Beautiful Land Across the Water

img_0829We spent this past weekend on the island of Chincoteague, located on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.  It was one of those rare weekends when we didn’t really have any plans.  I had just finished the first draft of my next novel, which takes place on the island, and Ken asked if he could read it.  Several chapters in, he told me that he loved the writing and the storyline, but I had many geographical errors.  It has been years since I spent any time on the island, and to be honest, I never paid that much attention to which waterways were which or how much marsh there is instead of sand.  His remedy?  To pack up the camper and head to Virginia.

Ken’s brother, Tom, and his family moved to Chincoteague many years ago, but as the children grew older, and life got busier, we found it hard to all get together on the island, so Tom and his crew always come up to Maryland rather than everyone going down to Virginia.  But true to his nature, Tom welcomed us with open arms and was the perfect host and tour guide.  We arrived late Friday night after watching Morgan’s field hockey game, ironically, just thirty minutes away from her cousins’ home.  Ken and I stayed in the camper while the cousins all slept in the house, or didn’t sleep, as they hadn’t been together for a while and wanted to spend as much time together as they could.

img_0823On Saturday, Tom gave us a tour of Chincoteague, a name taken from the Native American name, Gingoteague, which is believed to mean, “Beautiful land across the water.”  It is indeed across the water, across the Chincoteague Bay from the rest of Virginia and across the Chincoteague Channel from Assateague Island, both a State and National Park.  Many people my age and older will recall the beloved novel, Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry, about the pony who swam across the channel to the annual firemen’s pony auction and then made her home on Chincoteague.  We drove to the beach on Assateague, passing several herds of the wild ponies, and then back to Chincoteague to Memorial Park and then through the downtown.

img_0818After lunch, Ken, my mother-in-law, and I struck out on our own so that I could see everything through the eyes of Kate, my main character.  We climbed to the top of the Assateague Lighthouse and visited the island museum.  At the museum, I learned so many things that had never turned up in my research, such as, when Assateague, once the more populated island, became privately owned, the inhabitants rolled their homes down to the water, put them on boats, and floated them to Chincoteague where some are still standing today, almost one hundred years later!  You can bet that someone in my book will live in one of those homes!  Also, in the museum, we saw the real Misty, a treat for any girl who, like myself, devoured the book series as a child.img_3030

img_0803Later in the afternoon, Tom and his wife, Sandi, took us on a boat ride.  We literally circumnavigated the entire island, and I was treated to a view of the island that I had never before seen.  I also found the perfect location for Kate’s winter getaway.  To wrap up the day, Sandi served us some of the best crab cakes I’ve ever had.  We talked about my book and the island, especially the history of the island as it relates to the Coast Guard.  Approximately 75% of the retirees on Chincoteague are former Coast Guard.  Those valiant men and women play a large role in my book, and I was honored to spend the weekend of 9/11 in a place where those who serve are held in the highest regard.  Banners honoring all of the young men and women currently serving in the Armed Forces are proudly displayed up and down Main Street, including one of my nephew, Ty.

As I learned with my previous books, nothing beats personal research.  There’s a lot that I can learn and see online, but there’s nothing like visiting a place in person, talking to its people, seeing firsthand its beauty, and immersing oneself in its culture.  I am so grateful for the time and attention that Tom and Sandi gave to our tour and my questions and to my husband for giving up his weekend so that my book can be as authentic as possible.  I look forward to paying my respects to the people and history of Chincoteague Island.img_0890

 

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Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her latest book, Whispering Vines, is now available for purchase.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me(2015), Whispering Vines (2016)

A Shore Thing

DSC02536Is it just me, or is there something special about this time of year?  The days are still warm, but the nights are crisp and cool.  Routines are being established (or re-established), bedtimes are earlier, my favorite shows are coming back on TV, the holidays are just around the corner; here on the Shore, the crabs are fatter and tastier, and I could go on and on.  Spring might be the time that the world renews itself, but fall is my time to renew and reflect.  It’s when I start thinking about and writing my newest novel.  Truthfully, it’s when I do my best writing.  It’s when my head seems to be clearer, and my mind is ready to focus.  I think a lot of it has to do with the girls returning to school.  We are all ready to get back to business.  But there’s no question that a good part of it has to do with living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland at this most beautiful time of year.

