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!

 

David Bowie and Me

Bowie

David Bowie has passed away, and I’m saddened.

Growing up in the 80’s, I would listen to his infectious music often.  His Album, “Let’s Dance” was one of the first that I ordered through my Columbia House Tape Club.  Remember that?  Twelve tapes for a penny!

Listening to his music put a beat I’m my step and a song in my heart.  I know it sounds corny, but still, the sentiment is true.  I could always pop one of his tapes into my Walkman, and escape.  I’m going grab a fresh set of double A batteries, slide one of his greatest hits tapes in right now, and take a trip down memory Lane with David Bowie.

I remember watching a television show called Puttin’On The Hits, a lip sync competition, where one amazingly made-up kid performed Bowie’s China Girl.  I wish I could find a clip of that!  Well, here’s the original, and it’s awesome:

 

Another gem from my Bowie Collection is Modern Love.  That song takes me back to Middle School dances!  I can remember all of us running into the center of the gym floor when the Footloose-like beginning of Modern Love came  pumping through the DJ’s speakers.  We all formed a huge circle in the center of the gym and jumped up and down to the beat, singing along.  (SHOUTING was more like it!)

 

Ooh!!  Next up is Under Pressure!  Fantastic!  Queen and David Bowie was magic!  And then, years later, when Vanilla Ice came under fire for the amazing similarity of Ice Ice Baby’s hook to this original tune.  Do you remember?

 

This next song used to make me cry, but I loved it.  It’s a song that told an amazing story.  I loved Major Tom, and this song made me feel what it might have been like.  Here’s Space Oddity:

 

Does anyone remember Live Aid?  One of my favorite moments from that epic event was when David Bowie and Mick Jagger performed Dancing In The  Streets.  Here is the Live Aid version of the song:

 

Ugh!  I’m running low on batteries again.  (Anyone else have those memories?  The power light on the Walkman always seemed to begin to fade too fast!)  Time for one more fave! Here’s Let’s Dance!

 

Bowie’s music has stood the test of time, with its recognizable vibe and melodic ambition, spanning across the decades.  So, while David Bowie has left us, his words and music will  live on in my Walkman, and on YouTube.

#RIPDavidBowie

Do you have any David Bowie memories?  Share them in the comments!

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!

UPDATE: When My Book Baby Needed A Time-Out

Hear ye, hear ye!

My book baby is out of time-out!

fireworks

The post below describes how I dealt with an unruly manuscript that was spiraling out of control, to the point where I couldn’t figure out what to do with it.  Well, after a weekend trip to Maine which provided me several sparks of inspiration, I have coaxed my 2013 NaNoWriMo effort out of hiding, and back into my start screen!  It now officially has a title I love, and a thread which has the potential to tie the whole thing together.

Of course, there is no way to guarantee that this particular book baby will avoid time-out for the long haul, but for now, we are on a fantastic course.  Wish me luck!  Here is the original post 🙂

Welcome Readers!

One of my Twitter friends asked me a question today, and it kind of got me thinking.  She wanted to know if there was ever a point when you should just scrap a manuscript.

Hmmm.  Let me think about that for a moment.

The Big Question

Who among us has never felt the frustration of conceptualizing a manuscript, plotting, planning, and writing it to the point that we are absolutely certain it will CHANGE THE WORLD, only to discover that it just doesn’t work?

No doubt, many of us have.

My Reality

Case in point:  My 2013 NaNoWriMo project.  As a writer, I was in a phase where I wanted really complicated plot twists and character relationships, and on top of that, a few of the plotlines and characters would span the time/space continuum.  I am befuddled just thinking about that beast.

I got about a third of the way through writing it (from an outline, no less) and found that I couldn’t make it work out the way that I was sure it would when I plotted it months earlier.  That manuscript was taking on a life of its own, and as its “parent”, I just couldn’t keep up with it!  If there was ever a time for me to consider scrapping a manuscript, it was then.

But I didn’t.

Because…

I have mentioned this in other posts on this blog, but writing, as are all of the arts, is a living thing to me.  The process of writing is fluid and morphing, and the books we read become part of us, as we live and breathe, taking on a life of their own.  Instead of scrapping that beast of a manuscript, I trunked it; I gave it, and me, a Time-Out for a while.  That manuscript needed to think about was wrong with it.  I needed time away from it as well, to perhaps come up with a plan to better usher that particular Book-Baby into the world with a little more finesse.

