An Interview With Myself: Plowing MY Way to 50K!


Next week we’ll be checking in with my NaNo Mini Series participants for round two of the series.  I have been working on my own NaNo project along side them, and thought I’d post about my own progress today.  I’ll admit, the fact that I wrote the questions myself, then answer them below as if I hadn’t, is slightly weird.  🙂  My participants will be answering these same questions next week.


1.  First of all, let’s talk about your progress so far. NaNoWriMo says that an average of 1667 words per day will get you to the 50k mark on day thirty. How is your word count going? Are you following the NaNo word count guideline?

So far, I have been consistently about 1200 words behind. I love the NaNo word tracker that shows up on their site. Normally I try to stick to that, but so far, I haven’t been able to meet it on a daily basis.

2.  In the Round One interview, you all mapped out a plan for attacking this crazy writing month. Have you been able to stick to your plan?

Heck No! My plan is out the window! I am a music teacher and grades for the first quarter are due around this time, which also means end-of-quarter projects all come in for evaluation at the same timeJ So, I will continue to do what I can for now. I have a feeling that I’ll be able to maintain a better writing pace after next week.


3.  What can you tell us about your 2014 NaNo project? Give us as much detail as you can at this point. Do you have characters fleshed out? Where is your plot headed? Does your NaNo have a title yet?

My NaNo’s working title is Misty Dawn and Violet. A link to my synopsis and excerpt can be found here: I absolutely love it! It’s a humorous adventure tale. Misty Dawn and Violet are college students and best friends, and they take a spring break vacation to a Wyoming Ranch to find themselves some cowboy’s. The book is a fun and funny account of their experiences along the way.I feel like the characters are pretty well fleshed out, and I have a decent idea where the plot is headed, but anything can, and probably will happen! That’s the fun of the first draft!

4.  I know that for me, life can sometimes get in the way of my writing plans. Have there been any struggles you have faced so far? If so, have you been able to push through? 

As I have mentioned, life has definitely gotten in the way for this year’s NaNo. I am pushing through, and even though I am not quite meeting the goals set by NaNo, every little word counts. When I can write, I do, and I have confidence that it will all work out in the end.

And that’s it for now!  Next week, I will post the progress of everyone else. 

How are you all doing with NaNoWriMo this year?  Leave me a comment below!  See you next time 🙂

Living Dead Lovers: A Postman, A Gypsy, and Clairvoyant Cabbage

It is really an exciting thing for me to have a return guest to my blog! Today on my Writer’s Block, we will be chatting with Author Jonathan Dunne. A year or so ago, I had him on my blog and we discussed his first novel, Balloon Animals, the interview for which can be found here:   Today he is back, talking about Living Dead Lovers, his second book.

LDL photoLDL_book cover


Susan: It is a privilege to have you here again. Living Dead Lovers is available now, and I have just read it. I love the cover! Who designs them? Do you design them yourself?


Jonathan Dunne:  It’s probably a collaboration between my wife Ruth and I. We decide what we want and the cover artist comes up with something similar to what we’re looking for. Ruth came up with the idea of having the caravan in the fortune teller’s ball.


Susan: I love the titles of your books! As a writer myself, one of the most difficult parts for me is coming up with titles.   Did you know right away what the title for Living Dead Lovers would be? Or did evolve over time?


Jonathan Dunne:  Normally, the title comes to me within the first few pages. I need a title to hang the story on. In this case, with my second book, I didn’t want to have a hyphen between ‘Living’ and ‘Dead’ because that suggests debasing them to zombies and who needs another zombie story, right? … I wanted to have a little more respect for my characters and decided that one character is very much alive and one is very much dead and there will never be a middle-ground (okay, that’s debatable at the finale of Living Dead Lovers novel)


Susan: One of the things I admire about you as a writer is your character development. Your writing manages to capture every quirky essence which becomes the character’s identity. When meeting people in real life, is that what you see?


Jonathan Dunne:  I can’t help it! Yes, it’s what I see. I’m an observer and mannerisms is something I find peculiar and characters can be defined by mannerisms and tics. Such a little thing but gives us insight into the character rather than how they react in a situation.


Susan: In our last interview together, you described yourself as an outsider. You do not identify yourself as being Irish or Spanish. Does that still ring true? If so, I can’t help but see parallels to both of your books.


