Author Archives: tessawritings

About tessawritings

Technical/media writer by day, historical fantasy writer by night, unless I'm gardening, practicing Friulan, or riding my motorcycle next to The Husband. Born north of the 49th parallel as an Italian-Canadian dual citizen, I moved south of the border to marry my computer engineer/wanna-be chef significant other and his freeloading furballs. The move in 1999 sparked a huge burst of creativity in all manner of interests and projects that has yet to peak!

To self-publish or not to self-publish, that is the question

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Yes, that is the question but I’m beginning to think there’s more to it.

For some time now, I’ve been internally debating whether to move forward and self-publish the first book of my paranormal trilogy via Amazon.com’s print-on-demand and Kindle direct services. After reading Kristen Lamb’s blog post, Why Traditional Marketing Doesn’t Sell Books, I’m going to hold off and regroup.

After a thorough edit by Gloria Campbell, a professional book editor, I’ll go back through and make sure I have the highest quality product I can offer readers of my debut novel. I also want to be sure I’ve taken into account the major principles Kristen mentions in her book, We Are Not Alone: A Writer’s Guide to Social Media.

For those who are interested in my self-publishing progress, check back here and on my Facebook page (see below) as I’ll be posting updates on what I discover and decide.

Facebook page for Tessa D'Uccelli Blu

Author page for Tessa D'Uccelli Blu

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Momentum

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Momentum is not only what I feel like I’ve achieved today but it is also a free set of tools from Creative Folk–website of Laura Simms, The Creative’s Coach–which includes a Goal Guide and Dream Reality Checklist. I downloaded it and thought it might help me and my new fellow writing buddies, Shirley and Adrienne, set some writing goals so I brought the goal guide to Tullys in Redmond where, Shero Writers, our inaugural writing circle, met today. (The name is a placeholder just because I thought it’d be fun to name our threesome.)

When I got home, I filled out the goal guide in no time. When I got to the “Accountability” section of the goal guide, I was stumped. And then it came to me: write a blog post summarizing my goal setting plans every month. That way, I would be “putting it out there” for all to see. One is much more motivated if one’s goals are public, right? Well, that’s my thinking anyway.

The goal guide consists of a template where you fill out sections. Here’s my goal guide for September:

Last Month’s Successes–Completed 4-week Intuitive Writing class with Vedika Dietrich; Received thumbs up from 1 agent and 1 editor to submit the first 3 chapters of my manuscript; Learned a lot at PNWA conference; Splurged on headshots for promo materials; Submitted short story to Line Zero magazine

Last Month’s Challenges–Didn’t edit or write enough; Allowed inner critic too much airtime; Not much blogging; Juggling family and job search priorities

This Month’s Goals–Rewrite first 3 chapters; Write a short story about either my broken engagement or my mother’s purse, based on prompts from Intuitive Writing class.

Potential Challenges–Increased job search activity and/or starting a new job; Eve visiting Sept. 1-6; Not inspired to edit/rewrite same old, same old; Not carving out enough time in my schedule; Balancing writing with working on my Sketchbook project, Encyclopedia of Friulan Proverbs.

Challenge Busters–Schedule regular time to rewrite; Limit my TV time (and other distractions) to 3-4 hours a week.

48 Hour Actions–Set up and complete four 30-minute timed writings; Rewrite my synopsis; and Subscribe to Writer magazine.

Other Actions–Register for SIWC October 21-23; Send out 2 query letters to other PNWA agents/editors; Create a Tessa D’Uccelli author blog; Set time on calendar to attend the free Northwest Bookfest October 1-2; Register for the 6-week class “The First 20 Pages” at Hugo House.

Resources–Writer’s Digest and Writers magazines, hard copy or online; Seattle7Writers.org; Hugo House and WritersNet classes

Accountability–Write a blog post (this is it!) summarizing my goal setting plans every month.

When these goals are achieved, I will feel…elated that I pushed past my rewriting writer’s block to get one step closer to my pre-Thanksgiving Day manuscript submission deadline!

