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.

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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.

 

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

 

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.

Memories in Writing

Memories in Writing

It only makes sense that when you are writing a creatively fictional memoir, to look back at photos for ideas. I recently did this while writing Book Two of The Puzzle Quests: Saving Atlantis. It’s told from Rose’s point of view–the darling in the pink hat, pictured below.

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February 19, 2009

Hopefully I am forgiven for sharing this photo, but it’s special in so many ways and launched a couple chapters in my book. This was taken on my dad’s birthday. He had been gone for 12 years already, and only four months after my son, Nick, had passed. Family came over often. It reminded me of how supported we were and still are in our journey without a son, brother, best friend, cousin. There is this gap without Nick that can’t be filled, but the gatherings we had soothed it. Losing my dad at only 57 didn’t help either.

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In addition to games, there was some serious manicotti training. At least for some!

In Saving Atlantis, I actually change these scenes to Easter. It reminded me of this special holiday that has been at my house since we moved to Clifton Park 27 years ago. Everyone always came to the Cammarata house for food and a savvy Easter egg and scavenger hunt. The children had different colored eggs to find. In addition to candy in the eggs, there would be clues to the location of the basket of treasures. Or there would be a word puzzle they would have to be solved to find the treasure. It makes sense that I am writing books about quests and finding lost items.

Each year was something different, and the kids thoroughly enjoyed it. My heart broke a little when they were done with the hunting, but when the youngest three were 15, I figured I kept it around long enough!

A scavenger hunt is the perfect way for Rose, Peter, and Mark to escape through their puzzle to help Luke and Natalia in Atlantis. In Book Two, cousins Quinn and Mackenzie get involved. Quinn distracts the older cousins, while Mackenzie protects the portal.

The plot is unwinding, twisting, and sometimes falling back on itself, but these photos give me inspiration and precious memories.