Jonathan Dunne:  Yes, I’m in Limbo! I never thought about those parallels with my books but now that you mention it… in Living Dead Lovers, the main character is in a Limbo of her own and so is her guardian, Mr. Brick. As matter of fact, every character is in their own private Limbo! Susan, what have you started here? Cabbage’s romantic father Willy is stuck in a Limbo both metaphorically and literally and Cabbage’s mother is in a literal limbo. Keyword: Limbo.

It can also be said for a few major characters in Balloon Animals also… like Jonny Rowe’s grandfather who lives on in a balloon, yes, that could be seen as Limbo. You’re correct, Susan. I suppose every book has the author in them on a subconscious level – curious.


Susan: Both of your books, Balloon Animals and Living Dead Lovers, feature main characters on the road during much of the story. Growing up, was there a lot of travel in your own life?


Jonathan Dunne:  No, but I did travel around a bit after leaving school, just me and my backpack … Europe… India. I love India. I think I live through my characters and get to do what I’ve always wanted to do. One part of me wants to take to the roads in a caravan or go to the USA with a balloon. My new book, The Nobody Show, will turn all that on its head though, and makes a point of it too. I won’t say too much for now… I’m tempted and have just thought about writing just a line but it’d give too much away so I’ll say nothing. I also have another book planned (very loosely) after The Nobody Show and that won’t be a road-trip either. The very opposite, as matter of fact: it will be based in a hotel. But the thing is that a hotel is a little microcosm of its own, and in a way, that too is travelling. This is getting too deep for me… I’m dizzy. Next question.


Susan: Another similarity: both stories feature the dead. Is that a coincidence or is the notion of death/the afterlife something that you have often wondered about?


Jonathan Dunne:  I tend to worry about death, yes. More so to the fact that I can do nothing about it. I’ve been trying some experiments lately to see if I can find the trick to eternal life but the experiment ends in an explosion every time. I cannot comprehend how, one day, I will cease to exist, just as before I was born. But I suppose it won’t be too bad because I wont have the option to think too long about it when I’m dead – that would be depressing. Who needs to be depressed AND dead? Yes, the dead and death do interest me and am known to go for an occasional walk in the old cemetery here in Toledo, Spain.


Susan: Well put.  When I read Balloon Animals, a family member was in the ICU and your book provided me with a much needed laughter. I recently downloaded Living Dead Lovers during a very busy and stressful time, and once again, your writing delivered! I want to thank you for that! I get the feeling that your personal life must be filled with laughter! Is that a fair theory?


Jonathan Dunne:  I think I have as many laughs as anybody else. I’m not a person who goes around laughing all day. Actually, it’s hard enough to get a laugh out of me but some situations just crack me up. I tend to be serious (so my wife says) when in company. I keep telling her that it’s just my face that’s serious but I’m actually rolling around inside. I don’t feel the need to laugh a lot of the time, unlike Cabbage’s father who retires to his bedroom in the caravan for half an hour each day to purposefully laugh his head off because it’s his way of getting back at the world. I live when I’m writing and there are no limits to the world while I’m writing and I’ve decided that, if my books are going to have an element of humour, then make it as good as possible because I feel that if my books are going to gain momentum, it will be for the comedy and the odd situations plus the characters. While I’m writing these people and situations are very real and the characters must act accordingly. This is why, I think, many reviews say the same thing: such an unbelievable story but somehow logical. If you take your characters seriously, the reader will take them seriously.


Susan: I found that in Living Dead Lovers, my emotions ran the gamut. I laughed hysterically at the crazy images your writing conjured during those opening few chapters as you introduce the reader to Nicolasia and Willy. And as Cabbage speaks to us from the womb, then as a girl growing up, I felt such compassion for her loneliness. Brilliant. Can you tell us how you see those three characters?


Jonathan Dunne:  I see them as the reader sees them.


Susan: Another aspect of your writing that I adore is how you take unbelievable irony and make your characters go through it, and come out the other side, somehow. One such scene that comes to mind is the birth of Cabbage. Without getting too graphic, how on earth did that scene come to you?


Jonathan Dunne:  That’s a good question. I don’t know, what image lead to another, I suppose. The thoughts of Cabbage’s mother running around a cabbage patch under a full moon was beautiful and wild. Then you’ve heard the expression, maybe, ‘Cabbage-Head’. It was kind of born from that, no pun intended. Susan, I don’t know how to answer the question. The image just came to me and I thought it would be the best place for Cabbage to be born. My writing is organic, as organic as the cabbages that grow in the cabbage patch, and to capture something of the magic is impossible.


Susan: A general comment: Your characters have great names.  Great job with that!  Now, next question:  I am almost afraid to ask this, but what would Willy, being a romantic, have on his iPod?


