Sunday, January 29, 2012

Welcome to my little corner of Italy!

After blogging for more than three years and discovering a wonderful community of diverse bloggers through Library of Clean Reads and NouveauWriter, I rethought the notion of maintaining a static author website ( with high hosting costs. Yes, it served to highlight my book and author events but wouldn't it be more gratifying to share and interact with my readers on a more personal level as an author?

I hope you join me as I explore my Italian roots on this blog. My novel Daughter of Mine was inspired by stories of my mother-in-law's native Naples and my visits to my ancestral home in Rome. It is set in Montreal where I currently live, in Rome and in Gaeta, Naples. I wrote the novel at a time when my kids were younger and I escaped (while they napped!) into my Italian world set on my emerging manuscript. I was transported to Italy without a hefty plane ticket.

Of course, Italy is not a hop and a skip away from North American, *sigh*, but I hope this blog can give you a little taste of Italy right from the comfort of your home.

Laura Fabiani

Rome, panoramic view (my mother's beloved city)

Pescara, Abruzzo (my father's beautiful mountains)

Gaeta, Naples (my maternal grandmother's birthplace)

These photos were taken during my trip to Italy in May 2006.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Breakout Novelist

The Breakout Novelist: Craft and Strategies for Career Fiction Writers by Donald Maass
Writer's Digest Books
ISBN: 978-1582979908
Published March 14, 2011
Spiral-bound Hardcover, 352 pages

There are many resources for writers on the market. Finding the book that is right for you, that inspires you and gets you moving to write that breakout novel and to improve your craft is not always easy to find. When I first read the introduction to this book, I felt that the author--experienced literary agent Donald Maass--was talking to me. I mean really talking to me. As an author I understood immediately what he was referring to, and I felt he understood exactly what I, as an author, needed to hear.

Out came my yellow highlighter, as I delved into page after page of things I needed to work on, things I already knew yet didn't know enough of. Everything I have read about novel writing, even taught in my workshops, Maass takes to a new level. I felt like I had a mentor, giving me meaty concepts to think about and apply as I typed away at my novel. Every time I picked up this book where I left off, it was like meeting with Maass at a café where I envisioned him sitting in front of me with piercing, intelligent eyes, pushing me to write not just any old story, but the breakout novel.

Sure, Maass deals with all the elements of a good novel—characterization, plot, setting, pace, ending, etc., but in ways that had me analyzing my manuscript constantly. The wheels in my head were turning so fast, I felt almost overwhelmed as I was drinking it all in. This is not a book to be read once. No way. Every page is good. And there are 343 pages of it. To illustrate the point being discussed, plenty of examples were drawn from books of various genres, some of which I had read and a lot of which I hadn't. And so I took notes.

This book was reflective for me as well as instructive. Today, with print-on-demand, almost anyone can publish a book. But as an author, you just don't want to publish a book for the sake of publishing a book. It's not enough. You want to publish a novel readers will care enough about, not only to read, but to talk about afterwards, a novel about something close to your heart, a novel you will slave after because it matters, a novel that is the breakout novel.

As a book reviewer, I read about 100 books a year, and I quickly understood what Maass was talking about as in my mind I could mentally pick out the books that really stood out to me as breakout novels, no matter what their genre or topic. That's the kind of book I want to write. If you're looking to write a great novel, a breakout novel, then this book is the one you need to read. Now. Highly recommended for any and all writers, experienced or not.

About the Author:

Donald Maass, author of The Breakout Novelist: Craft and Strategies for Career Fiction Writers, heads the Donald Maass Literary Agency in New York City, which represents more than 150 novelists and sells more than 100 novels every year to publishers in America and overseas. He is a past president of the Association of Authors Representatives, Inc., and is the author of several books.

For more information, please visit and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter

Check out this Writer's Digest Q&A With Donald Maass

Note: I first read and reviewed this book on April 7, 2011 at Library of Clean  Reads.

Disclosure: Thanks to Ruby Mansuri from FSB Associates for sending me this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Nightime Novelist

The Nighttime Novelist: Finish Your Novel in Your Spare Time by Joseph Bates
Writer's Digest Books
ISBN: 978-1582978468
Published September 2010
Hardcover, 272 pages

Many writers have full-time jobs, take care of a household and children, and usually write in their spare time—such as early in the morning or late at night. I have done both. When I had the chance to review The Nighttime Novelist, I was curious if it would be different from the slew of writing resource books I've read in the past two years since I've published my first book.

