My Boy

10 years ago we said goodbye to Nick, our firstborn son, our miracle, and one of the pure lights in our lives. It seems like a lifetime ago, it feels like yesterday.

There are moments of clarity from that day and thankfully blankness. The mind isn’t meant to hold so much trauma. I want to remember the essence of Nick, the beauty of him inside and out, the pure joy he had in making others laugh, and the compassion and love he showed others.

I have learned that no matter where I go, here I am. The pain of losing my child has ebbed and flowed over the years. It’s been a tsunami threatening to wrench my hands from the last tree limb and destroy me. I have often wanted to let go. But I have managed to hold on, so that the floating waves calm me into thinking the worst is over.

Losing a child is never over. I don’t care what the circumstances. Mine happened to be from cancer, which catapulted me into a mission to help others through Nick’s Fight and my writing. I have ridden the storm for 10 years, and I wish I could tell the parents who just lost their child that the pain will end, that the hole in your heart will seal, and you can live the life you expected.

The pain doesn’t end. That hole sometimes collapses into a crater. It can slowly fill in, but never completely.

As I sit here thinking about my boys-one too far away for me to ever hold and the other a quick drive away, I understand that life isn’t what I expected. Life just is. It ebbs and flows in its own path.

It’s up to me how I’m going to ride it. Sometimes I fall real hard, and it’s tough to get up. That is where family, friends, and knowing my purpose get me back on my feet. That’s the constant. They are always there no matter what happens, no matter how I show up-flat on my face or standing tall.

They showed me that no matter where I am, there is hope. Riding this storm of grief, I know this down to my core.

As I tumble through the undercurrent of my grief today, I have some special people reaching in to pull me out. I am grateful.

I love my boys more than life. They are my life. I would do anything for them. Right now the best I can do is live my own life true to me, so they will do the same for themselves.

No matter where I am, there is hope. Thinking of my boy today. Love them both with all my heart.

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Healing Through Words

Healing Through Words

Today’s book signing at Market Block Books is dedicated to all the children who have lost their lives to cancer and their peers who have been so terribly affected. I think about the siblings, friends, cousins, and fellow classmates who carry the pain and fear of losing someone so young and close to their age. It gives them a hard lesson in mortality at an age when they should be filled with possibilities not finalities.

Children battling cancer or any life-threatening illness suffer from the loss of innocence, structure, playfulness as well as the loss of physical abilities, hair, and possibly having a family of their own.

I write fiction to soften the harshness of these realities and provide hope where it can be tough to find any. Today, two of my beta readers came by and bought books for themselves and friends. (Well their mom did! Thank you, Felicia!) One book was dedicated to Blue Creek school readers in memory of Ben Stowell, an amazing boy who lost his life to cancer. This request made me pause. They would have been too young to know Ben, but their mom makes sure they are aware and know the impact that Ben has on their community. They are affected just knowing that cancer exists.

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But they choose to be positive and raise awareness. Part of my purpose in writing is just what I wrote in the dedication for Ben: “No matter where you are, there is hope.”

No matter how much Rose struggles and screws up her quests in Saving Atlantis, she can always start again and have hope that the next time she will succeed. No matter how much Peter wishes Luke was home with him, he has a family that loves him unconditionally. Through love there is hope.

No matter how much I miss my beauty of a boy, my Nick, children like Rebecca and Mackenzie spread hope by remembering Ben Stowell. I wish the world will one day be free of cancer and that no child will have to suffer. Connections like I have with these two beautiful young ladies carry me through another day.

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September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Awareness to find a cure, safer treatments, and provide emotional support to everyone affected, whether it’s through counseling, supportive gatherings, or a book filled with possibilities.

To everyone who came to my event today, you helped this mission. Thank you.

Saving Atlantis has Arrived!!!

Saving Atlantis has Arrived!!!

It’s here!

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Until I had the books in my hands, I worried that Saturday morning would come and I wouldn’t have any books to sell! But fear not, Meradith from Troy Book Makers did everything in her power to get my book on time. I highly recommend her and the company!

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Meradith from Troy Book Makers! Everyone knows they have to take a photo with me!

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Karen, one of my prestigious proofreaders and inspiration for mother of Rose wore her special Atlantis t-shirt. I can always count on her to go all in!

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Iris inspired the Cuban food gathering in Saving Atlantis. Food heals and brings family together.

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So now the fun begins. There are many opportunities to get a copy of your book, and I want to support independent bookstores. Purchase a copy of Saving Atlantis or Shimmer’s Eggs between September 21 and October 5, take a photo of you with either book outside the independent bookstore so its name is visible. Share on my Facebook page Instagram or Twitter with hashtag #savingatlantisindiebookpromo and your name will be entered into a drawing to win one of two puzzles.

