Where Did That Come From!?

Where Did That Come From!?

Having a character or a plot twist thrust itself into your story is possibly the best part of being a writer. I love when I’m right in the middle of the scene about dragons and a baby T-Rex who has escaped from home and then bam! a WWII fighter plane shoots across the sky. hellcat

Sometimes it takes me a minute to wonder what is going on? Then I ask the question–why? Why is there a fighter plane in the midst of Dragonia? The dinosaurs may be thinking that their world is once again coming to an end, but perhaps it’s that insufferable evil Lord Tam who has managed to bring a fighter plane through a portal. And if he did, how did he learn how to fly one? Which side was he on in the war? Just how old is Tam?

In his character description, he’s early to mid 30’s, so what’s the deal? That’s when imagination overdrive kicks in. Perhaps Tam and his equally evil twin, Tim, are able to time hop across time and dimensions. So not only can he travel back to current time, but he has lived in multiple previous times. Hence his ability to handle a pirate ship, fly a plane, and zip across the sky on a dragon!

It has a bit of the movie Timeline feel to it, when the archeologists manage to go back in time and send messages to the future. They learn the skills of their medieval world, but have modern technology that keeps them alive.

It’s not to say that the final draft will have this scene or the plane in it, but that’s the point. The first through almost final drafts are meant to play and see the possibilities of what could happen. If we don’t submerge ourselves in the what if’s, then the story may miss an exciting swerve.

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In addition to dinosaurs and fighter planes, I have a feeling the Quetzalcoatlus may show up. If you read book one of The Puzzle Quests: Shimmer’s Eggs, you might remember how this prehistoric bird is Luke’s favorite. Sometimes the reasons are logical.

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Other times it’s because the character is just too cute! In Book Two of The Puzzle Quests: Saving Atlantis, Quinn and Mckenzie’s dog, Cinnamon, comes into the story. I just happened to pick that name, but then I googled cinnamon colored Great Danes and this cutie showed up!

Now Cinnamon is full grown, so this is what he’ll look like:

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Glorious isn’t he? Right now, baby T-Rex has just met Cinnamon. So far they are getting along, but we shall see what each chapter brings.

Exploring, imagining, testing, and taking chances. That’s what writing is all about. Sometimes you have to dive bomb toward the possibilities!

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Sketchy Dinosaurs

Sketchy Dinosaurs

Book Three of The Puzzle Quests: Sketchy Dinosaurs started in November with NanoWrimo. The goal was to write every single day to finish a 50,000 word novel in one month. I reached day 14 with 14,000 words and hadn’t picked up the story until yesterday.

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That’s not to say that I completely forgot about Mark, Boulder, and the wonderful dragons and characters that live in Dragonia. I created my storyboard filled with themes, action/danger points, setting, and of course old and new characters.

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Love doing research!

From the photos and the title, you have probably figured out that book three will include dinosaurs. There were references in Book two–Saving Atlantis with Mark falling into dino poop and taking an interesting rock home with him. References like meteors and large footprints that could only have been made from a T-Rex.

There are a broad spectrum of ideas, and I might have to deal with questions like: Was the Smilodon around during the same time as the T-Rex? How did dinosaurs and dragons actually connect when one is extinct and the other supposedly never existed? How did the dinosaurs get around in Dragonia where there is so much water? How did they even get there? And the biggest question of all–why would my readers care?

I came up with the idea of dinosaurs basically because Mark loved dinosaurs as a child and his nickname was T-Rex. So now I’m developing this entire story to include dinosaurs, so I need to be able to answer these questions, make the answers believable, and continue to create characters and connections that we care about.

Man, I love writing and all the possibilities! I’m excited to get the first draft completed. Until then, read Shimmer’s Eggs and Saving Atlantis to get to know all the fun characters and storylines.

I’ll be at Northshire Bookstore on February 16 for a children’s writing workshop and book signing, beginning at 1pm. My books are available there, in other local bookstores, and on my website www.janinedetilliocammarata.com

Keep reading and writing!