The first thing I noticed was the gorgeous layout. This book has a spiral-bound binder format and contains colourful pages, charts, and worksheets. It's divided into three parts, Beginnings, Middles, and Endings, with a Coffee Break section after each part (which I thought cute and practical) that helps you to check how you're doing thus far. It's a book that covers all the basics—developing ideas, character development, plot planning, narration, description and setting, pacing, building suspense, climax and good endings.

All the chapters focus on the “technique”, “hurdle”, and “going deeper” of each topic introduced. And it's all colour-coded. Some may find this distracting but I liked it. Most of the content was not new to me. However, I liked the author's voice and his explanations: simple, to the point, told with good and appropriate humour. Whether we are new or more experienced writers, reminders of the basics and their deeper points is never a bad idea. All writers have their strengths and weaknesses. But for some it may still be too basic.

Bates makes good use of questions to get the writer thinking. Whatever the topic, these questions had me thinking about my current novel in progress. This was good. I learned a few things I could work on. I particularly appreciated the chapter on Narration where the author explains well the various POV options and how to find one's voice. This is by far one of the most confusing things for new writers and I get asked about this constantly when I give workshops. Bates' experience as an editor shines through in this book, although he himself has not written a novel.

If you dream of writing a novel or are struggling with the one in process, know that you can do it even if your time is limited. Bates keeps with the theme of the nighttime novelist, who steals time to write, by offering a book that is easy and quick to read, to reference, and from which to learn.

Note: I first read and reviewed this book on January 13, 2011 on Library of Clean Reads.

Disclosure: Thanks to Leyane Jerejian from FSB Associates for sending me this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.

Be a Writing Superstar

Be a Writing Superstar by Joel A. Sutherland
Scholastic Canada
ISBN: 978-0545980005
Published Sept 1, 2010
Paperback, 112 pages
Ages 9-12

Okay, where was this book when I was a kid? I have always loved reading and writing (I published my first book Daughter of Mine in 2008) and this would have been the perfect book for me during my childhood when reading and writing were my solitary activities and I dreamed of someday writing a book. While my friends spoke of soap operas and games, I was reading books well beyond my reading level.

But the beauty of Sutherland’s book is that it appeals to both boys and girls and to both the secret writing kid and the one who would rather surf the Internet than pick up a book, let alone write. Sutherland has a great sense of humour and he knows kids. The book has short chapters interspersed with funny cartoons. It contains fun writing games (teachers could use the advice in this book for their reluctant reader/writer students) and how-to chapters on brainstorming, writing like a wizard, or a superhero or even an alien. How’s that to get kids imagining and writing? He even shows kids how to bind their book once it’s finished and how to host their own book launch, which I thought was fantastic!

And, of course, Sutherland’s love of books and reading comes across loud and clear. No surprise since he is a reference librarian and an author. There are convincing chapters that encourage kids to read a wide variety of genres with a suggested reading list at the end of each. He also includes the interviews of twenty-one Canadian authors such as Robert Munsch and Gordon Korman (my favorite as a kid) and calls them 5 Silly Questions With… They are hilarious and the authors’ answers give us insight into their own sense of humour. Sutherland even shows you how to interview your favorite author.

For the kid who loves to read and dreams of writing his own book, Be a Writing Superstar will be inspirational and may even help to kick start the beginning of a promising new career. For every other kid, it’s a fun book that will make them discover and hopefully explore the joys of reading and writing.

Note: I first read and reviewed this book on November 6, 2010 at Library of Clean Reads.

Disclosure: Thanks to Nicole Kritikos from Scholastic Canada for sending me this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

First Draft in 30 Days

First Draft in 30 Days: A Novel Writer's System for Building a Complete and Cohesive Manuscript by Karen S. Wiesner
F+W Publications, Inc
ISBN: 978-1582972961
Trade Paperback, 222 pages

I wish I had this book when I was writing my first novel. Although I was organized and had some sort of outline, the advice and worksheets of this book would have come in handy. A manuscript is a long document and unless you’re very well organized, keeping a tab of all your characters, settings and plot threads can get tedious. Have you ever flipped through your first draft just to confirm that the secondary character you introduced in chapter three still has that limp when he reappears in chapter six?

First Draft in 30 Days shows a writer how to create a flexible and customizable outline that is detailed and complete. The author states in her introduction that her book “teaches you how to become a systematic, self-disciplined, productive author—no matter your genre or level of experience.” Now that’s a heavy promise. Does she deliver? Yes.

