Greetings from Maine!

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Hello, readers!

Today I write to you from one of my favorite, most inspirational locations, coastal Maine.  I have always been fond of the ocean, although not being in the ocean, but being near it.  The sound of the surf, the lighthouses, the happy puffins, and today, the way the striated clouds parallel the horizon, makes me quite content.  I find inspiration here, in this setting, even though the wind makes my cheeks frozen and numb.  What is it about the ocean, specifically Maine?

 

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Back in 1990, I flew with my friend Jenny to Spain, and spent a few weeks living with a family which we had met when their daughter was an exchange student at our high school.  It was our first transatlantic flight, one where we would actually need a passport, and we were all of nineteen years old.  On the return flight, our plane made a surprise stop in Bangor, Maine, at which time I viewed for the first time the beautiful, lake-filled, ocean-coasted landscape of that state from the window of our plane. At that moment, I made a pact with myself that I would be sure to visit and spend quality time in Maine.

Nowadays, my husband and I make at least one yearly trip to Maine.  During that time, we visit familiar and unfamiliar places.  I draw much inspiration from the sea and the surf here. On one visit, we saw some beautiful harbor bells for sale.  These multi-toned bells are crafted to mimic the unique harbor bell tones of the various harbors on the coast.  We purchased three different bells that visit, each representing the bell tones from different places:  Cape Cod, Chesapeake, and Portsmouth.  Each sounds different, and each represents both a lonely and uplifting spirit.  Here are some sound samples.  What do you think?

Cape Cod Buoy Bell

Chesapeake Buoy Bell

Portsmouth Buoy Bell

I learned from the vendor that all buoy bells are different, each one a unique combination of tones, distinguishing it from the bells of other harbors.  I have also since learned that there is a long history of these bells in Europe as well.  We ended up keeping the Portsmouth buoy bell, and gifting the others to our parents.  We leave our bell up year round on our front porch.  Even the smallest breeze sends the mournful, yet hopeful tones through the air.  We love its sound.

Coastal Maine and buoy bells were an inspiration in my Harbor Bells Trilogy.  Here is a small snippet from chapter 1 of book 1, tentatively titled, THE FIRST HARBOR BELL:

An old man, with skin transparent enough to see the veins and sinews beneath, sat on a stump.  Mangled and contorted, his bony fingers grasped a walking stick, gnarled with knots of the tree from whence it came.  His knuckles, enlarged and swollen with age, protruded profoundly, threatening to burst through the very skin that was holding his aged body together.   Around his shoulders, a cape, threadbare from time and wear, fluttered as a breeze floated past. 

In the distance, a harbor bell sounded.  Its three-toned broken chord, resonated within James.  It was a familiar sound.  One that he had been around his entire life in coastal England. 

Today, though, the bell‚Äôs music felt somewhat different.  As if a trance threatened to overtake him, James stood, looking intently at the caped man. He was captivated.

While this book is still in the early draft stages, I am happy to share this bit with you all.  If you listen to the samples of the buoy bells above, what do they make you think of?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments ūüôā

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Writerly Reflections and Resolutions, 2016/2017

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Welcome, Readers!

Happy New Year!

I hung up my Music Teacher Hat last week so I could celebrate the holidays with my family and friends. ¬†Along with that, my family is blessed with both of my children’s birthdays during this week as well (December 27 and 29), making this week, for them, the gift that keeps on giving. ¬†I love it! ¬†In the quiet times of this vacation, though, I get to reflect on the year which has passed, and lay down some plans for the the coming year.

2016 brought with it the loss of many familiar people in our lives.I write about the loss of David Bowie here, but we said goodbye to so many other public figures in 2016 as well.  One loss of a very personal nature was Great Grandfather Dede, who was a World War II veteran.  A couple of years ago, he took part in the Honor Flight, which was such an emotional experience for both him and us.  His burial was incredibly moving.

2016 brought with it some fantastic writerly news, as I landed a publishing contract with REUTS Publications, began an internship with Golden Wheat Literary, and signed with agent Jessica Schmeidler, who is representing my writerly works.  I also worked along side a screenwriter to adapt one of my novels, which was as fabulous as it sounds! Here is my adrenaline-charged post about that. 