Cocooning these goals is a Supporting Thought. Mine for September is “Let me live, love, and say it well in good sentences.” ~ Syliva Plath

The goal guide is a straightforward one-pager that I can easily read at a glance. I will keep one copy at my writing desk in my home office as well as carry one with me so I can always have it at the ready wherever I happen to be. No excuses! It is part of the reason why I invested in a Livescribe Echo Pen so that if I don’t have my laptop handy, I can write and record my words when I’m on the go.

Next, I focused on the bigger picture that my goals are helping me strive toward and that is the dream of publishing a novel. That’s when I completed the Dream Reality Checklist. Lots of good questions to help me hone in on what I truly want and figuring out a way to get it. The bottom line of that checklist is improve my craft with daily writing practice. I believe with the wisdom nuggets I gained at PNWA and “Shero Writers” now in place, I’m well on my way.

Stay tuned for next month’s progress on my September writing goals.

Thoughts I had after my July 27th Intuitive Writing class

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Our instructor, Vedika Dietrich, had planned a few different timed writing themes for us such as:

I remember…

What I don’t remember…

What I didn’t say…

In my mother’s purse…

Next up, we had to write out a word or phrase on small slip of paper and add it to a box from which we’d all pick a theme that a fellow classmate suggested. The theme I wrote out, “Green dots don’t become her”, was chosen by Vedika. Ah, sweet revenge 😉 The theme I chose, “The reason I love my favorite book is…”, was a little challenging for me** (see below for what I wrote) but I managed it reasonably well nonetheless.

Vedika told me at the end of the class that she enjoys how I really enjoy my writing as evidenced by how much fun I have when reading it aloud to the class (something we have to do after each writing exercise.) My friend Anne told me that she thought I was one of the two people she thought were the best writers in the class. Anne and Vedika’s comments made my night and, held me aloft for the next couple of days until today when I decided to write about what’s been going on in my head since then.

Our homework for next week’s class was to bring in no more than 3 works of our favorite authors. We had to be prepared to explain why we love those authors and that particular work. We also had to read a paragraph from each book we brought in. Yesterday, I was eager to start my homework and quickly came up with three of my favorite authors:

Armistead Maupin 

Nick Bantock

Marlena de Blasi

One of the hallmarks that speaks to me regarding why these authors are my favorites is because I own 95% of every book they’ve ever written; in part, because I just can’t get enough of how they tell stories especially the way they weave the location that often stands shoulder to shoulder next to their most important characters. Their stories are rich in texture, just like a tapestry so that if you were to close your eyes, you could feel the sights, sounds, colors, and aromas swirling out of the book and into your surroundings, enveloping you in their midst. Their words cushion, comfort, evoke, and stir something in you; establishing a foothold and ultimately blending with your vocabulary. A very sensual process, or so it seems to me.

This is how I hope others experience my books. My stories ignite a fire in them. A theme, character, or location in my stories fires up their imagination in some way—to explore that theme in other readings, to try out an aspect of a character like they would a new piece of clothing and see how it fits, or visit a location that is central to the story as part of their must-see places to-do list. As I explored the idea of fire further, two stray thoughts appeared and before they trailed off, I went looking for more information around them.

The first stray thought came by way of the Hopi and what they believe about the guardianship of fire. Let me explain…

The Hopi creation story talks about how Great Spirit made a set of sacred stone tablets, called Tiponi, into which he breathed his teachings, prophecies, and warnings. Before the Great Spirit hid himself again, He gave out Clan Rocks to all four races a long time ago. They are stored by each race in the following locations:

White – Switzerland
Black – Kikuyu tribe keeps them at the base of the Kilimanjaro Mountains in Kenya, Africa
Yellow – Tibet
Red – Four Corners/Hopiland, Arizona

Each rock represented a responsibility, which the Hopi call Guardianship. To the red people in the East, He gave the Guardianship of the Earth. To the yellow people in the South, He gave the Guardianship of the Wind. To the black people of the West, He gave the Guardianship of the Water. To the white people in the North, He gave the Guardianship of the Fire.

If you look at the center of many of the things the white race does, you will find the fire. They say a light bulb is the white man’s fire. If you look at the center of a car, you will find a spark. If you look at the center of the airplane and the train, you will find the fire. The fire consumes, and also moves. This is why the Hopi believe it was the white brothers and sisters who began to move upon the face of the earth and reunite us as a human family.

