Who’s Who? Volume II

It’s time for another Who’s Who? (Also known as Who to Follow on Twitter!) These are just a few of the people I love following for all different reasons. For your best tweeting experience, you should follow them, too!

S.M. Roffey (@songmaiden) – Being a writer can be tough, especially when you face rejection after rejection after rejection, but following S.M. Roffey will take any negative outlook and turn it upside-down. I live for her #teamoptimism posts.


Tamoja (@tammy_oja) – Co-creator of #ontheporch, Tammy has such great insight to the writing process and is a true writing-cheerleader. She’s one of the people who turns up again and again in writing threads and she always has something eye-opening or encouraging to say! She’s worth a follow for sure.


Shanah (@bionicbookworm) – My favorite Canadian also happens to be a book blogger and one of her most-loved genres is YA fantasy. Imagine that! So when Shanah and I talk books, it’s usually a conversation filled with lots of exclamation points. I always turn to Shanah for a new book recommendation if I’m at a loss for what to read. (To be clear, I’m never at a loss for good titles, I just don’t know which books to pick up first. Shanah is my go-to!) You can also find her blog here.


Jess Keating (@Jess_Keating) – There are tons of authors to follow, but not all of them post amazing illustrations just for the heck of it. It would be worth following Jess for her illustrations alone. Add in her wonderful penchant for biology and you’ve got a winning combination. Jess’s posts make me smile!


Jean Grant (@JeanGrant05) – Jean has been my writing buddy since our college days. (That’s longer ago than I care to mention.) Her debut historical romance, A Hundred Kisses came out in May of 2017 and the prequel will be out this coming spring. Even more exciting? She’s got a contemporary Women’s Fiction also coming out this spring. And, she’s got a contemporary novella lined up for 2019! This is an author on fire! (This is also a good time for me to rub in the fact that I get to read all these before you, but maybe that’s not so nice of me, so…) Jean is an avid #5amwritersclub writer and her tweets are a mix of optimism and realism (hello, parenting). Follow her!

 

Also, if you missed my last Who’s Who? and you want to discover more great people to follow, click here!

The Never Expected and Always Unthinkable

If you’ve been following me for a while, odds are good that you know the health crisis we’ve been through over the last year as my husband faced a scary pancreatic cancer diagnosis last spring. The kind of diagnosis you’re not supposed to get at 43.

It was awful. It was traumatic. And until this week, I’d kind of sort of managed to tuck it away in the deep recesses of my mind. Because let’s face it—you can’t think about this kind of thing every day or you’ll actually drive yourself out of your head with worry, the kind of worry that comes with anxious, nervous energy that keeps you up into the wee hours of the morning every night with no one but your miserable self to keep you company.

And then this week someone I know on Twitter (I can’t even call her a ‘friend’—we’ve never had a single personal conversation!), a Pitchwars mentor & writer whose debut book just came out this month, a woman who is living her dream—the same dream I have—just got word that her husband had been hit by a car and was in the ICU at the hospital. I don’t know the details. I know only what she has shared on Twitter.

But her story has hit me so hard this week. So hard. Because it seems like even when things are really good, they can still be really bad. Clarissa recently tweeted about how wonderful the doctors and nurses are, about how they’re making sure that she’s taking care of herself, too. And it brought the memories flooding back.

The day I couldn’t eat because I woke up with such severe anxiety three days after my husband’s surgery that my stomach had cramped into one big knot. The nurse on shift that day didn’t say anything right away, but by 3 p.m., she gave me a knowing expression with worried eyes that I swear could see right into my soul and she asked me, “Have you eaten anything today?” I hadn’t. I couldn’t. So when I finally managed to eat a banana at 7 p.m., I made sure to let her know. Nurses are amazing. They are incredible human beings who give so much more than I ever knew was humanly possible to give to perfect strangers.

And in one tweet, Clarissa sent me right back to those horrible moments after the big surgery, the ones I pushed aside for the last nine months. My heart goes out to Clarissa and her family. I know what she’s going through. I know the fear and the worry and the feeling that nothing will ever be the same—that your entire future is nothing more than one big question mark.