Just an FYI, that Book Baby is still in Time Out.  It’s been months.  Neither of us has figured out what is wrong yet but someday we will.  I can’t give up on it.  It is a story which has a wonderful heart and deep feeling, but in its current state it’s just too unruly.  With a little thought and hard work, I feel like my Book-Baby will become a beautiful thing. Perhaps giving it a name will help (wink, wink!)

I don’t know how long it’s Time-Out will last.  It could be years.  And who knows.  Maybe it’s supposed to be more than one book, or maybe something in the universe was telling me that I am not ready to write that story…yet.  It is definitely a “something”, because I still get chills of excitement when I think about it.

So, My Answer To The Big Question:

I wouldn’t scrap a manuscript altogether. Like the unnamed Book-Baby in my example above, I would give it a Time-Out, long enough for the two of us to iron out our differences.

A Few Questions For You:

How do you deal with unruly manuscripts?  When they don’t work out as planned, how long before you set it aside? Have you ever scrapped a manuscript completely?

Share your response in the comment section!

Thanks for stopping by my Writer’s Block!

Book Review: Hide The Elephant by Jonathan Dunne

EXTRA, EXTRA!!!  HIDE THE ELEPHANT RELEASES TOMORROW!!!

It’s not every day that this North Country Girl is afforded the opportunity to read an advance copy of one of her favorite author’s upcoming novels, so when Jonathan Dunne, author of Balloon Animals, Living Dead Lovers and The Nobody Show, asked me if I would be willing, I jumped at the chance.  I have interviewed Mr. Dunne a number of times (just click on the book titles just above for more information about him), and our conversations always have surprises in store.

What follows is my review of HIDE THE ELEPHANT, the upcoming release from dark humorist Jonathan Dunne.  I hope you keep an eye out for it.  It’s a real gem!

HIDE THE ELEPHANT by Jonathan Dunne: Expect The Unexpected

Any fan of Jonathan Dunne will come to expect certain things when he releases a new novel.  They will expect to be entertained.  They will expect to be startled at its many oddities.  And they will expect a dark humor that only Jonathan Dunne can deliver.  But if his new book has proven anything to me, it is that with Jonathan Dunne, the reader has to expect the unexpected.

I am a fan of Mr. Dunne’s novel’s.  I have been from the first moment I read a single page of his first book.  From Balloon Animals, to Living Dead Lovers, to The Nobody Show, I have grown accustomed to his dark yet unbelievably funny scenarios that split my sides from the laughter.  But in his latest work, HIDE THE ELEPHANT, Mr. Dunne shows us a side to his writing that I believe will further cement him in my arsenal of writer’s whose works are not to be missed.

Like his previous novels, Jonathan Dunne artfully pulls the reader into the world of his main character.  He does this by addressing The Reader directly in the text from time to time, which may seem taboo, but I find it charming.  You become part of the story in this way.  Also, like his other works, the setting is often something from way out in left field, but always in Ireland.

HIDE THE ELEPHANT has something different, though, in that the plot was incredibly sweet, almost heart-wrenching at times.  Our hero, Mick Munroe, is a zoo keeper, spending the better part of forty years caring for an Indian Elephant at the zoo.  When Altzheimer’s Disease begins to take its toll on Mick’s memory, he is forced into early retirement.

HIDE THE ELEPHANT tells the story of Mick and his elephant, Sinbad, as they escape from captivity; Mick’s captivity, in the form of senility, and Sinbad’s, in the form of literal bars.  With nothing to lose, they take off on an adventure across Ireland to find freedom.  And this Reader found herself admiring the way that Mr. Dunne mirrored Mick’s life with that of Sinbad’s.  It was beautiful to see how the two captives leaned on each other for support, through all of the tough times, lucid or otherwise.

This is not to say that humor is lacking in HIDE THE ELEPHANT.  There are plenty of places where poor Mick struggles just to get through the crazy thing his life has become, oh, mercy!  And his Snicker’s-eating elephant is quite delightful at times.  To put it bluntly, this book has something for just about everyone.