Riding the Writing Express

Riding the Writing Express

This fall has been a whirlwind of writing, teaching, and spreading words of hope around the area. It began with the publishing of my second middle grade book, The Puzzle Quests: Saving Atlantis, which led to many opportunities to share my book .

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Along the way, I had the pleasure to work with 3-5th graders in my Writing Stories to Save Atlantis program at The Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library. Each week I read excerpts from the book, and the children’s imagination continued the story as they created characters to help Rose on her quests.

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Concentrated excitement as they write their stories!
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Artwork and Writing go hand in hand and improves creativity.
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Very proud writers and future authors!

I love how everyone can put writing into practice. It just takes imagination, willpower, and an idea. My next elementary writing session at the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library starts in January. Check out all my upcoming workshops at www.janinedetilliocammarata.com

Along my writing/book tour I had the pleasure to teach my Writer’s Journal program at multiple schools including Karigon Elementary, Berlin Middle School, Blue Creek Elementary, and Waterford next week. Bringing creativity into school gives the students an opportunity to think out of the box.

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Blue Creek Elementary is ready!
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Working on setting to build the story.

In a two-day program, we are able to develop characters, establish their fears, wishes, and place them in a setting. Doing this first makes it easy to create a plot and well thought out story. If you’d like me to come into your school to share The Writer’s Journal, please review my information at the BOCES Arts in Ed site.

My monthly journaling workshops at The Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library have grown to 20+ participants each month. By sharing different journal techniques, there is something for everyone.

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Journaling for Adults–December 2018
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Sarah’s Holiday Delight!

Finally my Book Release Beach Party was held on December 2 at The Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library. All five of my book release events have been at this library. Their support and sense of community are outstanding. Children arrived with their beach towels, sunglasses, and flip flips. They settled on the floor with their paper and pencils to collaborate on a scene from Saving Atlantis.

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Collaboration at its best!

Very often we don’t try something new, because we are afraid to fail. I love giving children and adults the tools and space to create their own stories. It’s empowering and teaches us that anything is possible.

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Some of my beta readers who evaluated my manuscript before it was published.
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Ali was determined to make it to my book event. What a smile!

Through writing, teaching, and sharing my books, I know that anything is possible. No matter where you are, there is hope. You just have to keep your eyes open and expect it.

This writing express I have found myself on has been exhilarating, empowering, and all encompassing. It provides a space to share my passion and fulfill my mission of helping others.

Thank you to everyone who has come along on this ride. There will be many more stops along the way!

If you haven’t made it to my book events and still would like a copy, please visit my website at www.janinedetilliocammarata.com

A portion of all book sales is donated to Nick’s Fight to be Healed Foundation, which supports our local children with cancer.

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!

Puzzling Quests

Puzzling Quests

The third draft of book two of The Puzzle Quests is almost complete. Rewriting a book is basically like rearranging  those puzzles where you have to shift one word in order to make a sentence fit. Or slide a paragraph in order to make the whole picture make sense.

This is where I am right now. I have pages printed out and marked up. I have a word document with the actual draft, another with deleted passages (because you never want to permanently delete anything!), another with passages that will go into Mark’s Book Three, and a final one that contains passages based on Peter’s Book Four.

Peter has been a pest with Book Two. Of course he wants to be in the picture, because he has a lot to say about what Rose does. Rose has her moments of jumping into situations, which is why they probably get along so well. It’s more fun when you have someone to get in trouble with!

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Peter and Rose in Cape Cod

For example, Rose doesn’t think about what could happen when she swims off after a monstrous octopus, because he happens to have one of the missing Aegean Sea coins stuck in one of his suckers. Rose knows this coin is one of the five needed to save Atlantis. When the octopus hides between two rocks, Rose doesn’t take no for an answer. We have to applaud Rose for her determination, but sometimes she has to learn to walk away or wait for help.