Jonathan Dunne:  I think Will would probably listen to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata over and over again because of its haunting, romantic quality.


Susan: Do you have a favorite character in Living Dead Lovers? If so, who?


Jonathan Dunne:  Can you pick a favourite from your own kids? I can’t.


Susan: Great point! Tell us: What writing projects are you currently working on?


Jonathan Dunne:  Yipee! I get a chance to introduce my new book (it’s not really a book yet) . The Nobody Show is about a bunch of nobodies who want to be somebodies but sometimes we have to settle for just anybodies.  Did you get that? Good. All I can say is that, if you like what I’m doing, then stay tuned… It should be out at the end of Summer (I said that the last time).


Susan: I want to thank you for taking the time to do another interview with me. My Amazon review of Living Dead Lovers is here:  I look forward to your next effort with great anticipation.

Jonathan Dunne:  Thank you, Susan.


Jonathan can be found in the following locations:








Jonathan’s Amazon Page:… Jonathan’s Facebook Page:…



Calling all aspiring writers!

Recently, I have been putting a lot of energy into my NA Historical Fiction/Time Travel book.  Its story is very near and dear to my heart, and I have been polishing it like crazy in the hopes of it catching the eye of someone in the publishing world.  This has made me think a lot about my own path to becoming published.

On this blog, I interview a lot of published and soon-to-be-published writers, as well as those fortunate souls who have recently been represented by agents.  Today, though, I would like to focus my post on those of us who are not there yet.  We are in the beginning trenches of this process.  Every one of us has a different beginning, and once we start on our paths, I am fairly certain that we all have different twists and turns to navigate as we travel toward becoming published.

As my blog and Twitter followers know, I am a Music Educator.  I have been a band director for the last twenty years, and I have always loved it.  My goal to become a published author came about seventeen years into my teaching career, when a scene came to me and wouldn’t let go until the entire story played itself out.  The idea had been with me for so long, I swear I heard crickets when I typed “The End”, and it was finally out!

I tend to be inspired by travel and the arts.  My stories are set in real world places, either modern day (or near future), as well as the past.  I draw from my own experiences when I write.  My current NA draws on topics and places I experienced while in college and abroad.

I like to read the types of books I write:  Speculative Fiction, settings in Europe, mysteries and thrillers.

Here is where you come in!  If you are an aspiring author, I’d love to hear from you!  You can respond to the following in the comments if you like, or just comment however you wish:

1.  Did you always know you wanted to be an author, or did the idea of writing occur to you later on?  Describe the circumstances which led to that choice.

2.  What are the things that inspire your work as a writer?  Music, art, people, travel, life in general?

3.  What types of books are you drawn to reading?  What types of books are you drawn to write?

Thanks in advance!

A Novelist’s Cookbook ~ Bonn, Germany

City of Bonn

Over the summer, I did a guest post over at, about the trip that inspired my latest novel, Words In The Windowsill.  I noted that writing the novel afforded me the opportunity to revisit my old journals and photos from that trip.  Looking back, I quickly realized that along with the history and music which propels the plot of my story, so much of what inspired me had to do with foods of the regions we visited.

So today, I’d like to share a bit more with you today about Bonn, Germany (photo above) along with some of the foods I ate.

In some cases, connections were made!  For instance, my novel takes place in Europe, in countries that have borders that are really close.  It was amazing to see some similarities to the recipes of my Italian heritage.  Although the countries are different and the people speak different languages, some of the recipes are incredibly similar.  I am including recipes for some of these as well.  They are seriously worth trying!

First, a little bit of background information:  Bonn was the capitol of Western Germany until 1990.  It is the home to major universities and museums as well as BeethovenHaus, the birthplace of master composer, Beethoven.  I reference this home quite a bit in my novel.  In Bonn, there is a lot to see and do, even if you are not a music buff, as I am.


Beethovenhaus                                    Beethoven's Piano's

When I arrived in Germany, I was so bent on seeing the home of Beethoven I didn’t realize what more there could be.  Above left, a fuzzy photo shows me and a friend standing outside his home.  To the right, are two of Beethoven’s piano’s from inside the home. The BeethovenHaus property also features gardens as well as a concert hall.

But while in Bonn, it is also worth noting a small eatery we visited, where rice pudding was given in a little cup with every meal ordered.  I wish I could remember the name of the establishment, as I would love to know if it is still in existence.

Their homemade rice pudding was very creamy and instead of being baked, it is prepared in a pot on the stove.  It reminded me of the rice pudding my Italian Great Aunt Connie made.  Growing up, I just assumed that hers was Italian Rice Pudding, but perhaps a better way to refer to it would be European Rice Pudding.