Perhaps the white man or woman can also use the power of the written word to create a spark within people to act, to imagine, to love, to explore, to pray, and so on. Not that the white man or woman’s writing has that sole authority to do so but maybe it is one way that we can take the physical aspect of the fire that our race guards and offer its power to humanity to inspire all races through the mental, emotional, and spiritual realms within us.

The second thought I had was to check out Sage, a free oracle game of sorts that Nick Bantock created on his site, where you can go and click on any card and receive a message. The message I received was quite apropos to my first thought. Here it is:

Is fire born within each heart, or sparked by experience?

There’s a lot to ponder in that phrase. The first thing I thought of was the phrase, nature versus nurture. The second thing was the lyrics in Lady Gaga’s new song, Born This Way. The third thing is the Violet Flame of the I AM presence of St. Germain.

If I were to take the essence of those thoughts, I come up with this:

When my attention goes to the discriminating selective intelligence that is my Higher Self, an energy begins to flow. As I allow this radiance to continue through me, it intensifies and expands until the point of light within every cell of my being responds to it.

Vedika calls this “The Crack”. You might also have heard runners refer to it as “the runner’s high” or artists when they “go with the flow”. Meditators know it as the merging with the Oneness. Whatever you want to call it, it is that which puts me in a zone where there’s no time or time flies and I’ve been in a creative space with no boundaries and no judgments. Perhaps it is my divine fire or spark coming out and through me…freeing me to be me. I also have deep respect for the kindling that starts that fire because it sometimes, in my case anyway, goes a long way to keep that home fire burning.

I’ll sum up what has kept me going these last few days with a great quote by Albert Schweitzer:

“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”

** Here is what I wrote for the writing suggestion I pulled from the cool tin box in Vedika’s class: “The reason I love my favorite book is…”

First of all, I have so many favorites that it is hard to pick just one but pick one I must, right? Well, how about instead I write what makes a book a favorite of mine. Often favorites become favorites if I really like the author. Take Carrie Fisher. She makes me laugh, a lot, every time I read her work. When I read Shirley MacLaine, I’m often shocked at the things she did as part of her Hollywood life. When immersed in Robert Ludlum, my fingers itch to turn the pages faster. If Steve Martin‘s book is between my palms, I go a little slow to savor his take on things.

I recently read a new author who I think, because of the way she talked about violets in March, that she’ll become a candidate for the night table pile with her upcoming second novel. Speaking of which, Italian language books are slowly making an appearance at both the home office desk and night table piles.

One genre that is a perennial-to-the-death favorite is a good exploration of something spiritual. I think one of the reasons I can’t describe a “favorite” is that often the latest book I read, regardless of the genre or author, becomes my new favorite.

Is that normal? Should I care if it isn’t? What is normal for a favorite book anyway? I’m sure there’s no prescribed formula, no judge standing over me.

Two inspirations floated by today and into…

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…my Summer 2012 Art Project No. 2: Prayer Flag Project.

The first inspiration is a little afternoon I’m going to set aside for myself soon called Mudpies 2011: A Redux. I was drawn to the work of the children of Laura Munson whose creations followed the recipes in the book, Mud Pies and Other Recipes: A Cookbook for Dolls. In the late 1960s in northeastern Ontario, I liked nothing better than to sit in a nearby ditch, shape and stack mudpies, and coax the sun to dry them. If you could imagine a visual of the quote, “Happy as a pig in mud”, you’d see me as I was then, blissfully productive.

Last week at the first evening of a 4-week Intuitive Writing class, our uber-fun instructor Vedika asked us to write something following these words, “Before there was school”. I wrote about jumping in snow drifts in the winter and ringing in mud pie making season in the summer. I had a wonderful time writing about those glorious moments of a long-ago childhood. When I read Laura Munson’s blog post about the recent mud pies her kids created, I was inspired to add something that represented that happiness in my prayer flag. It was then I realized the theme for my prayer flag, tentatively titled, “My happiness is my prayer”. What makes it onto the prayer flag will be akin to, “Happiness is making mud pies.” Just writing it makes me smile broadly.