When the octopus attacks and Rose is caught in its arms, pulling her further and further into the ocean depths, it takes her sea dragon, Sparkle, and the mermaid, Natalia, to save her. She manages to get the coin, but at what expense? Her friends, her life?

For me, writing a magical world is probably the best occupation in the world. I am inpatient like Rose and jump in with both feet. But that’s how I learn what works and doesn’t work. It’s a game of creating, shifting, and puzzling dilemmas. Ones that I hope you will enjoy.

Look for The Puzzle Quests: Saving Atlantis in the Fall of 2018!

 

 

Going with the Flow

Going with the Flow

For the last four months, I have been writing book two of The Puzzle Quests: Saving Atlantis (working title). It’s been a steady flow of writing scene after scene, not really knowing if the chronology of each one works. It’s the process of spitting out the images, words, and scenarios from Rose’s point of view.

It’s very difficult to do this, because we want to edit, review, and get confirmation that we are on the right path. This especially happens with new writers. It can be hard to trust your gut if you aren’t used to listening to it or you haven’t established your voice.

I have learned to trust my gut and go with the flow letting the characters and the situations evolve. The chapters may not make the final cut, but it’s a step in the right direction. It at least shows you what works or doesn’t work. Here are some tips I use to go with the flow:

  1. If I’m stuck on a spot in my book, I might switch modes and journal. Why am I writing this book? What is Rose’s journey? How is she interacting with everyone? What do I want her to learn, how will she grow? I recently did this and it clarified my direction and opened the valve to write a few chapters. I haven’t read through my first draft, but if I have a strong feeling while writing, I know I’m on to something that will probably stay in the final draft.
  2. Be prepared to let go. Once you have that first draft and even as you are writing, don’t second guess, delete, and redo. Keep writing until you think yes, there is a book here. Let it sit, then when you reread it, be prepared to let large or small parts of it go. Always save what you delete. It might lead to something else. It might go into the next book of a series. Someone else who reads it might think it works. Best way to figure if it stays–ask if it moves your story forward. Does it excite your readers? Do you get the same ‘yeah this is amazing’ feeling when you read it again? It’s like a second date where you either know you want a third or have to claim illness and get out of there quick.
  3. Read and listen to books similar to your own. It can help with getting an idea of what works with each age group and understand how to deal with certain writing issues. For example, I have been listening to Gregor the Overlander series by Suzanne Collins. I had already written Shimmer’s Eggs before reading this series. The idea of a quest is the same, which a standard theme in an adventure plot. Collins had a prophecy, mine was a riddle. In book two, I was having a hard time accepting that a certain person would betray a main character in the book. Did I want to include this in a middle grade book? In Collins’ series there are major upsets and betrayals. This theme obviously can work in a book for ages 8-12. The world is fraught with betrayal and disappointment. My book will touch on that, but how will I instill hope?
  4. Write what makes you smile, laugh, cry, and whoop in victory, not what you think will sell. Sometimes I worry that Saving Atlantis won’t be as good as Shimmer’s Eggs. It’s a common worry among writers. I can easily get caught up in what people think. Then I remember that I write to soften the harshness of reality, build friendships, instill values, and empower children and young adults to make a difference in their world. To give hope. That’s not ego. That has to come from the heart. As long as I do that, my words will ring true.
  5. Be kind to yourself. Pat yourself on the back when you have a good writing session. Begin again when you don’t. Step away from your story when you’ve have a bad day. Do whatever brings you joy and come back to your writing with the words that lift you up. “I am a writer. I practice my art. My words have meaning.”
  6. Write, write, write, write, etc. Every single day. If you want this to be an important part of your life, your career, you have to practice daily. No other way around it. Don’t expect it to be a bed of roses. Sometimes we hit a thorn and we bleed, but when the roses bloom, the scent is sweet and magical.
  7. Most of all: Go with flow and don’t overthink it.