Thursday, July 31, 2014

Following the Footsteps of My Characters

Last week my family and I had the unexpected opportunity to spend a few days in Provincetown, Massachusetts and of course  we jumped on it.  Cape Cod in July is one of the best things in life and the four wheeling out at the National Seashore is fantastic.  As I went about making my plans and packing the Jeep I remembered that this little seaside village, the most happening place on the Cape, is more than just somewhere for me to have fun in the sun with my family: it's the setting for some very important scenes in Blue Hydrangeas, which takes place on the Cape in the fictional town of Falmouthport.

Aerial view of Provincetown
When I first set out to write this novel in 2002, I didn't have much of a plan.  In fact, I originally thought I'd have Jack whisk Sara away to their former home in upstate New York to escape their problems.  The idea to send them to Provincetown came as an epiphany - what better place to run  away to than the "end of the earth"? Provincetown is the farthest point at the very tip of Cape Cod, right where the "hook" ends. It seemed perfect, and so the plot thickened, as they say, and I created their whole back story in Truro and P'Town.  That's when things really started happening and the story took off.  In this photo we see P'Town in all its glory, the Pilgrim Monument right of center, MacMillan Wharf, and the Cape's tip in between the harbor and the ocean.
 
I had vacationed in P'Town and Truro (the town next door) many times over the past 20 years and knew the area well, but, as I'm a stickler for accuracy, I just had to go back for "research purposes" several times over the years to make sure I got it all right.  I decided to make this vacation a bit of a "working" one too, to do some promotion and marketing as well as make sure once and for all "I got it right." (This is just an author's technique for justifying a beach week when there's work to do.)


On our seven hour drive, we listened to the story on audiobook,  the first time Lou and Allie heard Elinor Bell's lovely reading.  As we entered the lower Cape it was exciting to hear the book come alive on the very roads in which it takes place, passing sites familiar to Jack and Sara, like the Wellfleet Drive-In and the turnoff for Corn Hill. The photo on the left is of Corn Hill Beach, with the houses overlooking the cliffs and beach, just as I remembered and wrote about.  Of course, I Google-mapped the area many times to verify it's location and the route Jack drove to get them there. 



Each day during our stay we went four wheeling at High Head or Race Point Lighthouse, and then into town for dinner, following Jack and Sara's footsteps, imagining what they did and where they went.  We parked in the lot at  MacMillan Wharf and got dinner at the Lobster Pot, like they did. After dinner, we strolled past the many art galleries, peeking in the windows, taking turns asking, "Is this where Sara went?" It was great fun experiencing our visit through their eyes. In the photo on the right, Allie and Lou peruse the menu outside the Lobster Pot, a P'Town tradition we make sure to take in whenever we're in town.



Provincetown Book Shop

This was my first trip to P'Town with the finished book, and I brought along several paperbacks to donate to the local libraries and market to the  Provincetown Book Shop. These folks were happy to hear about my book  and gratefully accepted copies.  It's now available in the section for Cape Cod Fiction at the book shop and through all Cape Libraries (except Sandwich) via CLAMS (Cape Libraries Automated Materials Sharing). 



They say books can take us away to lands unknown and worlds that may exist only in the author's imagination.  Books can also bring us to places we've experienced or dream of one day experiencing.   It took many years for me to write this novel and many more to see it published.  The most delightful part of writing it was creating the beautiful town of Falmouthport, which exists only in my mind but is the quintessential Cape Cod town. Situating its dramatic climax in the all too real setting of Provincetown also heightened my enjoyment in writing it, and allowed me to show this colorful, one of a kind town  to readers who may not have known it existed. 

All photos property of Marianne Sciucco

Monday, July 7, 2014

Audiobook Monthly Calls Blue Hydrangeas "A True Celebration of Love"


Blue Hydrangeas has received a stellar review in the July issue of  Audiobook Monthly, 
an innovative showcase for narrators, producers, illustrators & distributors, and a resource for authors & readers, including interviews and new releases.

Reviewer and CEO Susan Keefe wrote: "This is not a soppy romance, but rather a true celebration of the love between two people. I have no doubt that it will make you smile, it will undoubtedly make you cry."

I published BH in audiobook in March through ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange, an Amazon company) because I love audiobooks and I knew the story of Jack and Sara would appeal to others who enjoy them. There’s something about having the story read to you, hearing the characters come to life in the hands of a gifted narrator.

"This is a poignant love story, beautifully written. If you have ever nursed or known anyone with Alzheimer’s or Dementia this story will bring the memories flooding back," wrote Keefe.