Finally, after struggling with a work in progress that seemed to be too much to handle, I had an epiphany, and mapped out the story as a trilogy, of which the first draft of Book One (The First Harbor Bell) is two-thirds complete. ¬†I am super proud of that, as it is a story that has been brewing within me for at least five years, and whose initial seeds were planted when I was only fifteen. ¬†I can’t wait to share The Harbor Bell Series with you!

As I roll into 2017, I have three resolutions.

  1.  I hope to continue the trajectory I am on with my writing.  I am on a serious roll with The Harbor Bell Series, as well as a couple of other things, and I resolve to continue my forward-moving progress on those fronts.
  2. I resolve to stay “above the line” as much as possible, in all aspects of my life, writing or otherwise. ¬†For those who may not understand what that phrase means to me, here it is: ¬†“Above The Line” means to focus on the positives in life, and to be the change I want to see. ¬†Dwelling on the negatives is destructive, and I don’t have time for that.
  3. I resolve to get back on my weekly blog-posting schedule. ¬†It’s very doable, and I miss it. ¬†Along with that, I further resolve to let go of any guilt quickly when life happens and I might not be able to post on that schedule for a time. ¬†Things happen, and it’s not the end of the world.

So, there you have it.  Wish me luck, but I know I can do it!  What are your thoughts as we leave 2016 and head into 2017?  Post your comments here!

Autumn, Costumes…And Bruce Springsteen?

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Hello, readers!  Welcome to Autumn!

With school in full swing now, and October on the horizon, my daughter has been asking about costumes. ¬†I am now searching online daily for the¬†exact costume she wants. ¬†We will find it…eventually. ¬†I only hope that when we do, it’ll arrive on time.

When I was younger, I remember dressing up as a 50’s girl, with a poodle skirt and bobbie socks. ¬†As I got older, we would have school dances where we could show up in costume, which one time, I dressed up as Cyndi Lauper. ¬†Hey! It was the 80’s, and for the record, I also had a Cyndi Lauper birthday cake that year.

Costumes are all about becoming someone or something else for a while. ¬†During those years, I dreamed playing music in a pop band (Did I really just admit that???) ¬†Being able to dress the part helped fill that need for me. ¬†And plenty of my friends wanted to be Courtney Cox, before we even knew who she was (see below…)

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Bruce Springsteen and Courteney Cox at the filming of the video for Dancing in the Dark on 6/27/84 in Minneapolis, Mn. (Photo by Paul Natkin/WireImage)

This post, so far, has been a trip down memory lane.  You might be surprised, though, because here comes my writerly tie in:   The act of writing fiction is like creating a costume, and the act of reading fiction gives you a new costume to wear for a short time.

Here’s why: ¬†Fabulous words, draped over the body of reality, allow the reader to experience life as someone else for a bit. ¬†It’s a beautiful thing. ¬†As kids, how many of us identified with a hero or heroine, choosing to read books about those characters so that we could continue to experience that life a while longer? ¬†Some of my favorite books as a small child, were created by Beatrix Potter. ¬†I loved the costume-like world she created for her animals, and reading these books together with my parents ad my grandma Honey placed me directly into Peter Rabbit’s thicket, Hunca-Munca’s dollhouse, and Squirrel Nutkin’s tree.

As I grew older, I found that I wanted to spend more and more time with the characters of Judy Blume, Madeleine L’Engle, and Jean Shepard, among others. ¬†Opening a book was as if I threw on a costume, becoming part of those character’s world.

I am grateful that I had the experience of wearing those literary costumes growing up, and I consider myself fortunate to have the opportunity to create costumes for my readers. ¬†It’s a wonderful thing.

What literary “costumes” were your favorites growing up? ¬†How about now? If you are a writer, what “costumes” do you create for your readers? ¬†Please share your comments! ¬†I love hearing from you!

P.S. ¬†In case you have now been inspired to watch Bruce Springsteen’s epic video for Dancing In The Dark, here it is! ¬†Enjoy!

 

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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

 

 

 

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!

 

 

Flashback Time Machine: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Today I am resurrecting my blog series, Flashback Time Machine, with a feature about one of my favorite classics, The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

Frances Hodgson Burnett   The_Secret_Garden_book_cover_-_Project_Gutenberg_eText_17396

For those who may have never heard of Frances Hodgson Burnett, I have a little bit of background for you. Frances Hodgson Burnett was born in England in 1849, but moved with her family to the U.S. in 1865 after her father died. Her early writings were published in magazines, but she began writing novels in the 1880’s, after she was married. She wrote The Secret Garden in the 1890’s. Frances Hodgson Burnett died in 1924 in Long Island, New York.

