To All of the Muses in My Life

IMG_1118I was blindsided last night by the outpouring of love and support that I received from so many people.  I held a launch party for my newest release, Whispering Vines, available today in print and ebook.  The large reception room at Scossa’s Restaurant and Lounge was standing room only with friends, family, fellow writers, and even strangers who all came to purchase my new book.  By the end of the event, I was completely sold out of that book and had sold numerous copies of my earlier books.  It was an evening I will never forget.

I often hear it said that the life of a writer is lonely and depressing.  Many writers spend their days in isolation, writing at home, locked away from the world.  Many of the world’s greatest authors lived painful lives of solitude, often turning to drugs or alcohol, with many committing suicide.  I’ve never been able to reconcile that type of existence with my own life.  I’ve been asked many times how I find time to write, and I’ve had several people tell me that I have to slow down, stop volunteering, and curb my social life and family trips.  It seems that now that I am an author, I am expected to close myself off from the world and spend twenty-four hours a day with my fingertips glued to the keys of my laptop.  Last night was a reaffirmation that becoming a hermit is the last thing I should do.

I thrive on relationships.  The more time I can spend with my family, the better. The times I’m able to sneak away with friends are blessings. Everyday interactions with other school parents and volunteers are essential to my well-being.  Leading a week-long volunteer camp is crucial for my happiness and feeling of self-worth.  And it’s from these many people and moments that I find my inspiration.  Most of my characters are based on people I know.  All of the settings are based on places I have visited.  And the storylines are always inspired by experiences I’ve had or stories I’ve heard from others.  Where would I be, where would my writing be, if I didn’t have such a strong connection to other people?

So I would like to thank everyone who has supported my writing, all of those who have bought my books, those who were at the party last night, and every person who has touched my life in some way.  You are all my inspiration, my muses.  They are your faces that I see when I am describing characters, your homes and your families.  They are our conversations that I recreate, and it is your friendship and love that resonates in the stories that I tell.  The success of my writing can be contributed to every one of you, and I wouldn’t change that for the world.

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 latest 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)

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6 Ways Friends are Like Wine

DSC04828I have had many friends over the course of my life, some loyal and true, others only after their own gain.  I’ve learned the hard way whom to trust and how to make friendships that last.  I’ve watched my three daughters go through ups and downs with friends as they progress through the various stages of life, each stage with its own set of criteria for relationships.  I’ve made mistakes in choosing friends and in properly being a friend, and I try to impart whatever wisdom I have gained on my children and their own circle of companions.

Over the past year, while doing research for my upcoming novel, Whispering Vines (Summer, 2016), I have had the great pleasure of learning about wine.  I have been a lover of wine since childhood when my grandfather, an amateur vintner, allowed me the first taste of each bottle he opened (ooops, sorry Mom!).  Even in my youth, I could tell a good wine from a bad one.  I’ve not always been that smart with friendships.  However, much like my taste in wine, my knowledge about friendship has matured.  Here is what I have learned.

1.  All good things are carefully cultivated.

A good wine is cultivated and harvested by hand.  There are many reasons for this.  It ensures that each grape is perfect, is at just the right stage of ripeness, and will not spoil the rest of the batch.  Have you noticed lately that wines are getting harder to drink?  Headaches come more frequently, and the alcohol goes to your head much faster.  No, it’s not age, it’s the wine content.  Wine has become such a huge industry that giant producers bottle more wine than they can sell.  In order to not lose money, they add sulfates and sulfites and even more alcohol.  This preserves the wine longer and causes you, the unsuspecting imbiber, to drink more wine.  After all, once the alcohol hits you, you crave more.  This is why I seek imported, lesser known vintages where the harvest and cultivation is done by hand and based on quality, not quantity.

Friends should be chosen the same way.  Quality is much more important than quantity.  Does the most popular person in the room truly have loyal and trustworthy confidants?  Have they been chosen wisely?  One bad friend can spoil the entire bunch.  Harvest your friendships and cultivate them.  Attend to them with care, striving for the best friends, not the most friends.

2. Time Matters

It has always been said that wine is better with age.  However, that is not really true.  The best wines are the freshest wines.  Leaving a bottle in your cellar to age doesn’t improve the wine.  It actually causes it to become heavy and bitter, soiled with deposits that lie at the bottom and then end up in your glass when you pour.  No, the aging of wine is part of the process.  Wines that are meant for aging are chosen by the vintner, not the consumer.  They are aged in barrels, not in bottles, and they are sold when the time is right for drinking.

Good friends are like good, aged wine.  They are kept in a special place, perhaps in your heart, held onto and cherished, and brought out when you need them most.  They are not neglected nor forgotten.  On the contrary, you always know they are there, and they know the same about you.  I am very blessed to have a friend who has been there for me since the 2nd grade.  We don’t see each other often, but when we do, we treat it as something special.  Our friendship has aged, and we know that when the time is right, we can pour out ourselves for each other.  Cheers to you, Cindy!

3. The perfect vintage doesn’t happen often

Everyone has heard someone remark about a certain wine, “That was a good year,” or “That was a good vintage.”  There are simply some years that are better than others.  This is due to a combination of reasons, mostly climate-related, that create the perfect harvest – grapes that have just the right amount of sugar, water, and plumpness.  Those are the years that truly matter when it comes to wine making.

