Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Soul of A Book

The TV is off. The iPad is shutdown. The iPod is silent. The smartphone's volume is down. Night has arrived and it's time to shimmy under the blanket on my couch and read. Now the decision. Do I turn on my Kindle or pick up a book?

The answer for me is always, pick up a book. Maybe it's because I'm sick of turning gadgets on and off. Maybe it's because I'm tired of viewing the world through plexiglass. Maybe it's because it feels like I'm at work where I spend many hours in front of a screen. Maybe it's because books are simple—no Facebook, movies, storing options, etc. Nothing to figure out or distract me. Books don't come out with a new and improved version every couple of years; only when they become a movie or have a major anniversary.

The bottom line is: I don't like reading for pleasure from a machine. Not at home. Not at the beach. Not on an airplane. Not anywhere.

Call me old fashioned.

I know I'm not.

Call me technologically impaired.

Moderately true. 

Whatever, I just can't get into this e-reading thing. Sure. I've downloaded books and have tried reading with my Kindle or iPad as the stack of books on my coffee table glare at me. And to my books' relief, I inevitably turn it off and reach for the paper copy of my latest read.

That being said, my Kindle is one of my best friends as an author. I can price my novel really low to entice people to take a chance with it. I can buy research books related to my settings, characters and plot inexpensively and store them for easy access, and I can save magazine articles that could be the basis for a riveting story. But when it comes to pleasure reading I say, "No thank you."

When I'm nestled on my couch holding a book, I am calm and comfortable. After a day immersed in machines, I'm holding something real. I'm touching a glossy cover, smelling print and paper, seeing a pretty bookmark, hearing the pages crinkle, tasting its companions: chamomile tea and shortbread cookies. A true sensory experience. Maybe even beyond.

I can almost hear the author telling me the story. I feel the emotion he/she felt as they created characters and scenes. I sense the creative energy captured on the pages of this piece of art. I feel the book's soul. A soul that is lost when it is transferred from paper to machine.

I know many people read exclusively by e-reader, and I get it. It's more organized, efficient and economical. It's just not for me.

I would much rather be


than here.

What about you?


The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCollough. This epic novel about the fierce, forbidden love between a woman and her priest still evokes emotion in me 34 years after I read it. When anyone asks me what is my favorite novel, The Thorn Birds automatically pops out of my mouth.


The Beatles sing, "Paperback Writer." Should it be revised to "Digital Writer"?


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Debut Novel Success

Kicking back today with a leisurely kayak outing, but not before I say, THANK YOU.

My novel launch was a huge success. The paperback copy started the day ranked #435,371 on and by 10:00 p.m., A Stop in the Park, found its way to #357 out of six million books. I have my wonderful family, friends, colleagues at the City School District of Albany and my online community of friends/followers to thank for that wonderful moment.

On top of that, I clicked onto my hometown's newspaper, The Saratogian, today and saw this article about my journey with A Stop in the Park

It's been an amazing, but exhausting few days, so I'll leave you with good wishes for a great week. I'll be on the lookout for those kick back moments that make us stop, let go, and focus on the wonder that surrounds us everyday.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Novel =

A Novel = 

Imagine it. 

Write it. 

Name it...
A Stop in the Park. 

Publish it. 

Sell it...
Kirkus Reviews says, "Clear, thoughtful & passionate prose." 

Buy it...

Thank you! 

It's 1:06 a.m. and I'm ranked 435,371 on Amazon. Time to wake up and climb up those charts.

Over three years ago, I started writing my novel, A Stop in the Park, and today I'm releasing it for all to read. What a grand moment! Thank you so much for being part of my beginning.

From September 20 - September 21, I've priced the paper copy of the book as low as Amazon will let me go, which is $13.28. The digital copy (available on Kindle) is priced at $2.99.

Remember, ten percent of all profits will go to The Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation. I'll keep you posted each month on how much has been donated.