When I began reading it, I was excited and inspired to write my second book. I could relate to almost everything she was saying and I was able to recognize what I needed to work on as a writer. You can follow the 30-day method meticulously or simply use it as a reference to improve your own style and technique. It is especially useful if you are writing mystery and suspense novels as you need to keep track of all your characters’ motives and alibis—the crime timeline, as Wiesner refers to it. I love the book’s layout. It’s easy to read and it includes dozens of worksheets to fill out as well as sample worksheets that dissect the character, setting or plot of best-selling novels. In addition, there are goal sheets to get your writing career going and a glossary and index.

If you’re seriously thinking of writing a novel, but are having trouble putting it all together or you’ve written a first draft but it needs revision and some major work regarding plot or character development, this book will definitely help you. I have used it as a basis for my How to Write a Book workshops. The practical tools this book provides will help identify your weaknesses and strengths as a writer. It is an excellent reference and useful workbook for writers who want to improve their craft.

Note: I first read and reviewed this book on August 26, 2010 on NouveauWriter.

Disclosure: I bought this book through Amazon. I was not told how to rate or review this product.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Calling All Authors

Calling All Authors: How to Publish with Your Eyes Wide Open by Valerie Connelly
Nightengale Media LLC Company
ISBN: 9781933449432
Published Aug 2007
Trade paperback, 296 pages

Are you planning to write a book? If you are, this book is just what you need as you embark on your new project. For those of you who don’t think writing a book is that big of a project, this book will certainly dispel some of the myths about writing, publishing and marketing a book, making me wish I had a copy of this book before I published my first novel.

Calling All Authors is a must-have reference jam-packed with information the writer needs to know before, during and after publishing a book—both for authors wishing to self-publish or go the traditional route. The book’s front cover statement claims: Revealing publishing myths, misconceptions and realties for published authors and writers who dream of becoming authors. This book delivers what it promises.

From the onset, I liked the author’s voice. She is a publisher sincerely interested in helping authors get off to the right start and succeed throughout their book-publishing journey. As an author, I know how important that is. All writers have questions regarding self-publishing versus traditional publishing, what these two options imply, about agents and publicists, editors and proofreaders, and the best way to market their book. If you heed Connelly’s advice—along with the advice of other publishers, authors, and experts in the fields of publicity, writing, editing, graphic design and the Internet included in this book— you will get the answers and be ahead of the game.

Each chapter ends with a summary in the form of worksheets that the reader can fill in, making this a practical, hands-on book—one that the reader can use as a guide. The chapters I paid keen attention to were Chapters 7 through 12, which focused extensively on publishing, selling, and marketing a book. Chapters 9 and 10 in particular are real eye-openers regarding the confusing world of publishing, clarifying what writers need to know to make a conscientious decision. Because I am writing my second novel, the information in Chapters 1-6 is just what I need at the moment. The book’s layout makes it easy to read except that the narrow tall font used for the subtitles contrasted with the rest of the text font, and I found this distracting.

So much information is available in this book that it may be overwhelming to the new writer. But like any 7-course meal, this book must be savoured over a period of time for a good digestion and full absorption of the delicious banquet any writer will appreciate.

I highly recommend this resourceful book to anyone planning to write a book. Because if you are, you need this book.

Note: I first read and reviewed this book on August 26, 2009 on Library of Clean Reads.

Disclosure: The author sent me this book for review. I was not told how to rate or review it.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Authors Access

Authors Access: 30 Success Secrets for Authors and Publishers by Irene Watson, Tyler R. Tichelaar, and Victor R. Volkman
Modern History Press
ISBN: 978-1932690989
Published: Nov 1, 2008
Trade Paperback, 232 pages

Did you ever wish you could sit in a café with an experienced writer, editor, publisher, or marketing guru and pick their brain? Wouldn’t it be great if you could sip your favourite brew as they revealed their success secrets to you? Well, in many ways, reading Authors Access: 30 Success Secrets for Authors and Publishers is just like that. It is composed of interviews, reports, and lessons learned from the writing industry’s most experienced veterans who took part in podcasts at

It’s a great book for writers to study as the advice and useful information can help them succeed before, during and after writing a book. Its large format makes it easy to read and to highlight text or post notes. It is divided into nine sections and readers can quickly scan through the table of contents and find the topic that interests them most and read it first. The chapters need not be read in chronological order but as a whole they give the reader a better understanding of the undertaking of book writing, publishing and marketing. In addition, included after each article is the original podcast URL as well as the author’s website(s) allowing for further research and, thus, access to more resources.