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Win 110 piece puzzle! #savingatlantisindiebookpromo
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2nd chance to win Shimmer’s Eggs 110 piece puzzle! #savingatlantisindiebookpromo

Check out the many opportunities to get your copy. I hope to see you at one of my events. Thank you to everyone who has helped me fulfill my dream of writing and sharing my adventurous stories!

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Please remember that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month. Part of my mission as a writer is to share hope for anyone going through a life-threatening illness or loss. No matter where you are there is hope. Partial proceeds from all my book sales benefit Nick’s Fight to be Healed Foundation, which emotionally and financially supports children with cancer.

 

Puzzle Inspiration

Puzzle Inspiration

It’s fitting that my final project for my Business Class for Artist Entrepreneurs should be a puzzle featuring the inspiration for my second book in The Puzzle Quests’ series called Saving Atlantis.

My art and my life are entwined. I can’t separate myself from my life experiences, my children, and how they have shaped me. I wouldn’t want to as I have learned and loved so much.

As Luke and I place each piece, parts of Saving Atlantis come back to me: Rose’s determination and tough attitude in karate, the powerful bond among friends, siblings, and cousins, the addition of Quinn and McKenzie that brings another level of action and suspense to the story.

There are many pieces to a story just as there are to a puzzle. And as each piece is placed, I feel a connection to the muse that brought forth this story.

In one section a piece has a part of Marisa, Nick’s cousin, on it. This piece attaches to complete a picture of Nick. He is inextricably linked to his cousins, his brother, and his friends.

The camaraderie that was so present back when these photos were taken practically pops out of the puzzle like when Meriwether popped out of Luke and Peter’s finished puzzle in the first book.

Fiction softens the harshness of reality, but it also enhances the beauty and love in the world. This puzzle reminds me of all the joy these incredible children shared. It motivates me to keep writing their story, because even amongst sadness there is the joy of memories.

Placing the traditional last piece.

I can’t wait to share my book and this final project on September 28 at The Arts Center of the Capital Region. Go to http://www.janinedetilliocammarata.com for all my book events.

Book Release–Saving Atlantis!

Book Release–Saving Atlantis!

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The Puzzle Quests: Saving Atlantis is on its way! Book release date is September 21! Pre-orders are available on my website at www.janinedetilliocammarata.com. Free poster with the first 100 orders!

I have quite a few book events/signings, as well as writing events at area schools and the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library with more coming. All are listed on my website, but here is a Save the Date list.

Market Block Books
Saturday, September 22 from 11am-1pm
Arts Center of the Capital District
Business of Art–Extended Series
9/28-10/14
Public Reception: Friday, September 28 from 6pm-8pm 
Albany Book Festival, SUNY Albany Campus
Saturday, September 29 from 10am-4pm
The Writer’s Journal: School Writing Program
Berlin Middle School
October 23
Berlin High School Featured Speaker
October 23
The Writer’s Journal: School Writing Program
Mechanicville Elementary School
Grades 3-5
November 13, 14, 15
The Glens Falls Chronicle Book Fair
Queensbury Hotel
Sunday, November 4 from 11am-3pm
The Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library
Book Release and Creative Collaboration!
Saturday, December 2 from 1pm-3:30pm
 
If you would like me to come to your school or bookstore for a writing workshop or book signing, please contact me!
 
Look for Facebook Live interviews with my Beta Readers, illustrator, editor, and Rose–the inspiration for the second book in this series. 
 
Thank you for your support!
Janine

Independently Publishing Saving Atlantis

Independently Publishing Saving Atlantis

After 230 hours of writing and editing Saving Atlantis, the second book in The Puzzle Quests series is finished and has gone to production.

These hours didn’t include the multiple meetings with my illustrator, Danielle LeBlanc, 30 beta readers (most were ages 8-12, plus some adults), Karen Knowles, my developmental editor, my fabulous proofreaders, Meradith from Troy Book Makers, and encouraging gatherings with family and friends, especially my husband.

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Rose reaching for a coin to save Atlantis–Illustration by D.M. LeBlanc

Some may call what I do self-publishing, but it takes more than me to publish a book. Yes, I write the words, but it’s like an architect who creates the design and needs the builders to bring it to life. I independently publish my books through my company–Highland Mountain Publishing.

Now graphic designer, Meradith Kill, at Troy Book Makers will take the beautiful water color illustration from Danielle (more to come in another blog on her process) and create the cover and interior layout.