If you'd like to read complete editorial reviews of A Stop in the Park, please go to

The Back Cover of A Stop in the Park Says:

Michael Stolis, a DC attorney, is frustrated by twelve-hour work days, tightly scheduled weekends, and his family's chaotic habits. He explodes over minor irritations like being stuck in traffic, and his tantrums need to stop. His disillusioned wife, Jamie, is sick of his anger outbursts, and wants him out of her life. Michael longs to reignite the passionate love they once felt for each other. Jamie prefers to spend her time fostering illicit Internet relationships. Michael had simply followed his Greek father's instructions for a successful life, but something went terribly wrong. A lucrative career, a Georgetown brownstone and a BMW coupe didn't deliver happiness as promised.  
When his family is about to implode, Michael finds hope through Rufus, an astute retired bus driver he meets over a game of blitz chess in Dupont Circle. Michael is intrigued by Rufus's prescription for  fulfillment, but is it too late to change a life, chase a dream, revive a marriage? Michael must decide how much he is prepared to lose if he embarks on a quest so very different from the world he created. Touching, romantic, and deeply provocative, A Stop in the Park, follows the story of a man and a woman who yearn to escape the trap of the modern American dream.   

"A poignant and beautifully written novel. This story will continue on in readers' hearts and minds long after they've read the book." —Readers Favorite

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Credible Reviews and the Debut Author

It's no secret. My debut novel, A Stop in the Park, will be available for sale on September 20. Now that the release is near, I'm being bombarded with questions about my novel journey, and that's fine. I have plenty to share and much is about what happened after I typed "The End" on the final page of my first draft (A first rate kick back moment!). There's the self-editing, re-writing, finding an exceptional independent editor, querying literary agents, trying to find a traditional publisher, and making the decision to self-publish, just to name a few.

Regarding my decision to self-publish, out of the 56,450 members searching for a literary agent (a must-have in order to get a publisher) at, 924 success stories have been reported (.016%). Approximately half of those will end up finding a traditional publisher. Considering these odds, I decided to self-publish. Does that mean I've given up all hope of finding a traditional publisher? Absolutely not. In today's highly competitive publishing industry, independent authors are considered by many to be in the minor leagues. If a writer shows that he/she has written a quality book that is marketable, the possibility of making it into the major leagues is real.

How does a writer make that happen?

I feel the two most important factors are finding an independent editor with an eagle eye and credible reviews.

Independent Editor ~ If you think you can edit your book yourself, think again. Authors who publish traditionally, have at least two editors (developmental and copy). As an independent author, you want to be on the same playing field as the majors.

How do you find an "exceptional" editor?

Develop detailed interview questions that include: what style manual do you use (Chicago Style Manual is what is used in traditional publishing), experience, genre preferences, references. Ask the editors who passed the question test to actually edit a chapter from your book, gratis, before you say, "You're hired!"  Make sure there are a few grammatical errors, marginal word choices,
inconsistencies, etc. Does the editor catch them all? And I mean all. I was amazed, when I tested the waters, how many didn't. I even had one give me incorrect information (and that "one" had a beautiful website).

 I was fortunate that my fiction writing instructor, and owner of East Line Books & Literary Center (Clifton Park, NY), Robyn Ringler, agreed to edit my novel, and the cost was very reasonable. Not only did she edit my novel with extreme care, she was direct and sensitive with her critiques. In the end, I realized that I had not only found a great editor, but a gifted one. I am quite certain that I would not be doing as well in the review arena, if Robyn didn't go over A Stop in the Park with a fine tooth comb.

Credible Reviews ~ It's easy to get a stellar review from a friend or relative, but how about Publisher's Weekly or Kirkus. Just mentioning these esteemed literary review organizations makes most authors shudder. As frightening as it was, I knew I needed one of these reviews in order to be considered a credible author in the publishing world. In fact, some writers are obtaining Kirkus reviews and including parts of them in their query letters in an effort to attract a literary agent's attention.

