades away as my novel writing progresses.  Peace with the writing process comes and goes.  I need to remember to embrace it when it comes, and get excited when I meet little goals!

ANXIOUSNESS:  This is where I am currently at on this roller coaster ride toward publication.  As I write this post,  I am super anxious and excited at what lies ahead for my book baby.  I appreciative the incredible support system of my family, friends, and publisher, REUTS.  I can’t wait to see what happens next!

I love comments!  Please feel free to comment below, or share your experiences with your own writer’s roller coaster ride.

Big News, And I’m Shouting It From The Mountaintops!

On the mountain top

It’s been a really great day!!!  Here’s why:

Today I have the privilege to announce a new adventure: My novel, WORDS IN THE WINDOWSILL, has been acquired by REUTS Publications, and I couldn’t be more pleased.   Read the official announcement here!

This book and I have quite a little history!  Here’s how our adventure began.

In 1994, a friend and I went on an adventure of our own; a month-long trip through several countries in Europe.  As classically trained musicians, we were quite interested in the histories and world that Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and other master composers lived in, and that trip afforded us an opportunity to see much of it first hand.  I hadn’t realized it at the time, but on that trip, the seeds of WORDS IN THE WINDOWSILL were planted.  During the years (10+!) that followed, I revisited those memories through the photos and journals that I kept during the trip, and as time went on, I knew I had to continue the adventure, in the form of a novel.

NaNo 2

2012 brought another stop on WINDOWSILL’s adventure:  I decided to use NaNoWriMo as the launching pad for writing it.  By the end of the November, I had the first draft nearly completed, and it was clear what a special story it was to me.  Its plot continues to hold a unique connection to me and my musical life, as do its characters.  But I wondered:  Would anyone else feel similarly?

I beta’d it.  I revised it.  I modified and added parts to it.  I removed parts of it.  I freaked out a little bit when I realized that I still needed those discarded parts, so I sifted through older drafts to put them back in.  (It’s true what they say about keeping all of your early drafts… ) I continued to believe in it, and I never gave up hope.  Now, several drafts, edits, contests and queries later, the reality is finally sinking in.  My novel, set partially in the 21st century and partially in the 1800’s, has found its home, and a new adventure is about to begin.

fireworks

Along this journey, I have met some amazing writerly people, who guided and encouraged me.  New friends, professionals in the business.  I never met a contest or Twitter pitch party I didn’t like.  At one point, I posted about how even though the art of writing seems like a lonely, solitary endeavor, it really isn’t (at least not for me!)  We learn from each other in so many ways.

Thank you, so much, to everyone who supported me on this incredible journey thus far.  It means a lot!

excited doggie

So now, WORDS IN THE WINDOWSILL and I embark on another part of this publishing adventure together.  I look forward to posting updates on the process from acquisition to publication as we go, and I hope you’ll share the ride with me!

Feel free to leave comments below!

And visit my Facebook Page and Twitter as well!

 

 

 

Revisiting Old Friends

hogwarts quote

None of what you read here today is new information.  But I had a beautiful moment this past week, and I would like to share it with you.

Many of you know that I am a Middle School music teacher as well as an author.  One of the things I enjoy most about being a music teacher is that I can have meaningful discussions with my students about the music that accompanies films.  And when those films are based on literary works, well, I just love that part of my job even more.  Our most recent discussion:  The music from the Harry Potter movies.

This discussion afforded me the opportunity to revisit those wonderful stories by J.K. Rowling, bringing back memories of my son, aged five at the time, being handed a set of the books by my grandmother.  All of the books hadn’t been written yet, but we had perhaps the first five books in the collection.  I began reading them to my son, with the plan of seeing the first movie together at the theater.

I had almost forgotten the impact of those stories on our family.  The way J.K. Rowling weaves the tale so completely, creating a multi-faceted, multi-layered world that so many of us wished was real.  Her characters became household names which we felt a full range of emotions for, from love, to empathy, to fear, to sheer hatred.  Rowling’s world of Harry Potter became an extension of our own, a fantasy we got to live out with her, if only for a short while.

The books that my grandmother had gifted to my son came at a perfect time.  Reading them and watching the films spanned a decade our lives.  The highs, the lows, the miracles, the magic.  We didn’t know it, but we needed it, and when we discovered it, we ran with it.

I waited in line for Deathly Hallows, which arrived in our local Border’s when my son was nine and my daughter was seven-months old.

And I cried when it was over.  I cried because of how beautifully she wrapped up the story. I cried because there would be no more; nothing new to look forward to.

But this week it hit me:  It isn’t over.

thank you

To be able to revisit these old friends is a gift that storyteller’s give to their readers.  I thank J.K. Rowling for being that storyteller for my family.  The Harry Potter series became a part of the lives of so many kids, of which my son was one.  Because he was the age he was when we began the journey of Harry Potter together, he got to grow alongside Harry, Ron, and Hermione, as they grew up in Hogwarts.

And I got to go through it with him.  Another gift to be thankful for.

Thank you, J.K. Rowling, for your wondrous gift to my family and the world.

 

My Post-Conference High

 

lakeflywriters_logo

Greetings!

I just got home from a writer’s conference, and it was a good one.  I thought I might share some of the awesomeness with you all.  First, a little bit of background:

I heard about the Lakefly Literary conference in OshKosh, Wisconsin on Twitter a few months ago, when one of my good Twitter friends posted about it.  My thought at the time:  Sounds like fun!  I wish I could go!

Then I went online, and read about the lineup of workshops and presenters.  I admit that I was not familiar with the presenters.  They seemed to be local to Wisconsin, and here I am in Northern New York.  But the workshops seemed to be just what I needed, especially the one about making a marketing plan.  Also, the price point couldn’t be beat.  But the final thing that tipped the cart for me was the fact that several of my Twitter friends would be there, live and in person, and what an opportunity it would be to meet face to face.

So I booked my conference and flight to Wisconsin!

The Lakefly Literary Conference is still pretty young, only in its 4th year.  It is small enough for an out-of-stater like me to feel welcomed, yet offers enough of what I was looking for to really make it worthwhile.

Ruth Percey, who runs the OshKosh library, puts the event on along with several other folks, and they really went out of their way to make sure that the offerings met our needs.  By the end of the conference, she knew me by name! I left there with a great feeling of accomplishment.  Being able to meet and hang out with authors and publishers is a special thing.  There were many opportunities to browse books of all sorts, and even have them signed.  New friends were made, and folks I had only known in the Interwebs suddenly became real people.

So here I sit, in my Post Conference high.  I look forward to using the information I gathered at #Lakefly16.  Feels good!

Anyone else going to a writing conference?  Have you been to any good ones recently?  Feel free to share in the comments!