I'm also featured in an interview where I talk about my experience creating an audiobook and my collaboration with narrator/producer Elinor Bell.

Keefe writes: "Elinor Bell has a lovely voice, and her soft tones are perfect for this story."

"Blue Hydrangeas " is available in audio through Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.  It is also available in paperback (Amazon), and as an e-book through Kindle, iBooks, Nook, Kobo,and other online retailers.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Blue Hydrangeas is BookWorks - The Self-Publishers Association's Book of the Week

Over the last year I've joined many writers' organizations and uploaded information about my novel to as many professional websites I could find. Its what we do as independent authors - it's all up to us, and we have to be aggressive in our approach. One of those organizations was BookWorks - the Self-Publishers Association. 

BookWorks is a worldwide community dedicated exclusively to helping self-publishing authors prepare, publish and promote their books, giving their members exposure to markets and resources that no other organization currently provides. I met them at BookExpoAmerica's uPublishU 2013 conference for self publishers. They're affiliated with Publishers Weekly, PubMatch, and Combined Book Exhibit, so I figured membership was a good idea. I immediately joined, uploaded my files, and went on my way, checking in on their website and blog once in a while, and following their tweets.  

Yesterday I almost fell out of my chair when I received an email from them saying they've selected Blue Hydrangeas as their featured Book of the Week. "The BookWorks team enjoys reading the many excellent books written by our members, and keeps an eye out for those that are especially attention-worthy," wrote Christi Love.  "Blue Hydrangeas has been selected from hundreds of submitted titles, as our featured Book of the Week."  It's got a nice spot on their homepage with links to my author page and beyond, including my pages on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. There's info about the book, me, and a bunch of reviews.  You can even read the first 30 pages! Sweet!

It's always satisfying to see the result when I work hard at getting a review, an interview, or some other recognition, but when an honor comes to me out of the blue, it's fantastic.  Thanks BookWorks!


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Potting Petunias

Google photo via www.dickmanfarms.com
Potting petunias is a lot like writing a book or building an author's career. You plant delicate seedlings into rich soil, give them plenty of room to grow, feed and water religiously, and soon reap the benefit of beautiful, flourishing blossoms.  At least, that's the way it's supposed to work.

It's garden season, and one of my favorite things to do is hang pretty baskets of flowers in the front of my house.  This year I chose petunias.  They're hardy, easy to care for, and give great color.  For many years, I went to the nursery and bought my baskets pre-made.  A couple of years ago I decided I wanted to do it myself, to save a few dollars, but also to get exactly what I wanted without too much shopping around. Plus, I like to get my hands dirty.

I went to the nursery and purchased hanging wire baskets with cocoa liners, big ones, the first time I've used them. I was unsure as to how many plants would fill them and a clerk recommended 16 in each one (I had four.)  I bought pink and purple wavy petunias and a bag of soil.  I went home and started potting right away. 

Gardening is a relaxing hobby. As I sunk my hands into the rich, dark soil a lovely peacefulness fell upon me.  My thoughts started wandering and I thought about how growing and nurturing flowers is a lot like growing and nurturing a book, putting it out there for all the world to see, and then waiting for the critics and the fans to voice their opinions:  "Aren't they beautiful?"  "You did a nice job."  "Why did you use petunias?  You should have used geraniums."  "I smell manure.  What's in that potting soil?"

When the last basket was filled with the final 16 seedlings, I stepped back to consider my work.  Something was wrong. The baskets looked empty. The flowers hardly reached over the top of the cocoa liners. I saw a lot of dirt. It looked like the nursery clerk was wrong - these pots needed more than 16 plants. Before I got into the car to race back for more flowers, I remembered something: the most important ingredient in growing healthy, gorgeous flowers is time.

It takes time for the flowers to grow, for the plants to establish their roots.  It takes weeks for the baskets to burst with blooms, cascading over their rims, crowding one another for the sunlight, water, and Miracle-Gro. I need to be patient.  I need to tend to my delicate seedlings with TLC every day.  In time, my efforts would pay off and my baskets would be as dazzling.as the ones I saw all ready to go in the nursery.

This, too, is much like creating a book or launching an author's career. Neither happens overnight. Both require time, sometimes years, to reach their potential.  The basket does not start out full.  There must be space between the seedlings to allow each one to grow.  Nourishment is essential.  Patience and faith are vital.