I hope that you’ll join me in supporting Clarissa Goenawan and her husband in the weeks and months of trials they’ll have ahead of them. The medical bills can add up so quickly that it takes your breath away when you stop to think about it. We spent over $10,000 in out-of-pocket medical expenses last year. Without insurance, it would have been well over $300,000. Life can turn on a dime and moments like these are sharp reminders to hold our loved ones tight and appreciate all we have been given.

Screen Shot 2018-03-24 at 8.19.19 PMMany prayers for Clarissa and Choo and for a quick and complete recovery and a return to normal life.

And if you want to support a debut author in another most appreciated way, pick up a copy of her book, Rainbirds, released March 6th of this year.

 

Pitfalls and Mountain Climbing

As a writer, I find there are infinite pitfalls of self-doubt and whole periods of time where all I do is question whether or not my writing skills are worthy. Are they good enough for the books I so badly want to author? Do my words inspire others to jump into the lives of my characters and love the story so much that they want nothing more than to drown out the world around them as they race with reckless abandon to the last chapter? Is my prose moving without being ‘purple?’ And for the love of all that is holy, do I have any talent at all?!

pitfall
A different kind of Pitfall maybe, but the writing journey can feel about this treacherous.

It’s frustrating when you’ve been refining your craft for years and still have nothing tangible to show for it. I’ve been writing seriously for seven years, querying for three, and am currently drafting my fourth manuscript. I’ve gotten paid to ghostwrite blogs I’ll never get credit for. I’ve entered several online writing mentoring competitions like PitchWars and Sun vs. Snow and I’ve yet to be selected as a mentee. I’ve pitched in Twitter pitch contests like PitMad and SonOfAPitch. I’ve pitched in person to agents at the Write Angles Conference and at the Philadelphia Writing Workshop. And in the midst of it all, I have made dozens of amazing writer friends* who have been there to support and cheer me on at every step of the game. (As I do for them as well! Writers make really good cheerleaders!)

And yet all of this ‘failure’ on the professional end of things takes a toll on a writer’s ego. (Yes, I know it’s not real failure. It’s *experience.*) One might say it’s all about leveling up. Lots of XP for me!

level up

The fact remains that I couldn’t not write even if I wanted to. So it means the world to me when people around me are supportive of my decision to pursue my passion, even when the going gets rough. Support is everything. I made the decision a few weeks ago to attend the Writer’s Digest Conference in NYC this year. The location alone makes it a pricey conference, but the WDC is one of the bigger conferences with tons of relevant industry info and it offers a great opportunity to participate in PitchSlam—a sort of speed dating for writers hoping to find agents who will represent them and agents looking for writers to represent.

About a week ago, I lamented to my husband about the price of the workshop, feeling guilty about spending so much on myself. (Because until I’m actually making some sort of professional progress, it still feels like a frivolous expense—the same as a pedicure might…only about ten times the cost.) He reassured me that he wanted me to go and that he was going to make sure we could afford it, even if he had to do some eBaying to make it work out.

Fast-forward a day or so and I had a repeat of the same conversation with my mother, only she didn’t offer to eBay anything off for me. No, she waited a couple of days, conferred with my father, then texted me this:

Screen Shot 2018-01-29 at 10.41.06 PM

How do you argue with that?

If you don’t come from an Italian-American household, let me fill you in.

You don’t. You can’t argue. It’s like trying to bulldoze a mountain.

And so I’ll take them up on their offer not because I really have a choice, but because I know it’s not about the money. It’s about having a family who supports my dream unconditionally. It’s about the support they want to provide to me in the way that they can. I’m lucky. Luckier than most.

So, I’ll go to the Writer’s Digest Conference this summer and maybe I’ll reach the summit of this mountain.

Or at least base camp.

Yeah, I could be content with base camp.