Then I will review a proof of the actual book to check for any mistakes and make sure I’m happy with the results. From there it gets printed and bound. The whole process from when the manuscript goes to the printer and the copies are into my hands can take 6-10 weeks.

Writing a book is filled with thrills, adventure, wonder, unexpected joys, doubts, tears, laughter, and finally relief. It takes a village to write a book, and I am fortunate to have a beautiful office this summer to write.

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If you think I can relax and watch my flowers grow, think again! Now is book promotion time: contacting bookstores for signings, developing a marketing plan, setting up pre-sales, and arranging school writing workshops in the fall. Even this I don’t do alone. Nate DeSalvatore is my summer intern. He is going to college to be a graphic designer. Look for his new website design and updates soon on how you can get my latest book!

Join my mailing list to get my list of events.

Save the dates (more to come):

September 28–Opening Show at The Arts Center of the Capital Region

September 29–Albany Book Festival Signing and children’s writing workshop

December 2–Book Launch at the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library

Independently Yours!

Janine

 

BookExpo 2018 Review

BookExpo 2018 Review

BookExpo 2018 was a whirlwind of meeting authors and potential publishers, filling bags with complimentary books, seminars, and being inspired. I enjoyed meeting some of the big authors like Kwame Alexander, who is incredibly personable.

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Kwame Alexander and me with my many bags of books!

But the magic and inspiration for me was in meeting the writers who are putting themselves and their stories out there to give back and share hope. The first person I met was WL Hoffman. A science fiction and fantasy writer, he published through a small press and has sold thousands of copies. He was one of the few authors who sold their books at BookExpo. It’s hard to compete with the major publishing companies who hand out thousands of books during this five-day conference, but he has a mission.

That’s why it’s so important to connect with people. As impressed as I was by his personality and display, I was blown away by the publication of his daughter’s first book. Hannah wrote The Portal to Pyranis when she was 11, and she’s doing very well with it.

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There’s a hatching dragon and friends traveling through a portal to adventure! No wonder I would love it. Hannah’s characters, Talia and Billy, could easily join the quest for Shimmer’s Eggs! Not only is Hannah a young and talented writer, but she and her father donate partial proceeds from their book sales to Special Strides, which is a non-profit dedicated to improving the lives of individuals with special needs. Using words and our experiences to help others holds a dear place in my heart, so feel free to check out their books and support a great organization and family.

I continued to search out the gems and the enthusiastic smaller presses who feel compelled to get their stories out. I literally ran into one of them! Jamiyl Samuels was heading into his booth, and we collided. He handed me his card, told me his family’s story, and I was hooked! He and his wife, Tracy-Ann dreamed up and wrote the story of their son, Amani, who is on the spectrum for autism. He is very smart, but doesn’t like to talk. However, at night he is Awesome Amani, the superhero, who helps others in need.

Raising awareness and fostering growth is a large part of why Jamiyl and Tracy-Ann wrote this book, which is the first in a series. I recommend checking it out and Jamiyl’s other books.

The last very impressive young author I met was Sophia Elaine Hanson, who I guarantee will be well-known. She already is a best-selling author on Amazon.com where she published The Vinyl Trilogy through CreateSpace. Now she is searching for an agent for her next series, and I believe she will find one. She’s only 21, but she is a powerhouse of talent and full of ideas, especially storylines that I love!

As for connections to publish my journaling workshop, I absolutely loved Sounds True Publishers. They publish a ton of books on yoga, but also provide a space for authors to share their stories that help others.

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Books published by Sounds True

My wish is that something can come from this, but I have a lot of work to do. Going to conferences keeps you updated on what is happening in your industry, and hopefully gets you excited about your own work. That definitely happened for me. Journaling is a hot topic right now, and I want to share my stories on how it helped me. I have a long road ahead, but I’m in the right vehicle!

One last bit from BookExpo. Every year they have a buzz about up and coming middle grade, young adult, and adult books that are being shown at the expo. Ones that are chosen to be buzzed about will be published between August 2018 and January 2019. I went to the Middle grade buzz and listened to the editors pitch the winning books.

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Middle Grade Buzz winners

What I learned is that diversity and social issues are important to editors. But even more so, it’s never to late to share your story and be published. The author of Everlasting Nora is a cancer researcher and decided to write this story later in life. Monstrous Devices’ author also started a little bit later than we usually think of debut authors, but it doesn’t matter! If you have a fantastic or special story to tell, write it, and get it out to readers. Whether you do it yourself through independent publishing or through traditional publishers is up to you.

If you want to make your dream a reality, then you have to do the work. Write the best book you can, go to conferences, network, and connect. And never ever give up!