As I set about each day nurturing my baskets of petunias I see promise, growth, potential.  When I look at my work - the novel struggling to find its place in the literary market, the work-in-progress begging to be completed, the blog posts to write, the book reviews to publish, the tweets and  the Facebook posts - I know that the same ingredients that make my petunias fabulous will also favor my work.  One day, my author garden will be spectacular.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

I Saw the Future of Books Today


When I showed up at the Javits Center in Manhattan at about 8:15 this morning for BookExpoAmerica's uPublishU conference for self-publishing, I couldn't believe the throngs of people standing outside, surrounding the building, waiting to get in. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of people waited patiently to enter the building.  What's this? I thought.  Am I going to have to wait in that line too? Not a pleasant prospect after a 90-minute drive into the city.  But no, I sailed through the doors, and made my way over to the registration area to sign in.  

On my way I was again confronted by crowds of people lined up all over for something, perhaps waiting to get into the BEA conference floor? uPublishU?  Many  sat on the floor in peaceful anticipation of the day.  Some blocked the path to get from one end of the center to the other.  The line at Starbucks was so long it made me forget I even liked the stuff.  I looked around in awe, taking in the scene.  It was my second time at BEA. Ginormous banners hung from the ceiling touting famous authors: Jodi Piccoult, Lisa Scottoline, Pat O'Brien. And then I saw the banners for BookCon, and the mystery of the waiting masses was solved. 

As explained on its website, BookCon is where storytelling and pop culture collide, the ultimate celebration of books, where your favorite stories come to life. It's also where readers have the opportunity to meet their favorite authors: John Grisham, Carl Hiassen, Veronica Roth, Jodi Piccoult, John Green, Bella Andre, and many others. All for $35. This was its debut at BEA, and it promised to be a phenomenal day.  When I first heard about it I considered attending it instead of uPublishU, but remembered I was going to BEA to further my writing career, not feed my reading habit, and decided to stick with my original plan.

Once I got my bearings, I took a better look at the crowd and realized a few things: they were mostly teenagers, young adults, and enthusiastic about books.  Many had dressed up as their favorite characters or sported clothing promoting their favorite books. Their infective enthusiasm and energy added a carnival-like element to uPublish U. The lines to get into their sessions reminded me of Disney World during Easter Week, but no one complained, in fact, they seemed happy to be there and thrilled to participate in the bookish events. They collected books throughout the day and sat down in the middle of everything to begin reading them. They were polite and seemingly oblivious to the self-publishing conference going on around them. We shared conference space, and they overwhelmed the uPublishU event, almost drowning out the keynote speaker while whooping it up in the room next door during  their session with Rotten Tomatoes, where critics faced off with fans about Best and Worst Book-to-Film Adaptations.

As an author working on two novels with young heroines, this crowd filled me with encouragement and motivated me to continue my writing, finish the books, and get them out there. I saw the future of books today, and it's young, fresh, excited, and engaged.  A hopeful sign for all of us.
 


Monday, May 26, 2014

My Writing Process Blog Tour

photo by patrisyu,  freedigtlaphotos.net
Today I'm participating in the My Writing Process Blog Tour, an excellent way for readers to learn about an author's work and for authors to gain exposure to new readers. Sara Gauldin, full time teacher, author, and blogger kindly invited me to join the tour. Sara writes fantasy, spiritual, and mystery novels. Her latest book, The Corporeal Pull, is a story of love that transcends both time and the mortal plane. You can find out more about her writing at SEBGwrites.wordpress.com You can follow the tour on Twitter via #MondayBlogs or #MyWritingProcessBlogTour. Now on to my writing process:

1) What am I working on?

I write family dramas with real medical issues and tend to juggle projects. Right now, I've got one complete but unrevised novel on my desk, Perfect Match, the story of 14-year-old Jamie Diana who meets the father she never knew for the first time when he comes looking for a bone marrow donor for his daughter who has leukemia. I started the project in 2004 and it's been waiting for its chance at publication for years. Now that I've had success with indie publishing it may make it. I plan to launch it sometime in early 2015. 

On my computer, I'm currently crafting another novel with a teenage heroine, Swim Season, about high school senior Aerin Keane, the new girl in school and a champion swimmer, who challenges a long-standing school record. The story is about more than swimming, however, as Aerin also tackles issues related to her parents' divorce, a pregnant stepmother, two stepsisters she doesn't want, and her Army nurse mother's PTSD and drug addiction following two tours of duty in the Middle East. My daughter was a high school varsity swimmer for six years and I always wanted to write a story about the girls and how their season unfolds. All of the special elements in this story serve to heighten the drama and the tension and it's truly a blast to write

Still in creation phase is a special project, a fundraiser for the HEART School in Haiti, called Akisse and Gaspard Go to School, a day in the life of two schoolchildren, one in the US and one in Haiti. A good friend, Maria Blon, who is a strong supporter of this school, asked me to write this book and it's been both a learning experience and a mission. The children are wonderful. I have actually met Akisse who lives nearby and know Gaspard through interviews, photos and videos. We will run a crowd funding campaign to raise the needed money to publish this book (written in English and Creole) and will need to find artists and formatters willing to collaborate with us for little to no payment. Interested parties can contact me at mariannesciucco@gmail.com.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I write literary fiction that overlaps into woman's fiction. I bring years of experience as a nurse and certified case manager to my work. I write clean fiction, no overt sexuality, violence, or objectionable language.