Not to be overlooked is my other favorite thing about Jonathan Dunne’s novels, which are his references to the places and character’s from his previous novels.  I really like the cameo of Arthur Lawless from The Nobody Show, as well as the mentions of other citizens of Old Castle and Limerick City.  These references pull The Reader further into the world of Dunne’s mind.  Brilliant.

In my previous reviews for Mr. Dunne’s books, I encourage the readers of my reviews to check out his work.  But this time, I would also mention that Jonathan Dunne has now shown that he is a writer who is evolving, embracing more sensitive issues, and doing so with finesse.  I look forward to my next Jonathan Dunne read, although after this one, I really can’t imagine what to expect from him next!

Back To School And Beyond: How My Writing Life Fits In

Happy Autumn, Readers!

Fall has been with us for a few weeks now, and with that came the start of school.  I have never known anything different; the change of months and seasons brings with it different phases of a teachers life and planning.  My mother was a teacher, so even during infancy, my life revolved around this same cyclical pattern.

As a writer, I find that I have gotten used to this pattern as well.  It may seem strange, but even though my day job begins anew each Fall, I find that as a writer, I look forward to this time.  It’s a time for me to get creative…even more creative!  My time for writing seems to diminish, but it really doesn’t.  I just have to figure out how to use my time differently.  So, for today’s post, I am going to outline the little things I do during Back To School and beyond to include the writing/editing process.  I will use a month-by-month format, because that’s kind of the way my life rolls.

September–The Start Of a New School Year

  • Read blog posts!  Read blog posts of others to get ideas about time management/writing organization.
  • Get creative! As my work schedule and student load settle in, make a plan for how to fit in daily writing.
  • Work on my own blog posts and other shorter works.  September can be tough for me to focus on larger works.
  • Follow up with works in progress as I can.

October–New School Year Is Well Underway

  • Plan out my NaNoWriMo.  I try to plot something completely new each year.
  • Continue weekly blog posts.
  • This is a great month for me to do some beta work.  NaNo hasn’t started yet!
  • Follow up with works in progress as I can.

November–Hello, NaNoWriMo!

  • Maintain my writing goal of 2000 words daily.
  • Thanksgiving break is this month, so it is actually very do-able for me.
  • Maintain weekly blog posts.

December–The month of sparkles!

  • This is a heavy concert month for me, so I focus on editing small bits at a time.
  • Those small bits get shined and sparkled!
  • My NaNo for that year usually gets set aside until January.
  • Maintain weekly blog posts.

January–New Year, New Manuscript to Work Through!

  • Dig out my NaNo, and start filling in the holes.  This does take time…I am a lean first drafter!
  • Edit through other works in progress
  • Maintain weekly blog posts.

February–Short Month, With Some Extra Time!

  • President’s Week (vacation!) is a time for me to reevaluate my progress.
  • I work on final polishes, if I have any, and prepare to submit things.
  • Maintain weekly blog posts.

March–Long Month, But Not Much Extra Time!

  • While March is a longer month, here in the North Country, much time is spent digging ourselves out of the snow.
  • I tend to submit my polished things during this time, if there is anything ready.
  • Weekly blog posts continue.

April–Signs of Spring–And Short Stories!

  • Continue work on the year’s NaNo.
  • Continue work on other edits and polishes.
  • I usually get inspired to write short stories during this time.  Must be the change of season.
  • Weekly blog posts.

May–Concert and Music Festival Season Means Time For Some Planning!

  • Like September, my teaching life is very busy.  I use this month to keep up with what I can.
  • Make a plan for what I will be focusing on over the coming summer months.
  • I look to others for ideas.
  • Last May, I write a Summer Writing Bucket List
  • Weekly blog posts continue

June–End Of School Year, Summer Writing Plan In Place!

  • Finish out with finals at school, begin laying out my summer writing work
  • Weekly blog posts.

July and August–Write A Lot, Plan For Upcoming New School Year!

  • Self explanatory.
  • The yearly cycle is complete, until it starts again.

There you have it!  My bare bones writing year outline as it fits in with my day job.  I wonder what it’ll feel like when I retire, and this cycle that I have been living my whole life can change?  I guess that’ll be a new creative challenge for me!

Do you have a day job outside of your writing life?  How do you work writing into your schedule?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

Thanks for stopping by my Writer’s Block today!