Reflecting Back…Summer, 2016 Edition

Hello, Readers!  I thought I’d start off this post with a couple of songs that always seem to encapsulate this time of year for me.

Here’s Don Henley’s Boys Of Summer:


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/173302354″>DON HENLEY – THE BOYS OF SUMMER</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user38975022″>boris apaza</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Here’s another favorite for this time of year.  California Dreamin’ as performed by The Beach Boys:

Labor Day Weekend is always a bittersweet time of the year for me.  We have a lovely visit from family for a couple of days, then it’s back to school for all of us.  This morning as I write this, my third cup of is gone, and I reflect back on my sweet, yet at times bitter, Summer vacation.

For the most part, this was a fantastic Summer, as mentioned in a previous post.  I have a book coming out from REUTS Publications next Summer, and I now have a wonderful agent, Jessica Schmeidler of Golden Wheat Literary, who is absolutely fabulous.  When we had “the call”, it was as if all the pieces of my literary puzzle were somehow finding their way together, creating a more complete picture.  Like magic.  There is so much to look forward to!

Yet, in the paragraph above, I mentioned that this was a fantastic Summer “for the most part”.  This is because we suffered a loss, and that loss was felt not only by my family, but by the entire school community.  So, somewhere within this wonderful, magical summer, I also went through quite a bit of grief.  And now, with the end of Summer upon us and the start of school to begin, I find myself thinking about that loss again, wondering how we will get through that first day of school.  But we will.

Looking back, I learned (or, remembered…) a few things this Summer.

  1.  It might take a long time, but if you work steadily toward a goal, it will happen.
  2. I am capable of much more than I thought I was.
  3. Setting smaller goals and completing them keeps me on track.
  4.  Having Grit can get you through the hard times.
  5. When faced with tough times, family and friends help get you through.

As this new school year starts, my goal is to remember these little lessons.  This Summer was a good one for reminders!

How was your Summer?  What new goals might you have for Autumn?  Do you have any favorite songs for this time of the year?  Leave a comment!  I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

 

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.

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.

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!

 

I’ve Got a Cover To Reveal! Who’s curious?

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A little less than three months from now, Without Benefits will be showing up on doorsteps and in e-readers! But today we get a first look at the amazing cover, designed by Ashley at Cardboard Monet! Ashley even did a special photoshoot just for this cover. So check out the cover and make sure you scroll down to the giveaway below!

Here’s a bit about the book:

Emma will always be a New Yorker at heart, even though she has a perfect life in Seattle. She has a prestigious job fundraising for the Seattle Symphony, a handsome boyfriend who adores her, and a Belltown apartment with views of the Sound. It should be more than enough to keep her pain from not playing the piano, and her 9/11 nightmares, away.

But when her old college crush, Owen, comes back into her life, it’s more than just spending time with him that’s causing cracks in her picture-perfect life. As she steps back on stage, and back into the spotlight, her connection with Owen and his world, dredges up old memories that Emma worked hard to forget.

Emma’s past comes back to haunt her, forcing her to face the truth about more than just her fears of returning back to New York. As her once perfect life begins to burn down, Emma is forced to figure out what she really wants: her fundraiser and cocktail party-filled life with her boyfriend, or forging a new future with the one thing, and one person, she’s ever loved–even if it means returning to New York.

Without Benefits is a beautiful and moving exploration of modern relationships and family written in the vein of Taylor Jenkins Reid and Renee Carlino.

So here it is…

The moment we’ve been waiting for…
WithoutBenefitsCover-663x1024
Isn’t it gorgeous? Pre-order your copy today!
 

About the author:

Nicole Tone is a freelance editor, MFA student, traveller, pet collector, binge-watcher, and a self-proclaimed coffee snob. She lives in Buffalo, NY with her husband, three cats, and two very large dogs, but spends as much of her time in Seattle as possible. You can like her page on Facebook, @ her on Twitter, swoon over dream houses together on Pinterest, and add Without Benefits on Goodreads.

Cookies With Nana

Hello, writerly friends!

Happy New Year!  While this post is happening a little bit later than I wanted, the sentiment is the same.  With the passing of the 2015 holiday season, I am poised to reflect on something wonderful; a gift that I received from my mother.  I hope that reading this will give you a warm feeling on these cold winter days.

One of the fondest memories I have from my youth is baking with my mother.  Mom was a first grade teacher for many years, and her attention to details is what made her a fine baker.

I mention this, because several years ago at the holidays, my mom presented me with a book she had put together; a journal of sorts, or perhaps more of a scrapbook, which was filled with stories, cookie recipes and pictures.  The stories told about my female relatives and their Italian heritage.  Each story was adorned by a photograph of the relative whose recipe it was.

These were special cookie recipes.  I knew the cookies were Italian in origin, but these particular recipes held a special place in my mother’s heart.  She had enjoyed baking cookies with her own mother (my Nana), just as I had enjoyed baking with mine.

I had grown up making the same cookies with my mother in our kitchen, but I hadn’t realized from whom the recipes came.  My mother added her own special holiday cookie recipes as well, making the book something of a time capsule.