Now, for a bit about my own reading background, as it pertains to this post about The Secret Garden: Growing up, I was never one to be a big reader. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to, actually. Much of my hesitation with reading came from a weak eye muscle, which made it difficult to focus for long periods of time. This eventually changed, thankfully, although the habit of reading was not as ingrained as it could have been.

One day, as a teenager, I came across the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie of The Secret Garden on television.

The Secret Garden 1987 movie

Another bit of backstory about me: I love to listen to the British accent, especially as spoken through a story of ‚Äúclassic‚ÄĚ English speech. The pacing has a very ‚Äúmusical‚ÄĚ quality to me. That one fact alone kept my interest watching the actors tell the story that Frances Hodgson Burnett had written so many years ago. By the end, I was moved by the message of the story, as well as the transformation of the main character, Mary Lenox. So much so, that I went right out and bought myself a copy. To actually read.

And read it, I did. As I read the story, the music of the words touched my heart. Here is my take on this wonderful book’s message:

Miss Mary Lenox begins the story as a spoiled brat, being forced out of her home in India due to a plague. She goes to live in England with an uncle in England, whom she has never met. It is here that Mary is introduced to a different lifestyle (although still privileged) where she makes friends (somewhat reluctantly) and discovers, by way of her insatiable curiosity and a hidden garden door, a love of the outdoors and gardening, and a compassion she never realized was within herself.

Throughout the story, it is revealed that her own uncle, who she is just beginning to get to know, has a secret of sadness, which he locked away in the secret garden. Mary also learns that one of her new ‚Äúreluctant‚ÄĚ friends is more of a spoiled brat than she is, and Miss Mary uses a mix of tough love and patience to bring him around. The reader sees that it is the secret garden that binds the characters. Mary, through hard work and kindness, is able to bring happiness once again to her new family and friends.

Obviously, I recommend this book. I love a story with a multi-layered theme and message, especially when it is as heartwarming as this one. I am really glad I discovered this story when I did. It is one of the gems that helped to shape me as a writer.

What novels speak to you on a deep level? Please let me know in the comments!

Spring Cleaning: A Chance To Take Stock In What We Have

Spring Cleaning is an annual ritual my family undertakes, literally, once a year. As much as I dislike the enormous chore of deep cleaning the house, it feels good to clear things out, take stock in what we have and what we might repurpose or pass on to someone else who may need it.

This past week, as part of this Spring Cleaning process, I took a look at all of my blog posts. Every single one of them! I discovered some real gems in there once I dusted off the cobwebs and reminded myself what had inspired each post.

I can honestly say I have grown quite a bit as a writer since I first began this blog. One of the nagging thoughts I had during the earliest posts was, ‚ÄúWhat gives me the right to post anything for other writers?‚ÄĚ Another was, ‚ÄúWhat makes me think I can post anything that another writer may find valuable?‚ÄĚ

I have gotten over those feelings of self-doubt over the years, thankfully!

My first posts were basically throw-aways, as I tried to navigate the way WordPress worked for blogging. But then I found something of a focus, and I began to reach out to other authors after reading their books. New relationships were formed as I would interview each one.

And I must say I adore doing interviews. My interview style has developed through the years into something that I take a lot of pride in. I have a lot of confidence in my questioning techniques now, which translates into some very interesting discussions!

Another thing I discovered is that some of my posts now fit into blog series and mini-series. My Writerly Advice topics continue to be great to write about, as well as my NaNo Mini-Series interviews. I can’t wait for next year’s NaNo Mini-Series!

…Which brings me to the biggest discovery during my Blog Spring Cleaning: Flashback Time Machine!

Flashback Time Machine is a series I started, then forgot about. In the series, I write about some literature classics, and come up with questions I would have liked to ask the author if they were still alive today. I enjoyed writing those posts a great deal.

Well, it’s time to resurrect the Flashback Time Machine! In the coming weeks, I will be working on the next installment of that series. I won’t divulge the book or author yet, although I already have the plan in place.

For now, thank you to all of my blog readers and followers! It means the world to me that we can connect in this way. Spring Cleaning can be awesome! Not only did I take stock of the written content on this blog from its earliest posts, but I also took stock in the many views, comments and followers that grew out of it.

If you have a topic for this blog that you would like me to cover, please leave a comment below!