I think that’s why I set Picture Me here on the Shore in the fall.  It’s the time and place for new beginnings, a time to experience beauty that is awe-inspiring.  We may not have mountains and famous fall foliage, but we have sunrises over the Chesapeake and its tributaries that catch the autumn colors and reflect back hues of orange and red that set the water on fire. There’s no doubt that the Eastern Shore sunrise in the fall can’t be beat; and I meant it when I said the crabs are fatter and tastier.  Those who have only had their share of the “beautiful swimmer” on Memorial Day just don’t know what they’re missing.

Julie Lawson spent a lot of time photographing the Shore in the fall, and I’m having fun re-tracing her steps as I try to capture with my lens the scenes that were described in the book as she captured them with hers.  The companion Facebook page will highlight the pictures that I feel do her and this area justice.  Stop by and take a look, and you will agree that there is no place like this anywhere else in the world.

So I as settle back today and write about Italy in my new novel, I will do so sitting in my sunroom looking out at the trees in my Eastern Shore backyard.  They haven’t started changing colors yet, but they will soon, and I will enjoy the show as I spend my days gazing at the ever-changing kaleidoscope at my backdoor.

We should be able to get in at least one more boat ride before the air turns too cold.  It won’t be just the end of one season for us, it will be the beginning of the next season and all of the promise that it holds.  It’s a sure thing and a shore thing that we won’t want to miss.  Life here on the Shore is more than good, and I challenge you to find any place better.  Yeah, good luck with that.

Amy Schisler is the author of two mystery / suspense novels. Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks. Amy’s newest mystery, Picture Me, was released in August of 2015 and is available in stores and online.  Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad, may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

A Whale of a Tale

DSC06345If I were to ask you, or most people, what your favorite animal is, I’m sure you, or most, would answer “cat,” dog,” or other similar such creature.  My children have always thought me a bit strange because I have a great love for (they would call it an obsession with) elephants, sharks, and whales.  Since I was a small child, I have always been fascinated by these three majestic creatures.  When I was very little, I had a small collection of whales – glass figurines, stuffed animals, and such.  As a teenager and young adult, I had quite an extensive collection of elephants – everything from clothes to glass and wooden figures to unique collectibles from around the world (gifts from friends and family).  For Christmas a few years ago, my husband gave me a shark dive in Australia.  It was the most amazing experience ever!

Recently, our family traveled up north and enjoyed a ferry ride to Nova Scotia.  I was excited to discover that we would have the opportunity to see dolphins, porpoises, sharks and whales as we crossed the Bay of Fundy.  The morning began enshrouded with a thick, white fog that wasn’t unlike the New England Clam Chowder the girls had enthusiastically eaten with dinner the previous evening.  Aboard the ferry, we sat in the lounge, huddled in our sweatshirts and clinging to our warm tea and coffee.  Hoping that the fog would lift, we waited for the announcement that it was the right time to observe the sea life.

When we were about an hour outside of Digby, we made our way outside onto the deck with cameras and binoculars.  The wind was blowing so hard that it was almost impossible to even open the door.  We stood on the deck, lined up along the railing, eager to greet whatever beautiful creature arose to bid us a good morning.  The fog had lifted, but there was still a cold, misty chill in the air in spite of being mid-summer.  The shores of Digby were ahead of us, barely visible on the hazy horizon.  The Bay was calm as the sea birds dove below the water and then shot up into the air with their catch in their beaks.

After a while, the girls were cold and bored, and they decided to retreat back into the lounge and test the wifi (they are teenagers, after all).  Ken and I stood on the deck in silence and kept watch on the horizon.  As we neared the landing, we knew that our chances were growing slim to see any marine life.  A ripple of excitement went through me as I sighted movement off to the left.  Peering across the sea, I watched as a school of porpoises gently glided through the waves, their fins in perfect harmony with each other.  Too fast in and out of the waves to stop for a picture, the porpoises swam on out of sight.