Although a more experienced writer may know some of the information, it can easily serve as good reminders. I learned many new things reading this book. As a published author and writer, I particularly enjoyed reading Chapter 8 – Marketing Your Work, Chapter 9 – Making the Most of Technology, Chapter 1 – The Craft of Writing, and Chapter 4- Editing Your Work. These chapters alone make the book very worthwhile. The chapter on book reviews is especially eye-opening, both for the author and the reviewer! If you are looking to self-publish, most of the advice in this book is for you. It can prevent you from making serious mistakes and teaches the basics of being a professional writer.

The only information I thought missing was that related to submitting to a traditional publisher, such as elements of a good book proposals, what agents look for in manuscripts, and how to write query letters. The back cover promises book proposals as one of the success secrets revealed, however, according to the index, book proposals is only mentioned twice and in passing. It’s not a topic discussed per se. So mentioning it as one of the book’s secrets can be misleading for the buyer.

Perhaps, because the authors had extensive experience in self-publishing, they chose to focus mainly on this as many writers today are choosing this avenue of publishing that is becoming more and more popular. And, because of the many podcasts on that were not covered in this book but that do contain such information for the traditional route, it wouldn’t surprise me if a second, anticipated book followed this one.

This book is an excellent reference tool that should be read more than once to fully absorb all the success secrets it reveals, and I’d like to thank the authors for sending it to me. I will be referring to it many times, as I place it next to my many indispensable writer resource books on my bookshelf.

Note: This book was first read and reviewed on July 31, 2009 on Library of Clean Reads.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Red Hot Internet Publicity

Red Hot Internet Publicity: An Insider's Guide to Marketing Your Book on the Internet (Revised edition) by Penny C. Sansevieri
Cosimo Books
ISBN: 978-1605207247
Published June 2009
Trade Paperback, 320 pages

Red Hot Internet Publicity is the kind of book you must read using a highlighter and post-it notes. Warning: You will spring into action less than five pages into the first chapter. And it won’t stop. Sansevieri’s book promotion advice is meant for you to get out there and do it. She expertly leads you by the hand and shows you the way.

Red Hot begins with a compelling introduction explaining exactly why the book marketing industry has shifted because of the Internet and why authors need to understand this explosive change. This grabbed me immediately because most people, including authors, still have the notion that author events and book signings are all one has to do to get one’s book noticed. This is no longer the case.

If you’re not Internet market savvy, you will be once you’ve studied this book. I say studied because this isn’t the kind of book one can read once and put away. It is a loaded resource book that packs a powerful punch. And best of all, it’s up-to-date because the latest copy is a newly revised edition. And because of the Internet’s ever-changing, expanding nature, this would be expected of a quality book about Internet publicity.

As an author with a Web site and two blogs, and active in the social networking world, I still learned an amazing amount of new stuff. As a matter of fact, I realized how much I didn’t know. Sansevieri covers a multitude of topics including: how to build a Web site (these chapters had me scrambling to my computer, making simple but effective changes that enhanced and improved my site considerably); keywords, search engines, online selling, and how to generate traffic to your Web site (more scrambling to the computer); everything you might possibly want to know about blogs, blogging, videos, and podcasting ( I wasn’t doing too bad in this area, but I learned great tips about working in blogosphere); social media, especially Twitter (if you haven’t embarked on this bandwagon, you’ll most likely do so after reading this section); virtual book events (I absolutely loved this part of the book!); virtual networking with articles, autoresponders, and email newsletters; ebooks, and so much more.

The chapters are short and to the point, and Sansevieri makes skilful use of bullet points, boxes and numbered points in articles, rendering the book easy to read and to search for specific topics. In addition, the book is sprinkled with sections that cover quick tips, Did You Know?, quotes, statistics, links, and tons of helpful tidbits. Speaking of links, I can’t wait to visit all the recommended sites, and there are many. Some information is repeated, but I certainly didn’t mind as topics overlap. The more one hears or reads of something the better it will be retained.

Bottom line: this book is worth every penny and more. If you’re an author who wants to get your book out there, don’t look any further. Read this book today and start selling your book.

Note: This book was first read and reviewed on October 17, 2009 on Library of Clean Reads.

Disclosure: This book was sent to me by Author Marketing Services in the form of a galley proof for reviewing. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.