There are times in our lives when we are blessed with better friendships.  College friends tend to be better than middle or high school friends.  Friends made during child-bearing years can last for the rest of your life.  I’ve found that friends made during spiritual highs can become the friends who will last a lifetime.  There are stages in our lives when we have the ability to meet just the right people.  When that happens, I call it divine intervention. The friendships I developed as a young wife and mother are the strongest ones I have.  I raise a glass to you, Anne and Debbie.  And the friendships I have made through my faith journey are the ones that ground me.  Those are the people I go to for prayer, guidance, support.  There are too many to name, my Bible study group and my fellow pilgrims among them.  God has brought you all into my life, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

4. Blends are Best

I am partial to Italian wines, particularly to Amarone, a blend of red grapes which make the wine dry and robust.  Three different varieties of grapes are used to make this award winning wine, and the prize is well deserved.  Those who produce this variety of wine know that it takes more than one kind of grape to make a good wine.

Thus it takes more than one kind of friend to make a good friendship.  Every person I count as a friend is different.  They are from various backgrounds, live in a myriad of cities around the country (even around the world).  They have their own interests and even contrasting lives.  Yet they all blend together to make me who I am.  Each has touched me in some way that has made me, I hope, a better person.

5. Taste changes with age.

In my younger years, I was partial to any wine that was sweet and fruity.  Strawberry and plum were favorites, perhaps a throwback to Granddad’s homemade varieties.  I loved any wine that was pink.  Over the years, my tastes leaned toward less fruity, dryer whites, a good German Riesling or an Italian Pino Grigio.  Today, I prefer Amarone or Chianti, rich and very dry reds.  As I have matured, so has my taste in wine.

The same can be said when it comes to making friends.  For most young people, the goal is to be friends with the “in” crowd.  As we age, we realize that we are much more discerning about whom we allow into our inner circle.  When young, we have many friends and almost no acquaintances.  They’re a friend, or they’re not.  I have found that middle school girls are pros when it comes to distinguishing between “friends” and “non-friends,” though their criteria for making these determinations is far from perfect.  As an adult, I have come to realize that I have many friends, but my reasons for seeking out certain individuals has changed greatly. Again, as I have matured, so has my ability to choose friends.

6. How it makes you feel is what counts.

So what’s the best way to choose a wine or decide what your preference is?  By taking a step back and seeing how that wine makes you feel.  Does the very bouquet make your head spin when you take that first sniff?  Do your toes curl as it slides down your throat?  Does it make your food taste better?  And how do you feel after a glass or two, or in the morning when you wake up?  Choose your wine based on what makes you feel good, what it adds to your life.

Do the same with your friends.  Choose wisely.  Do you happily anticipate seeing them, talking to them, spending time with them?  Do they make whatever you’re doing even better just by their presence?  Do you still feel the same about them the next day?  Do they add something good to your life, make you feel better about yourself, encourage you, support you, build you up?  Would you pair them with your family, your favorite movie, your husband?

And remember, a good friend should enhance your life just as a good glass of wine should enhance your meal.  Make good friends, but more importantly, be a good friend. Be the friend you want to have.  Your own kindness, compassion, loyalty, and attentiveness will come back to you.  And it’s never too late to start.  At Cana, the headwaiter remarked, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.”  Be the good wine for others.  Your life will be sweeter in the long run.

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 latest book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her next book, Whispering Vines, is due out in the summer of 2016.

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)

Amy Schisler, shares her secrets for writing a 5 star novel – April 30, 2016 01:00AM Wicomico Public Library, Wicomico, MD, US http://wicomicolibrary.evanced.info/signup/EventDetails.aspx?EventI… 

Carroll County Public Library Author Panel  – May 01, 2016 02:00AM  Westminster branch of the Carroll County Public Library, 50 East Main Street, Westminster, MD, US http://library.carr.org/about/westminster.asp# 

Fine Wine

 This afternoon, my husband, his sister, and I had the chance to visit a vineyard. What an amazing place with many, many years of operational history. Out of all of the steps taken to produce the number one wine in the country, the step that amazed me the most was the very first one. In order to ensure that every single grape is absolutely perfect, the vitner hand picks only the perfect grapes from the vine. All of the grapes are used in what he termed “every day wine,” but the award winning wine is made only from these hand picked grapes. What love and care must go into that process! Imagine spending the hottest days of the entire year, the first days of August, outside in the blazing sun, painstakingly choosing only the very best grapes – not too heavy with juice, perfectly colored, and without blemish. 

I wonder if there has ever been anything in my life that I have done with that amount of thought and care. Perhaps the slideshow I made for Rebecca’s graduation or the photo album I secretly made of my husband’s life story a few years ago, or going farther back, the cross-stitched poems I made for my mother and mother-in-law and presented to them the night before my wedding. There is no doubt that I did those things out of love and that they took hours, even months to complete, but I’m not sure that compares to standing in the hot sun all day and into the night to pick hundreds of only the most perfect fruit for someone else to enjoy. Yes, it’s his vineyard, his livelihood, but still, wouldn’t any bunch of grapes do?

Of course, the answer is no. And why? Because the vitner saw the production of the best wine as something so important, so magnificent, that he couldn’t bear to use anything but the most perfect grapes. He took such care and such pride in his work, his vineyard, and his wine that his enthusiasm radiated from him. I’d like to believe that it provided a new outlook on life for me, a new way to approach a task. I can’t help but to ask myself if any task done with that much love and care and attention could turn out to be anything other than a work of prize-winning perfection. Certainly there’s a lesson in there for us all. 

Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and 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. 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