When I returned home, I asked my mother about Aunt Connie’s rice pudding recipe.  Here is her handwritten recipe for Rice Pudding, and it is delicious!

Aunt Connie's Rice Pudding

With the exception an egg, the German recipe below is very similar to the one my family used.


Milchreis (German Rice Pudding)



    • 1 cup short grain white rice
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 3 cups milk
    • 1 cup cream
    • 1/8 teaspoon salt
    • 2 inches piece vanilla beans, split open ( or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)


  1. Mix the rice, sugar and salt in a large saucepan. Stir in the milk and cream, and add the whole piece of vanilla bean. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring often.
  2. Reduce heat and simmer the rice for 30 minutes, or until soft and milk/cream mixture becomes thick. Stir often.
  3. Scratch out vanilla seeds and stir into pudding. Discard vanilla bean pod.
  4. Serve warm with cinnamon and sugar or fruit compote, or both.

Another restaurant we visited in Germany was called “Christine And Hans”.  Here is what I wrote in my journal about it:

“Today we had some free time in Germany.  Jenny and I had lunch at the cutest restaurant called Christine and Hans.  The owners were the cooks and servers, and kept bringing out everything on the menu.  We had a caraway soup, and zucchini soup, along with several different salads, and a plate of meats and cheeses.”

My friend and I discovered that in many of the places we ate at on that trip, the presentation of meats, cheeses and salads was very common, along with artisan bread and rolls.

The service they gave us at Christine and Hans made a serious impression on me.  The foods were absolutely delicious, and served up in a very homey atmosphere with special attention to detail.  Christine and Hans, the people, were there to cook and serve the food.  I got the feeling that the service we received was typical of their everyday business.  Christine came out of the kitchen to seat us, and told us about everything on their menu.  She told us how everything was prepared.  Here are a few recipes that remind me of the foods I ate during my visit to the restaurant Christine and Hans.

When writing Words In The Windowsill, I took my experience at Christine and Hans and molded it to create a fictitious youth hostel where the foods are laid out in a comforting way and remind my main character (also named Hans-strictly a coincidence!) of his past.

Try some of these recipes, similar to the ones served up by Christine and Hans:

Caraway Sour Cream Soup                                                                                                      

(Courtesy Taste Of Home)

8 ServingsPrep/Total Time: 20 min.


  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups chicken or      vegetable broth
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • In a large saucepan, saute onions, celery, carrots and caraway in
  • butter until vegetables are tender. Remove from the heat; stir in
  • flour until well blended.  Gradually stir in broth. Return to the
  • heat; bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Reduce heat;
  • simmer for 10 minutes.  Combine sour cream and milk; add about 1 cup
  • broth mixture. Return all to the pan; heat through (do not boil).
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Yield: 6-8 servings.

German Zucchini Soup

(Courtesy of

serves 3 – 4

1 tbsp. olive oil

1/4 c. butter

2 onions, roughly chopped

4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

1/2 tsp. kosher salt or 1/4 tsp. regular salt

1/8 – 1/4 tsp. black pepper, to taste

2 1/4 c. zucchini, shredded

2 c. vegetable or chicken stock

1/2 c. white wine

1/2 c. plain yogurt, preferably high fat

fresh basil, chopped

Heat thick saucepan over medium-low heat. Melt butter and olive oil in pan. Add onion and sauté. Turn heat down to cook slowly. After 5 minutes, throw in the garlic, salt and pepper. Fry until onion is almost transparent, about 10 minutes. The onion will glisten and look almost soupy.

Add zucchini and stock. Bring to a boil. Simmer for 12 minutes, uncovered.

Stir in the wine. Whir it all together with an immersion blender or regular blender until it’s creamy. Return to heat. Stir in yogurt and about half of the basil. Heat gently, but don’t let it boil, for fear it will curdle.

Ladle into serving bowls. Place a few bits of basil on top. Serve.

journal coins, map

It has been years since I took that trip.  As I was writing Words In The Windowsill, my impressions from that trip came through in the prose.  My familial connection to the rice pudding, and the service and homey atmosphere of Christine and Hans show up as I describe the fabled youth hostel and Fiddler’s Inn of my novel’s portrayal of 1820’s Vienna.


I would love to hear from you!  Have you been inspired by experiences abroad where the locations or foods made an impression on you?  How might you use those experiences to craft a novel or story?  What about familial connections to places abroad?