 

 

* Seriously, NEVER underestimate the power of amazing writer friends! Xoxoxo!

Who’s Who?

I follow an eclectic mix of people on Twitter, but by far my Twitter feed skews toward the literary. From querying writers to veteran authors to agents to editors, I tend to follow it all. And in my honest opinion, if you’re not following these folks, you’re missing out!

(I think I’ll need to make this a semi-regular segment in my blog, so if you haven’t made this list, don’t worry. I’ll have lots more to share in the future!)

In no particular order:

Michelle Hauck (@Michelle4Laughs)—For up to date information on amazing writing contests, Michelle is one to follow. She’s a smart and fun-to-follow author who writes SFF and gives back to the writing community in abundance! Also, don’t miss her blog!


Dr. Uwe Stender (@UweStenderPhD)—Not all literary agents are created equal. In my years of stalking…er…following literary agents on Twitter for the sole purpose of gaining industry knowledge, I have found that some agents are quick to provide a helping hand to those who are just starting on their journeys. I highly recommend following Uwe Stender. Why? Because his literary advice is real and good and his #askagent sessions are the best. (Bonus: His nutcase files can’t be beat!)


Lakshmi (@Lakshgiri)—Because her writing is lyrical and moving and her cooking photos make my mouth water, Lakshmi gets two thumbs up in my book. Her blog is filled with poignant stories about parenting and motherhood, and her open adoption story is unlike any I’ve known. She faces parenting challenges with grace and her raw, emotional writing resonates.


Chuck Wendig (@ChuckWendig) & Sam Sykes (@SamSykesSwears)—These guys are a 2-for-1. Why? Because of interactions like this (read this aaalllllllll the way through):

They’ll provide your daily dose of crazy with a side of smiles. Follow them. (And maybe Sam will release another hostage.)


A.S.H (@MizWriter)—Because I agree with everything she posts and she’s basically my spirit animal even if we’ve never met. Dogs and cats and posts about writing. Wait. Maybe she’s actually *me* in another dimension.


Katie Mack (@AstroKatie) – Because you need a dose of astrophysics & feminism. Bonus: She pipes up in occasional bouts with Chuck & Sam, making my day, week, and even month. And it’s really fun to watch her stop mansplaining in its tracks. Even J.K. Rowling agrees.


Who are your Twitter favorites? Give them a holler in the comments section so I can show them some love with a follow!

The Spirit of the Season

Happy Holidays, friends and family! This is the official 2017 Storms Christmas letter! (Look – I even went red and green! Festive!)IMG_2520.jpg

Before you start in on me about how lame I am for sending you to my blog for warm wishes of holiday cheer, remember it’s been a fairly tough year. Go easy on me. I opted to forgo sending cards this year for several reasons. First and foremost—time. As most of you know, there’s a lot going on and I’ve been juggling kids’ school schedules, projects, dance classes, various doctors appointments, dentist appointments, and writing in attempts to get it all done. I’m tired! Secondly, suffice it to say that I’m not feeling all that jolly this year, so the thought of addressing and stamping seventy cards just isn’t…well, in the cards. And lastly, I don’t wanna.

So, there you have it.

Now, onto the more cheery parts of this ‘letter.’

We are still here. 2017 hasn’t managed to knock us out just yet. (Give it time. I guess there are two more weeks left in the year, but we’re hoping for the best.) Nate still has a drain tube in his abdomen. It’ll be 23 weeks this Friday. Our next appointment with the good docs at Interventional Radiology at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital is this Thursday, but neither of us holds high hopes for the drain tube being removed. And that means we’re probably going into the new year with a drain. I cannot even begin to count the ways that this sucks.

My kids are amazing. No, seriously. They are. They have handled things this year that no adult should be asked to handle. They have done so with courage and grace and I want to award them gold medals. Why is there no ‘Best Kids on the Planet’ award?

Nate has gone back to work on a strictly work-from-home basis as of December 4th. This is great news as it no longer means we are ready to pawn off heirlooms in order to buy groceries… Hooray for food without debt! (And for companies and bosses who are amazing and accommodating!)

