Book Review: ‘The Violinist.com Interviews: Volume One’ by Laurie Niles

2I love the violin. I studied it in my later years and my daughter, now 16, has been playing it since she was five. I’m also a big fan of Violinist.com, an online musician community for lovers of this magnificent instrument. Founded by Laurie Niles in 1996, the site has over 200,000 readers a month, and regularly offers articles on the art of violin playing, as well as interviews with famous violinists.

Thus comes this book, which is a compilation of 27 exclusive, one-on-one interviews with violinists ranging from Joshua Bell to Sarah Chang, to Hilary Hahn to Anne-Sophie Mutter, to Ruggiero Ricci to Maxim Vengerov, which Niles conducted over the past six years.

In one word, this book is: fascinating. If you love listening to violin music, or are a violinist yourself, you’ll relish the inside information into the lives of these incredibly talented soloists and their ups and downs as they travel the world and make personal sacrifices in order to play live concerts, sometimes as many as a hundred or more a year.

After a thoughtful foreword by Grammy Award-winning violinist Hilary Hahn, Niles goes on to ask violinists the questions I would have liked to ask myself, from questions about technique and expression, to how a player shapes an instrument (and vise versa) to multi-million Stradivari, to bows that can cost up to half a million dollars, to what makes a world-class soloist, to the controversy of shoulder rests, to even what type of gown to wear depending on the composer, and then some. Questions from the peculiar and fun to the serious intricacies of the various techniques, building up stamina, and staying focused during a performance. Of course, there’s plenty of discussion about composers and their works, as well as celebrated violin teachers and their methods.

The Violinist.com Interviews: Volume One is a must for violin students and anyone interested in the world of violin music. Highly recommended!

The book is available in print and Kindle formats. Find out more on Amazon.

Visit the author’s Website.

Coming on May 15th: The Luthier’s Apprentice (YA dark fantasy)

When a psychopathic violinist starts kidnapping other violinists around the world, 16-year old Emma must hunt her down before her own beloved violin teacher is killed.

Soon from Twilight Times Books!

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Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840), one of the greatest violinists who ever lived and rumored to have made a pact with the devil, has somehow transferred unique powers to another…

When violinists around the world mysteriously vanish, 16-year-old Emma Braun takes notice.  But when her beloved violin teacher disappears… Emma takes charge. With Sherlock Holmes fanatic, not to mention gorgeous Corey Fletcher, Emma discovers a parallel world ruled by an ex-violinist turned evil sorceress who wants to rule the music world on her own terms.

But why are only men violinists captured and not women? What is the connection between Emma’s family, the sorceress, and the infamous Niccolò Paganini?

Emma must unravel the mystery in order to save her teacher from the fatal destiny that awaits him. And undo the curse that torments her family—before evil wins and she becomes the next luthier’s apprentice…

Writers Are Like Aliens

IMG_20131129_103335I had such a beautifully productive morning. I’m pretty much a hermit. I don’t write or edit in cafes often, but today I had an incredible urge to go to the British Tea Rooms that recently opened in Stone Manor, an English shop that I love and that has been around for ages.

So I packed my laptop in my bag and was on my way. The reason I love Stone Manor is because they have English products that cannot be found in local stores, but also because of its cozy ambience and the fact that it is pretty much in the countryside, surrounded by farms and beautiful fields. To go there, I have to drive through this endless, narrow cobblestone road flanked by trees. It’s a peaceful drive.

The owners of Stone Manor go out of their way to decorate the place for every holiday, be that St. Patrick’s, Halloween, or Christmas.

With Christmas approaching, the Tea Rooms were quite festive today. Best of all, it was toasty warm. I found a corner table and immediately took out my laptop and got ready to work. It was about 10:30 am. The place had just opened, so I was pretty much alone in there. I was planning on ordering Earl Grey–that’s what people drink in British Tea Rooms, right? But I saw on the menu “Pumpkin Spice Latte” and had to order it.

There’s something warm and fuzzy about drinking a Pumpkin Spice Latte while working on a YA mystery/fantasy in a Tea Room around the holidays, when you’re snuggled inside and the wind is howling outside. But then, I’m a romantic for stuff like that.