How easy is it to get a review from Kirkus or Publisher's Weekly?

In a nutshell... 
Publisher's Weekly - Submit your self-published book to Publisher's Weekly Select (along with $149.00). They will decide if your book meets the standard to appear in their seasonal supplement that is distributed to traditional publishers, literary agents, etc. Twenty-five percent of those selected will receive a review, and it's still not guaranteed to be good. To learn more, click:

I wanted my review before A Stop in the Park was published for marketing purposes, so I went with...

Kirkus Reviews - Kirkus will review self-published books for a fee ($400+ for reviews that take 8-10 weeks; $500+ for reviews that take 4-6 weeks). That's a lot of money, but in my mind it was necessary. Did A Stop in the Park have what it takes to compete in the major literary league. Kirkus stands by its reputation and will not provide a good review just because you pay for it. Kirkus gives you the option of rejecting or accepting the review. If it's lousy, it will never see the light of day. If it's wonderful, you have a golden ticket. If I was going to ask people to purchase my novel, I wanted the golden ticket.

I'm sure you can imagine my fear when I received the e-mail letting me know that the "big" review was in. Guess what? Kirkus gave me the golden ticket. Talk about a kick back moment! The review gave me the confidence I needed to ask people to spend their hard earned money on my novel. It also opened doors. Because of the review, I have interviews with the press scheduled and the superintendent of my school district is supporting my novel with some excellent publicity.  

I'd like to share the review with you. In case you are considering buying A Stop in the Park, I want you, the consumer, to know what Kirkus has to say. It's listed on the Kirkus website in the Coming Soon Category:

If you decide that you would like to buy A Stop in the Park, please do so on September 20 at One way minor league authors make it into the major leagues is to spike into the top 100 selling books at Amazon. It's a long shot, but I'm going for it.

It's my turn at bat in the tryouts for the major leagues. Help me hit a home run. I'll post the Amazon link to A Stop in the Park on Kick Back Moments by midnight on September 20.

Thank you for being part of my beginning! 

"Writing is an adventure."
                                                     Winston Churchill
To all my writer friends: Here are links to websites where you can obtain other credible reviews:
Readers Favorite:
Amazon's Top Consumer Reviewers (Many of these reviewers have their e-mails listed and a short description of what genres they prefer; Write to them to ask if they'd be willing to review your book):
Association of Independent Authors lists several credible review sites:

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Five Things I'm Glad About!

I tripped over a root hidden under some leaves while on a hike last Sunday, fell, and banged my leg on a log. I'm also on coumadin, a blood thinner. These two situations don't mix well.

The subsequent swelling on my upper shin made it look like I had two knees. Within a couple of days much of my lower leg was a lovey shade of purple and yellow. Of course, I sought medical treatment. The advice: rest, ice, compression, elevation, and seek more medical advice if needed. I complied.

By Friday, the colors had deepened and spread. At work that day, I suddenly felt hot and lightheaded. I asked my co-workers if they felt warm.

All replied, "No."

I took a deep breath, hoped the feeling would go away, and continued working. Or should I say, tried to continue working. I had that, I want to lie down because I might faint feeling. I really do like my life, so I spoke up.

When my coworkers/friends/family (yes, they are all of those) heard about my symptoms and saw my leg, I was rushed to the hospital.

I underwent much testing and much waiting.

At one point, I was resting in a hospital bed in a closet of a room "waiting" for an ultrasound. I thought, What if this is it? I knew it wasn't, but there's something about having internal bleeding at a hospital while on a blood thinner that makes you think such thoughts.

I began reminiscing about my life. If this was my final moment, what were the things that had brought me the most happiness. I gave myself one minute and brainstormed. Here's what I came up with:

I'm glad I experienced love. As painful as it can be when people disappoint, it also brings incredible joy, a  fierce sense of commitment, and the best kind of warmth when it wraps with you with a hug.