I am still writing, tweeting about writing, and—apparently—blogging about writing. I finished up my third manuscript this year while continuing to pitch manuscript number two to literary agents. So far, no major progress. I had several requests for a full read (which is a huge step in the right direction) and some really great feedback on said manuscript. But ultimately, no cigar. Hoping to start pitching book number three by early next year. In the mean time, I’m 20k words into my fourth manuscript and moving right along. What’s a writer if she’s not writing anyway? (Oh, that’s right. A stressed mom who is barely holding it all together. Yes, okay, I suppose I’m that, too, these days.)

Now onto the more serious parts of Christmas, or at least the more sentimental parts. Despite our rollercoaster of a year…

Wait. That implies that there were upswings…  Let me rephrase.

Ahem.

Despite our alpine slide of a year, we are incredibly thankful for so many things. Amazing friends and family who have been there for us in every possible way. They’ve provided emotional support, emergency babysitting and pet care, gifted us with gift cards to movies and ice cream shops to help keep our lives as normal as possible, helped with homework and school drop offs and pick ups. They’ve cut our grass and shoveled snow from our walkways (not in the same day, of course) and they’ve paid anonymously for our kids’ dance classes.  They’ve listened when I’ve felt alone, offered a shoulder when I needed to cry, and handed me a pillow when I needed to scream. They’ve offered financial help and assistance navigating health care and disability insurance. They’ve helped us keep records for our taxes and offered to lend us  money (because let’s face it—we’re not rich enough to actually own heirlooms to sell off).

And this is what I am most thankful for this Christmas. I am thankful that we have a network of friends and family that’s bigger than the heart of the grinch (after it grew three sizes) and people who care so very much. We are so grateful.

I hope 2018 is a better year. For you, for me, for all of us. Love to all, family and friends. Thank you for giving us something to be thankful about this 2017. I wish you a happy and blessed holiday season!

The Storms Family

IMG_2510
2017 in a nutshell.

A Brief History of a Perpetual Misfit

I’m hoping to participate in the very selective #PitchWars process this year and potential mentees are encouraged to share a little bit about themselves on their blogs in what is affectionately coined #PimpMyBio. For those of you who know me, most of this information probably isn’t new.  For those of you who don’t, welcome!


Fun Stuff

#novelaesthetics teaser for my #PitchWars YA Fantasy manuscript, A THOUSAND YEARS TO WAIT

(Disclaimer: Only two of these images are mine. I don’t claim rights to the others!)

A Thousand Years to Wait

What is all this about? Well…

At 18, Moreina di Bianco is a young healer who believes in medicine, not magic, even while possessing a second sight she can’t fully explain. So when a talisman and a thousand-year-old prophecy choose Reina to reawaken an ancient magic and find a way to end a war, she must reconcile her beliefs and learn to master the unknown magic.

Reluctant to accept help, Reina’s only company on her journey is her estranged and mysterious childhood friend and a dashing captain who claims to be her protector. There’s just one problem with her new companions. They, too, are featured in the prophecy. But what woman wants a suitor, let alone two, when she’s busy defeating an evil general, ending a war, finding the true king, and rightfully seating him on the throne?

Random ‘Stuff’ About A THOUSAND YEARS TO WAIT

Reina would really get along with Nadia from The Forgetting (Sharon Cameron) or Mae from White Hart (Sarah Dalton). The three of them could probably be best friends…though they might butt heads from time to time. They’re all pretty headstrong. She also has a lot in common with Feyre from A Court of Thorns and Roses (Sarah J. Maas), but killing stuff isn’t her thing. In fact, she’s a vegetarian.

I normally like to leave characters to the imagination (nothing is worse than finding out on page 284 that a character has blond hair when you’ve been picturing her as a dark brunette for the duration of the book), but…

Here’s a visual for what I picture my three main characters to look like. Seriously, it’s okay if this is isn’t what YOU picture. I’m cool with that.