As we stood against the backdrop of the open sea while it rolled onto the approaching shore, I knew that we would see no whales today.  The closer we drew to land, the thicker the fog became.  What had cleared while out at sea was now drifting back toward us, covering the ferry with its mantle of white.  At the very last minute before the call to return to our vehicles, I felt, more than saw, a stir out at sea, and I turned just in time to see a monstrous and majestic creature arise from the water.  I suddenly knew how Ahab felt when he first laid eyes on the Great White Whale.  My heart beat faster as I watched the beautiful animal clear her lungs with a mighty geyser that sprayed salty tasting droplets on the fascinated onlookers.  As she began her descent back into the sea, her eyes locked with mine.  Unlike the cold, dead eyes of a shark, hers were bright and full of life.  An understanding passed between us, and I held my breath as I watched her sink into the water, the turquoise pool sliding over her shiny black body and hiding all traces of the magnificent creature.

I breathed for the first time in what felt like several minutes.  I could scarcely believe what I had just witnessed.  I couldn’t wait to tell the girls what they had missed.  I’m sure you will agree that it was a moment to remember forever.  Or perhaps you will realize that Melville and I have more in common than a love for whales.

Amy Schisler is the author of two mystery / suspense novels. Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks. Amy’s next mystery, Picture Me, will be released in August of 2015 and will be available in stores and online.  Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com

Nobody’s Perfect

Many years ago, a very wise man told me something that I have never forgotten.  After I graduated from college, I moved back home to find a job and save some money until my next great adventure came along.  The first weekend I was home, I attended Mass with my family at our church.  Our pastor, Father Paul (now Monsignor Dudziak), welcomed me home and asked me how it felt to be a college graduate.  I told him that it felt good but not great because I had graduated magna cum laude and not summa cum laude and had missed the higher honor by less than a tenth of a percentage point.  Father Paul nodded without comment and then asked me to follow him.  When we reached the altar he pointed to the floor and asked me “Do you see this carpet?” I nodded, unsure of why he was asking, and he continued.  “This carpet has handmade by Persian monks.  It took months, maybe years, because it was intricately planned and woven by hand.  They are experts at making rugs and create the finest works of art.  However, in every rug they make, they always weave into it a mistake.”  He looked at me and asked, “Do you know why?”  I shook my head, and he replied, “Only God is perfect.”  Humbled, I blushed and nodded.

Do I still strive for perfection?  Every. Single.  Day.  And every day I am reminded, in some way, that I will never achieve perfection.  And you know what?  That’s okay.  The French playwright, Pierre Corneille, once said “we never taste happiness in perfection, our most fortunate successes are mixed with sadness.”  While we all try to be perfect and live a perfect life, don’t we all feel much more accomplished and successful when we’ve faced failureDSC00481 and risen above it?  And who is to say what a perfect life is?  Many would have said that Robin Williams had the perfect life, but alas, he did not think it true.

As Father Paul pointed out to me those many years ago, humans are not perfect, and we never will be.  Michelangelo said “The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection.”  A perfect sunset?  Yes.  The perfect novel?  Probably not.  While we all should try to attain perfection in our lives so as to be worthy of the life God has given to us, we will all fail over and over again.  That is how we learn and grow and become the person we are meant to be.  So I will continue to work towards perfection as I journey through life, but I will remember that I will, and must, make mistakes along the way.  For as the great novelist Margaret Atwood so truthfully said “If I waited for perfection… I would never write a word.”

Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and suspense novels.  Her first book, A Place to Call Home may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks.  Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com

Favorite Novels – What’s on Your List?

DSC04542As I sit here this morning looking out over our backyard, a heavy mist shrouds the landscape.  The snow and grass seem to be in a struggle over which parts of the yard belong to whom.  Across our property lies a patchwork of white, brown, and green bordered by trees that actually seem to be looking down upon the earth wondering when it will be time to awaken from their long, cold slumber. And as if the East Coast hasn’t already had more than its share of winter, more snow is heading our way.  The good news for those of us in the Mid-Atlantic is that at least we’ve been able to thaw a little in between each storm.  Not so for Boston, Buffalo, and many other cities and towns north of here!