A photograph of my great grandmother, Nana’s mother, with a favorite of her recipes sits on the final page of the book.  That is so special to me.  The photo is very old and faded, her wavy silver hair apparent.  Clearly, Nana learned to bake special cookies from her mother.  It’s a family tradition worth keeping, and I intend to add a page with my own photo and recipes into the book as well, so it may be passed on.

So there you have it; a bit of a sentimental journey, but a fond one, nonetheless.  Does your family have any special holiday baking traditions?  Are there family recipes that hold sentimental value to you?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

 

 

NaNoWriMo 2015 is over…

once upon a time

Hello, Writerly Friends!

I have grown to love NaNoWriMo.  That 30-day long leap into the throes of frantic writing exhilarates me.  Not only that, but the month of October has, through the years, become treasured as well, because that’s when I plot and plan my way through a fresh new manuscript idea.  Love it!

But, as October 2015 came lurking on my calendar, I knew, deep down, that starting something new might not be the best idea.  Sure, I still have a million ideas in my head; little snippets that will eventually become stories, or subplots within other stories.  Also swirling around my imagination are characters which are still in their embryonic stage, but will someday become mature.

This year was different, though.  Along with those gestational ideas waiting to be developed, I had a few novels that needed finishing touches.  Since my RodeoRomCom was nearly complete, that became my focus.

So, October 1, I made my plan of attack:  Scan through my RodeoRomCom, plan out where to polish, add, or delete.

But you know what they say about the best laid plans, right?  Yeah.  That happened to me.

Mid-October, my husband took me on a weekend trip to coastal Maine.  This was a much needed break and I reveled in every moment.  And that’s when I noticed the multi-toned sounds of the harbor bells.  It was these tones that awakened a sleepy, partially written manuscript I had set aside when it needed a time out.  A-ha!  An epiphany!

So there I was, mid October, and I was ready to switch gears completely.  I dug out my completely unfinished Literary Fantasy (thank you for the genre identification help, @KisaWhipkey!), and jumped in head first.  All of a sudden, the book had direction, a major focus shift, and best of all, an amazing TITLE!

So, this November, I worked on this Literary Fantasy, THREE HARBOR BELLS, which I can now say is one of the deepest, most cool pieces of writing I have ever done.  It’s still not complete, but I can see how it ends, and I couldn’t be more pleased with its direction.

In the end, this year I was not able to get 50K new words of a new novel.  But, hey, I still got so much out of the month!  And isn’t inspiration a magical thing?  Who knew that my little weekend trip to Maine would yield something so amazing?  THREE HARBOR BELLS has a really great ring to it.

Keep writing, everyone.

How did NaNoWriMo work out for you all?  Let me know in the comments!

Taking Our Own Advice

Hello Writerly  Friends!

It’s so hard to believe that it is almost the holiday season!  But this isn’t a post about the holidays.  Not really.  Well, perhaps a little.  It’s a post about how time can get away from us, and the feelings of guilt that can come along with that, from a writer’s perspective.  So, with the holiday season approaching, let us encourage each other with the gift of no guilt.

I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist that picture!

In an earlier post, I outlined how I fit writing into my teaching life.  You can read that post here.  As I look at that post, I freak out a little bit, because, my writing life at the moment isn’t at all what it would typically be at this point.  It’s not that I am so rigid that I have to fit my life to a certain mold to feel fulfilled as a writer.  I know that the aforementioned post is pretty much an outline that I try to follow on a yearly basis.  Historically, it’s a plan that has worked well.

But this year, not so much.

Life Happens 🙂

You see, time has gotten away from me.  My school schedule is somewhat different, and that has thrown a bit of a wrench into the writerly plan I used to follow.  Which coaxes the guilt to set in.  Who else has been there?  We make the grandest plans for writing productivity, and then we torture ourselves with guilt when we can’t meet our goals.  (I hope I am not alone!)

I don’t think it’s a great thing to berate ourselves for not being able to meet them.  Obviously, if you are writing to meet professional deadlines, and you have an income attached to it, that might be a different story.  But for me, I can’t let a little thing like guilt stop me.

It can be difficult to put this into perspective, but it sometimes takes years to get a book right.  Not only that, but many of us have many writing projects going on at the same time; some on submission, some merely outlined, some with Beta readers, some in a very rough first draft.  And as awesome as it is to have created so many projects, it can get overwhelming.  This again fuels the fires of guilt.

We might ask ourselves, “Why can’t I finish anything?”  When these feelings of guilt pounce into my writing life, I need to remember to step back, and appreciate the “little victories”  that I have accomplished.  So I didn’t start a new NaNo this month.  That’s okay.  So I missed a few Sunday blog posts.  It happens.

The good news?  I opened up my “guilt-free” package today and found a whole lot of great stuff!

There are always positive things we writers can look back to, and forward towards the future.  I’ve been inspired to dust off a partially written manuscript, and create some lovely scenes that I hadn’t even considered before.  And the creative mind in me always churns out new ideas to explore.  I’m going to ride that train as long as I can.

So in the end, this post is about me taking my own advice.  And getting back to the pretty little “guilt-free” gift at the beginning of this post…  I hope you can open it up and find some awesomeness to celebrate about your writing life.  Tell me…How do you deal with guilt as a writer?  What kinds of awesome are in you “guilt-free” gift box?  Please share your comments below.

Thanks for stopping by my writer’s block!