Moreina (Reina) di Bianco, Quinn D’Arturio, and Niles Ingram (yeah, yeah, I know it’s Ryan Gosling…)

 

About Me

An ever changing chameleon, I seem to fit in both everywhere and nowhere at once. I grew up on Long Island, but moved to Pennsylvania with my family when I was 10, making me a lover of both indoor and outdoor fun. Theater, art, culture? Yes! Hiking, camping, and horses? Let’s!

Hiking Bryce
Yay – a camera in hand and hiking boots on my feet!

I love outdoor photography (Hey – that’s a combo of art, camping, and hiking!) and I even blogged about one of my most ambitious travels – a cross-country trip over the course of just 3 weeks. (Two years have passed since that trip and I’m still dreaming about it.)

But my love of art and travel didn’t stop me from also pursuing a love of science and I have an undergraduate degree in Marine Biology with minors in Chemistry and Psychology. (I also earned a Master’s in Business Administration as a parent of two young children just to prove to myself that I could.) But maybe what I love most is actually the world in all its forms, and perhaps its why I’ve never been content to stay in just one place doing just one thing.

My ever-changing career has taken an interesting path to say the least. My titles have included:

  • Microbiologist
  • Pharmaceutical Technical Writer
  • Mom to 2 girls
  • Animal Adoption & Kennel Technician
  • Animal Shelter Administrative Director
  • Marketing Director
  • Freelance Writer
  • And always, always – Aspiring Author

The reason for my leaving any of these jobs was not because I didn’t enjoy them or because I wasn’t very good at them. (Quite the contrary, in fact!) Rather, it was because I always felt that there was something else I *should* be doing, something else that needed my attention, somewhere else that I should be fitting in.

In some of these jobs, I felt as though I had almost made it, that I almost assimilated, but there was always some small part of me that knew I was only fooling myself. I could “almost” fit in anywhere, but it wasn’t until I joined the writing community online that I began to feel as though perhaps I had finally found my tribe. A misfit among misfits, and I couldn’t feel more at home! If you, too, are a misfit writer and bibliophile, I hope you’ll find me on Twitter and say hello!

 

And Now – Random Trivia

My Loves: 

  • Landscape photography
  • Hiking
  • Travel
  • Music
  • Good NY pizza
  • Dark chocolate (Seriously, what is life without chocolate?)
  • Books (Duh…) – particularly well-done fantasies that take me deep into new worlds
  • My children & my husband (Duh, again… This is a given, of course. I’m so, so very lucky!)

 

My Current Obsessions:

  • Planning vacations I can’t take
  • #resist with @botresist
  • Sweetgreen’s harvest bowl (Yum!)

 

Things I despise (not necessarily in this order):

  • Narcissists (I worked for one for a long time – never again!)
  • Willful ignorance
  • Cancer (The disease, not the astrological sign. We crabs need to stick together.)
  • That Thing currently occupying the White House (See also: first bullet point.)

 

Things I think you should know:

  • Myers-Briggs: INFJ
  • I will hold my bladder as long as humanly possible if it means I can avoid using a porta-potty.
  • I love stories about time travel and/or reincarnation (Maybe why I resist the porta-potty—too many past lives without modern day plumbing?)
  • I don’t shy away from hard work, and Persistence is my middle name. (Actually, I don’t have a middle name, but if I did, this would be it.)

 

One More Thing:

(I debated adding this section, but I think it’s important enough that it should be included. I want to make sure that anyone who wants to work with me also knows where I stand on #OwnVoices.)

I’m not an #OwnVoices writer. I don’t come from the marginalized community and I can’t tell the stories that should be told by #OwnVoices writers. I am, however, a strong supporter of diversity and equal opportunity and will do whatever I can do to help advocate diversity in the publishing industry. So, a shoutout to my many writer friends from the marginalized communities who are making a difference every single day by using their voices to tell the stories that need to be told! Thank you for sharing your story! The world needs it. I need it!