3) Why do I write what I do?

My experience as a nurse has given me the privilege of hearing hundreds of stories, both happy and sad, most of them true. I feel I've been entrusted to tell these stories, which relate to the human experience, and to share them with others to add richness to their lives and to broaden their outlook on life.

4) How does my writing  process work?

My writing process is complicated by the fact that I have some long-standing repetitive strain injuries that make it difficult for me to use a computer or write for long periods of time. My process starts with an idea that germinates in my mind for many weeks or months, putting together plot lines, subplots, characterization, setting, and the drama. I may do some research for some of the more driving points, but prefer to write the first draft of the story without spending much time on research, allowing the story to unfold and to let me know what research I must do to complete it. Because of my repetitive strain injuries, I must be sure not to waste any time on story lines, scenes, or other elements that don't serve to complete the story and may end up being deleted. I put a lot of effort into making my first draft as close to finished as possible because I don't have the luxury of being able to write and rewrite endlessly, quite frustrating for a perfectionist.

As a member of the tour I have the honor of inviting three fellow authors to join me.  Next week my good friend Maria Blon climbs on board. Maria is an inspirational speaker and author whose most recent book is SPARKS of Passions, 20 stories of people who found their passion and how you can too! Check out the book, pictures, and videos of the authors at http://www.sparksofpassions.com/

Fellow author Lilia Fabry is also coming along.  Her latest work is Ordinance 93, a novel set in a world where having a baby without permission is against the law and the first four people to break it. She also writes about everything from reaction injection molding to low fat recipes while indulging her need for creative outlets, including novels and screenplays. Find out more about Lilia on her site or Twitter .

My third author remains a mystery as I await the response to several invites.  My blog post was due today (#MondayBlogs) and I wanted to fulfill my commitment so went ahead without a third author committed to the tour.  If you or someone you know would like to join us, send me an email.  It's easy and fun.

Update: 
May 28, 2014


The lovely Caroline McMahon has joined me on the blog tour. Caroline and I met in a most unusual way. I track my novel via Google to see where word of it appears on the internet. One day I received a Google Alert about a book called "Blue Hydrangeas." Thinking this was a notice about my book, I followed the link and it brought me to another book called "Blue Hydrangeas."  Strange coincidence, right?  Not the most common of titles, especially for a book not about the care and cultivation of blue hydrangeas. What was most astonishing is that Caroline is also a nurse, a Registered Midwife from Perth, Western Australia .I contacted her and our friendship was born.  Her book - Blue Hydrangeas - A Midwife's Memoirs - is a reflection of her early Midwifery career, learning not only about how to become a Midwife, but about herself and those around her. When she's not busy running her own company, Caroline's Angels - Baby Sleep Specialists,  she enjoys blogging about the joy her family and friends bring her, as well as interesting things she learns along the way, on her website www.mumorablemoments.com


Monday, May 12, 2014

My Latest Adventure: an Interview in Live & Learn, My Alumni Magazine from Excelsior College

I'm thrilled to be featured in an article about self-publishing in my college's alumni magazine, Live & Learn.  "The Write Stuff," by Dana Yanulavich, was published in the Spring 2014 issue. The alumni magazine is always on the lookout for news and success stories and I submitted a blurb about "Blue Hydrangeas."  Next thing I know Dana's on the line asking for an interview. It seems a few other alumni have also self-pubbed and they want to run a story.  Here's the link to the story, which starts on page 10. It's a great article that explores the pros and cons of self-publishing. 

I received my Associate in Applied Science degree from Excelsior College, formerly Regents College, Albany, New York, in 1998.  The program was self-directed and grueling and enabled me to embark on my career as a registered nurse. I studied on my own, took final exams at a testing center in Poughkeepsie, and underwent an arduous two-day clinical exam at a hospital in Schenectady that I failed the first time (the program had a 65 percent failure rate) and sailed through the second time.  This, like self-publishing, was not for the faint of heart. Today there are many colleges and universities offering online programs for nurses, but I'll recommend this one to anyone looking to go that route.  They offer associate's, bachelor's and master's degrees.