I’ve already accepted the fact that there will be four people in the kitchen tomorrow baking Katie’s sweet sixteen cake rather than just one, and I might just have many more hands available to decorate for her party on Friday. However, I so long for an entire week of writing without interruption!  I understand that many people are just itching to get into their gardens and out in their boats.  I would just love to have a five-day stretch where I can sit in quiet and complete a chapter or so per day in my next novel.  Alas, that doesn’t seem to be in the forecast for me this week, but perhaps a good read is in your future.  So I’ve decided to share with you my list of my all time favorite books.  Like all good librarians, I will categorize the list.  I hope there is something here that you will enjoy reading.  I believe that you will find a few hidden gems amongst some of the more well-known titles.  So pick a book, sit by the fire, and remember that spring is just 15 days away!

Amy’s All Time Favorite Books:

Historical Fiction

The Lady of Arlington by Harnett T. Kane – a novel based on the life of Mary Custis Lee, the wife of Robert E. Lee

The entire Little House series – have you read them as an adult?  You should!

Romance

Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Green – a book I have loved since I was in middle school.

Fantasy

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling – really, did you truly expect me to not have a Harry Potter book on the list?

Memoir

The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma – A father and daughter vow to read together for 1,000 nights, and magic happens.

General Literature

So many to list!

Beaches by Iris R. Dart – A tear-jerking story about lifelong best friends and the ups and downs of their relationship

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield – a timeless tale (truly – you have no idea when in time this takes place) of secrets and lies that come out when a young writer is summoned to write the memoirs of a dying woman.

Playing for Pizza by John Grisham – perhaps an odd choice, but I love a good book about football, and this one is a lot of fun!

The Choice by Nicholas Sparks – The “choice” will leave you buried in a pile of tissues!

Classics

Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier – A nameless heroine falls in love with Max deWinter, a man haunted by his past.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – Jane falls in with Mr. Rochester, also a man haunted by his past.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – love and romance in the Victorian Age

Mystery/Suspense

This is the hardest list to narrow down for me.  I am a sucker for a good suspense story!

The Christmas Train by David Baldacci

The Lifeguard by James Patterson

Where are the Children by Mary Higgins Clark

Please add your favorites to the list!

Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and suspense novels.  Her first book, A Place to Call Home may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks.  Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

https://amyschislerauthor.com/amyschislerauthor.com/Books.html You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com

A Mother’s Love

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Nineteen years. Sometimes I can’t believe it. Tomorrow, February 12, marks nineteen years since I became a mother. I don’t know where the time went since the doctor first placed my beautiful Rebecca Kathleen into my arms, but they sure have flown by. Now she’s a sophomore in college, and it’s hard to grasp the reality that she’s pretty much all grown up. I can’t imagine what my life would be like without Rebecca or her sisters, Katie Ann and Morgan. They are my daughters, my muses, and yes, as they grow older, my friends. My husband says he sometimes finds it hard to fit into our world, and I can understand that. Though we all try our best to include Ken in everything we do, we are like our own little club, my three daughters and I.

This past week, I made two trips to the emergency room with Katie Ann who was suffering from a bacterial infection that had our entire family and all of our friends very worried. When she came to our room at 3am two nights ago with a fever over 103, Ken asked if I wanted him to take her to the hospital. I think he knew the answer before he even asked it. If anybody was going to be in the ER with Katie Ann, it was going to be me. Not that Ken couldn’t have sat in the chair and nodded his head at the doctor just the same as I did, but I couldn’t have stayed home and waited. I was the one who had to be there to hold her hand when they inserted the IV, and I had to be the one to lay my head next to hers on the pillow and rub her back until she fell asleep. It wasn’t that daddy wasn’t good enough. It’s that a mother’s love must be manifested through action.