I'm glad I had children. Some want them so baldy, and it never happens. I got lucky with two healthy sons. In exchange for all those ear infections that came with piercing cries, for all those early mornings and late nights at the hockey rink, for all those missing homework notices on report cards, for those turbulent teenage years, I was given cuddles during story time, puddle walks after a rainstorm, noise that evolved into music from a garage band, phone calls with deeply concerned voices when they sensed something was wrong in my world now that they are adults, and so much more.

I'm glad I published my book. I had been told to query hundreds of literary agents until someone fell so in love with my story that they would miss a bus in a rainstorm because it was so riveting (I've yet to miss a bus in a rainstorm for any book). I was told to keep writing novels until I found a traditional publisher who would give me an advance for it when less than .05 percent of unknown debut authors are finding such deals.  Sitting on that bed with my purple leg, I realized what bad advice that was. If my time was up right there and then, I'd leave the world with my treasured story tucked between a beautifully designed cover with my name on it. And in the end, that's what would matter most.

I'm glad I was kind to people as often as possible. Sure, there were times I was a little too busy, a little too grouchy, a little too PMSy, a little too under weather to share a tender word or a gesture, but many times I did anyway. Waiting on that hospital bed, I was glad about that. Now, my sons and husband might disagree with the above statement. In fact, they might be laughing out loud, which brings me to another "glad." I'm glad I have a home and a family where I can let my gruff billy goat out of its barn when I feel like it and not be banished forever.

I'm glad I have a mom that I still call when I'm sick and who, at 80-years-old, still rushes over to be at her daughter's side, the second she hears the word hospital, even though her daughter firmly instructs her not to.

I'm glad I immersed myself in and appreciated nature. Oh the things my senses have experienced: the sun rising out of the ocean accompanied by an array of colors; the scent of cold air while skiing in a winter wonderland; the symphony of bird's singing as I kayaked down a tranquil river; the feeling of a refreshing breeze on a hot day; a view from the top of an Adirondack high peak; the artwork of clouds; the grace of flowers.

My minute of glad was up, and I needed another. I didn't even get to friends, fun and health.

If my life were to end right now, I would leave in peace knowing that I did my best, that I enjoyed those special moments, that I took risks, that I accepted and moved past those painful times realizing that they were all part of this journey on earth. So this week you are reading the musings of a very grateful woman. A woman who had the opportunity to sit in a hospital with a purple leg and count her blessings.

By the way, in case you're wondering, I'm fine. Just need to be a little more careful while I'm on blood thinner for a clotting thing going on in my body. Oh yeah, I'm glad about the miracles of modern medicine.

Take ten seconds. What "glad moment" popped into your head? Please share.


The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom:

From Amazon: Told in Albom's signature spare, evocative prose, this remarkably original tale about Father Time will inspire readers everywhere to reconsider their own notions of time, how they spend it and how precious it truly is.


I'm glad I'm able to still feel like a kid, probably too much of the time, so here's to John Denver (one of my favorites, and I really miss him) singing The Garden Song in the Muppet garden. Click on the arrow. It's fun.


A passage from my novel, A Stop in the Park, that will be published in 11 days (WooHoo!). Character Rufus Williams gives his view of how he spends his time on earth:

Rufus sat back and clasped his hands behind his head. “Are you ready for a crash course in fun?”
            Michael’s smile widened. “Bring it on.”
            “Here goes. It all has to do with how you view your time on this planet. You see, I pretend. Now,  pretending is fun,” Rufus said with a nod. “Anyway, I pretend that before I came to earth I had a conversation with Saint Peter or God or Jesus or Buddha—don’t matter who—and whoever said, ‘You’re going to earth for one hundred years, at the most. I’m going to put you in the United States, so you’ll have a lot of opportunity. I think I’ll make you black, as that may give you a bit of a challenge with some in that country. It’ll make you stronger. I’ll give you a special talent—up to you to find it. Pay attention, and you’ll figure it out. Now go and have fun. It’s a real neat place—some problems, but always solutions too. Again, up to you to find them. Remember, you’ve only got one hundred years, at the very most. When you come back, I’ll be waiting, and I’ll want to hear all about your trip.’”