For the next hour or so, I worked on the edits of The Luthier’s Apprentice, soon forthcoming from Twilight Times Books. (By the way, I was planning on completing an interview for Dora Machado for her blog, Murder by 4, but when I got there, I couldn’t find the questions in my files!)

There’s no Internet in the Tea Rooms–thank God! So I had no distractions, no emails, no Facebook or any other stuff like that. In spite of the people that kept coming in and out, I was completely submerged in my novel, perfectly focused. I loved when that happens. It makes me feel “in the flow”–even if I’m editing and not writing. Hyper-focus like this anchors me intensely in the present moment, with no worries from the past or the present, nothing but me and my story, me and the words.

IMG_20131129_103715At midday, my brain signaled me that it needed fuel. I took a break and ordered a soup. To my surprise, the same hyper-focus continued while I ate. I was in the “now.” I savored each comforting spoonful of hot soup, relished each bite of warm bread, loving the way the different flavors teased my tongue. As I looked out the window and saw the trees rustling in the wind, the yellow leaves falling, I was filled with gratitude and something close to mild euphoria.

Then I worked intensely for another hour. Afterwards, I ordered a carrot cake–completely unnecessary! But I guess my Muse was demanding it, even if she was in editing mode. But, hey, I’m not one to argue with Muses. If she wants carrot cake, she’ll have carrot cake (good excuse, huh?)

As I got ready to leave and pay the bill, the waiter, a boy of around seventeen or eighteen, asked me if I was writing. I said yes, that I was working a book, and he ended up confessing that he had been writing a thriller for the past 2-3 years! I was so pleasantly surprised. A like soul! He said he was about half way. Of course, I encouraged him to keep writing and finish that book!

While driving back home, I couldn’t help thinking that writers are like aliens. It’s as if writers are a different species and are secretly living on earth among humans and, suddenly, when they encounter another alien, something clicks, something that makes them widen their eyes and smile and go “Ahh? really!” It’s that powerful feeling of connection, the silent and subconscious acknowledgement of like minds.

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Preparing for Nanowrimo

My supernatural thriller, DARK LULLABY, now on tour!This month has been productive and exciting so far, forcing me to step just outside of my comfort zone (the best place to be!).

I’m promoting my supernatural thriller, Dark Lullaby, with three virtual book tour companies; I’m almost finished putting together an anthology of Latina author interviews (Latina Authors and Their Muses, Twilight Times Books, Spring 2014); I’m working with various authors/clients, helping publicize their work; and I’m preparing myself mentally and emotionally for Nanowrimo, when I plan to complete my YA psychological thriller, Chills.

I’m not going to sign officially for Nanowrimo, but I’ll be benefitting from the “group energy” as I work on my own. I started working on Chills about 3-4 years ago, then put it aside to work on something else. I already have about 40K words written. So what I need to do is write another 30-40K words more.  My plan is to write 2K words a day until it’s done. This is an exciting, high goal for me, one that will push me out of my comfort zone for sure.

When I work on a novel, my usual output is 500-600 words a day. This is why I said earlier that I’m preparing myself mentally and emotionally. Also, to prevent getting stuck during the actual writing process, I’ll be brainstorming and outlining my plot during the last week of October.

One book I just finished reading that has been incredibly helpful is Writing in Overdrive: Write Faster, Write Freely, Write Brilliantly, by Jim Denney. I liked it so much that I bought copies to my three SCBWI local critique partners. The book is all about “the zone,” book-1-writing-in-overdrive-finalwhat it is, how to tap into it, how to sustain it. Denney’s advice is perceptive, insightful and best of all, doable. If you’re considering Nanowrimo and need to increase your regular daily word count and at the same time stay calm and confident, I urge you to grab a copy.

Once I complete the manuscript, I plan to put it aside for two weeks, then do one or two rounds of edits before I send it to professional freelance editor Deborah Halverson of www.DearEditor.com. Then, once I’ve revised based on her edits, Chills will be on its way to my agent.

It’s a long process, and I still have a lot of work to do, but I’m deeply passionate about this story and its characters. Although I have a basic idea of how the ending will turn out, I know from experience that there are always surprises along the way—and for me this is one of the most exciting aspects of writing fiction.

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