In A Place to Call Home, Susan becomes a mother overnight when Cassie and Ellie arrive on her doorstep. It’s her maternal instinct that drives her to discover what secrets they are hiding and protect them from harm at all costs. And in Picture Me, due out in April, it’s Melissa’s mother who makes the ultimate sacrifice so that her daughter can live. This is what we do as mothers: sacrifice, hold hands, pray, and most of all, love. It’s what my mother taught me, and her mother taught her. It’s what I hope my daughters will learn from me.

Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and suspense novels.  Her first book, A Place to Call Home may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks.  Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon. https://amyschislerauthor.com/amyschislerauthor.com/Books.html 

You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com

Advice From the Desk of A Writer

10371504_1493211267560036_1559440155953801216_nThis February marks fifteen months since my first novel was accepted by a publisher.  Oh my, how much I have learned between then and now!  Since A Place to Call  Home was released last August, I have been asked countless times what advice could I give to aspiring writers.  I love how so many of the bestselling authors say things like “write every day,” or “just keep typing away and submitting,” or “you can do it if you work hard.”  Sure, all of those things are great, but here’s the reality: I could write a whole new book just on my experiences over the past fifteen months and what I have learned.  And believe me, I’m still learning.  Every day I read or hear something new that I think, I should do that, or remember that, or look into that.  So here are some things that I have learned that I hope will help others.  Feel free to comment below to open a dialogue on what YOU have learned.

  •   Don’t rely on anyone else’s word that your final copy is without editing flaws, even your editor’s.  People make mistakes, and so do computers.  Read every word before you give the okay to print, or, better yet, have a professional proofreader read every word.  I really learned this the hard way.
  •   Marketing your book is up to you and you alone.  Your agent or publicist may have some good ideas or point you in a certain direction, but you will need to set aside an entire day once a week to market your book.  And marketing means everything from writing a blog to contacting booksellers to entering contests.  Some weeks, one day isn’t enough, and some weeks, that day might be spent in your car driving from one bookstore to another.
  •   Never stop looking for ways to promote your book whether it has been out for a week, a month, or six months.  Until the next book hits the shelf, that book is your livelihood.  Even when you’re at the point where you secretly hate that book because it won’t go away and you want to move on, keep promoting it.  Later in life, you may look back and realize it was the best relationship you ever had, a stepping stone to greater things to come.
  •   Learn to self-promote.  For some, including myself, that’s so very hard to do.  At first, my parents sold more of my books than I did.  And why should that surprise anyone?  Parents brag about their children their entire lives.  Writers need to learn to brag a little about themselves, too.  I’ll admit that I’m still working on that one….
  •   Choose book signings wisely.  Yes, every public appearance you make gets your name and face out there, but is every public appearance worth doing?  I’ve done signings where I am speaking to people and signing books constantly, and I’ve done ones where I’ve sat and stared into space all day without seeing a single soul.  While you can never predict what will work and what won’t, do some research, talk to other authors, figure out when and where the successful signings take place and take advantage of those.  But don’t overlook a great opportunity to network. The last signing I did was at a local library. We had a few dozen people wander in and out, and each of us sold two or three books, but I made some wonderful new contacts who have given me invaluable advice.
  •   Network, network, network.  Oh, yeah, and don’t forget to network.  There is so much to be learned from other authors and people in the industry.  Reach out to them, follow them on Twitter, talk to them at conferences (GO to conferences).  You will always come away with something useful as well as a contact you can go to when you need advice.
  •   Never dismiss anything as not being something worth writing about.  I keep notes of anything and everything that comes to mind that might be useful in a book.  Very often, while writing, something that I jotted down comes back to me and fits perfectly into whatever scenario I’m working on at that moment.
  •   And yes, write every day.  Dean Koontz says he writes 12 hours a day!  I’ve read that Sandra Brown writes at least an hour, seven days a week.  James Patterson puts in a full eight hour day every week.  Perhaps you aren’t able to do that at this point in your life (I know I’m not, but I’m getting there), but whatever time you can take to write, take it.  The biggest thing I have learned is that the more I write, the better my writing is.

What can you add?

Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and suspense novels.  Her first book, A Place to Call Home may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks.  Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

https://amyschislerauthor.com/amyschislerauthor.com/Books.html You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com