         Rufus whacked his knees. “And off I go. Michael, I often think about what I’m going to report when I go back home. Ya know, what kind of fun I had. Did I solve some problems or just sit around and complain about them? Did I ever find that talent? Makes me think about how I live from day to day. Now, what would you say if your time here was up right now and you had to make your life report to God or one of his assistants?”


Saturday, September 1, 2012

My Favorite Olympic Moment Has Nothing to do With Medals

As September begins, a champion moment in August stands out for me. It was the moment I sat up straight on my couch and watched Oscar Pistorius, representing South Africa, run in the 400 meter qualifying race at the Olympics. It was his smile and shoes that caught my attention and caused tears to flood my eyes. Oscar's face beamed as he positioned himself for speed at the starting block. His dream had come true. And those shoes. They weren't top of the line Mizunos or Sauconys. They were carbon fiber blades. The impossible was occurring. A double amputee was running in the Olympics.

Maybe I'd been reading too much or writing too much or having too much summer fun, but I hadn't heard about Oscar Pistorious, nicknamed Blade Runner, until I witnessed him in action competing with the best athletes in the world. After I watched him soar into second place, qualifying him for the next round of competition, I had to learn more about this amazing man. I Googled his name and found all kinds of fascinating information. Some of the highlights include:
  •   Born with missing fibulas, Oscar had both legs removed below the knee before the age of one.
  •   Oscar began walking just days after he received his prosthetic legs at 18-months-old.
  •   In later years he played water polo and rugby.
  •   Oscar's mother died when he was 15-years old and he describes her as a major influence in his life.
  •   Oscar was banned from competitive running by the International Association of Athletics     Federation (IAAF) in November 2007 because they said, "Pistorius was able to run at the same speed as able bodied athletes while using less energy; that his prosthetic limbs gave him an advantage over able bodied athletes." 
  •   Oscar challenged the IAAF decision. He traveled to Rice University in Houston where a team of scientists determined that Oscar is disadvantaged because of his disability in the acceleration phase of the race and found no evidence that his different shoes gave him an advantage.
  •   Oscar hired lawyers and the descison to ban him from competitive running was revoked.
  •   Because of the many tests and proceedings required to reclaim his right to run in world class events, Oscar was not able to train properly for the 2008 Olympics, but focused on other major events.
  •   On July 19, 2011, Oscar achieved the "A" qualifying standard for the 2011 World Championships and the 2012 Olympics.
  •   In the summer of 2012 in London, Oscar Pistorius became the first double leg amputee to participate in the Olympics when he entered the men's 400 meters race and was part of South Africa's 4 x 400 meters relay team.
Did Oscar bring home a medal? No. But here's what he did leave with:

"Rio in four years; I've got more inspiration in the last two, three weeks. I'm sure I'm going to get more in the Paralympics in the next coming weeks, so by the end of the season, I'm going to take a month off, and then the next four years are going to be good."

And what did he give:

"I'd like to show people that if you put the hard work in and you believe in yourself that you can do whatever you want to."

Do you ever get the feeling that some people are put on this earth to show the rest of us that anything is possible, to fight for what is right, and to live life to the fullest. In 45-seconds, that is what Oscar Pistorius said to me as he seized his dream of running in the Olympics. Take a minute and meet him. I can't believe he's doing all that he does with prosthetic legs and feet.


No kick back song or book this week. I just want to leave with you with this photo (which you may have seen) and Oscar's words:

"I grew up not really thinking I had a disability. I grew up thinking I had different shoes."
—Oscar Pistorius