That brings me to my second inspiration which will also be added to the flag. It is a quote from Rumi, “Out beyond ideas of right doing and wrong doing, there is a field: I’ll meet you there.” This one is very apropos as I’m in the midst of my Nth iteration of my first ever pitch to an agent about my inaugural novel at an upcoming writer’s conference. Rumi is encouraging us to let go of assumptions and “shoulds” and be free to express ourselves outside of that space. Over the weekend, the quote hit home.

A friend was visiting and the subject of my novel came up. Not knowing that I’d written one, she asked me to tell her about it. Nervous but somewhat excited to try out my new pitch, I offered up a synopsis. Her first reaction was to tell me to read a book that sounded awfully similar (to her) to what I was writing. It was the second time in 3 weeks that someone advised me to read that same book. Initially, I went to that all-too-familiar place of staying small and believing others–that my book has no place on people’s bedside tables, as a companion to several lattes, or recommended to a friend in a flurry of text messages. Not wanting to be accused of plagiarism and to check out the competition, I ordered a used copy on Amazon for $3.96.

The next day, the tigress in me roared. I remembered to believe in my own power to tell a good story. I wrote the book; if it’s like someone else’s, so be it. I know it has elements of other stories, but I didn’t know that when I concieved it. The story pored out of my head onto the screen as-is, without any other stories influencing it. I wrote about what I find interesting and absorbing and fascinating. A story I’d want to read and I know my friends would, too. That’s what matters. That’s what makes me happy. Going into Rumi’s field calls forth the possibility of what we can create there. That’s where I want to hang out and I’d like my prayer flag to reflect an homage to it.

Summer/fall art project No. 2: The Prayer Flag Project

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Artist, Jane LaFazio, began a prayer flag project in June 2011 and invited artists to submit their work which would help spread peace, good will and kindness, one flag at a time…

My friend, Sherri Nelson, sent me a link to Jane’s site and I was immediately on board…right after I finish the manuscript for my nascent novel and polishing the pitch that I’ll make to agents that I’m working on for the upcoming PNWA Conference.

Stay tuned for pictures from Phase 1: Researching the theme.

Future stages of my project:

Phase 2: Nuts and bolts assembly

Phase 3: Decorative touches

Phase 4: Voila! The piece de resistance.

Summer/fall art project No. 1: The Sketchbook Project 2012

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The Sketchbook Project is a traveling exhibition of sketchbooks created by artists like me.

I’m excited to participate again this year to stretch the bounds of my creativity with words and pictures.

My theme was inspired by my cousin Livio. I was in Italy this spring, visiting family, researching my novel set in San Daniele del Friuli, and working on our family tree. As a going-home gift, Livio gave me a two-volume set of Friulan proverbs. Friulan is the second largest minority language in Italy and spoken by the people of the Friuli region in northeastern Italy.

I’ve heard Friulan proverbs all my life and I thought it might be nice to illustrate their meaning in my own characteristic way so stay tuned for early entries. You can also follow my progress on my Sketchbook page under the artist name, Tessa d’Uccelli Blu.

New art project: Photomobile

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I was looking for inspiration after completing The Sketchbook Project and happened upon Photomobile (see below for a description).*

I was vascillating between choosing one of two themes: Breakfast Lunch and Dinner OR Signs and Symbols.

After waking up New Year’s Day with a baby brown bear in my garage, I decided that I had received my sign. That is, go with Signs and Symbols.

April update: As soon as I received my camera, I started looking for signs and symbols that speak to me. I took a lot of pictures in Italy but some at home, too. Unfortunately, when I had them developed, 90% of them were very grainy and didn’t make the cut. I ended up submitting only a half-dozen. Sigh. Sometimes that’s what happens with cheap disposable cameras. The quality just isn’t there. Oh well, I know better for next time.

*   A Million Little Pictures presents Photomobile, a traveling library of photographs from across the globe. The project asks contributors to shoot 27 frames on a chosen theme, allowing viewers to experience the myriad ways that a single story can be captured in an image. These photographs are then joined together to create a new narrative, journeying together from coast to coast. What begins as thousands of individual expressions ends as a communal experience — A Million Little Pictures, one cross-country adventure.

Art House Co-op organizes interactive art projects that connect thousands of artists from all over the world and operates the Brooklyn Art Library, their storefront space and permanent archive. All of their projects are open to everyone.