S. M. Nystoriak's Writer's Block

A place for writer's and readers to meet!

What A Wonderful Surprise!

This past weekend, I attended my very first writer’s conference. For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you realize just what a nervous wreck I was. It took a lot of convincing for me to sign up and register for the event, and it didn’t hurt that one of my Twitter friends told me he would be there as well.

I am here today to tell you all what a wonderful experience it was. I am from one of the most rural parts of New York State, and I find it very difficult to collaborate in-person with other writers. When the League of Vermont Writer’s posted about their Writer’s Meet Agent’s conference, I took a leap of faith and jumped in!

What a wonderful group of writers! I am told that this was a smaller conference for writer’s, and a really good one to get your feet wet with. But I will also add, that for a small conference it was incredibly well attended! It looked like more than one hundred participants took their seats next to me at the Hampton Inn, Burlington. It was delightful to listen to wonderful presentations and take part in pitch sessions. The organizers and presenters of the event were top notch, and everything was incredibly professionally run. Also the agents on hand were amazing.

I was able to meet and network with other writers from my general area, and it was great to finally meet some of my Twitter friends. I took so much wonderful information away from the conference, I was more wired than I had been in a long time to revise as well as begin a new work in progress.

I am so glad I attended the Writer’s Meet Agent’s conference, and am thrilled to have joined the League Of Vermont Writers. I look forward to many more opportunities with them in the future!

So long for now. I am off to #amwriting!


The Biggest Query Letter Mistake


This is great info. There is an art to querying, and a specific formula to follow.

Originally posted on Carly Watters, Literary Agent:

pencilsAre you making this critical query mistake? The biggest query mistake: writers submitting a synopsis instead of a pitch.

A synopsis is the play-by-play of your novel. A pitch is a to-the-point email or letter that focuses on the hook, the conflict, and why it matters for the protagonist–and why an agent should read your book!


Some of you reading might think, “So what? If an agent wants to represent me, won’t they want the synopsis?” The answer is no, not in the query letter.

A query letter is not a synopsis. A query letter’s job is to get an agent to want to read more. A synopsis is to share when the agent is already interested, perhaps already requested your chapters, and needs to know the plot outline.

If you pitch us a synopsis and not a query:

1. It ends up being too long. A query should only be…

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2 Ways To Handle Success as A Writer


This wonderful post from Kate Brauning reminds us that success as a writer comes in many forms. Celebrate every win!

Originally posted on The Bookshelf:

Book things are finally rolling for HOW WE FALL, my YA suspense that comes out in November. We’re done with developmental edits, copy edits, and final pass pages. ARCs are out. My author website is in development, I’ve had my author photos taken and should get them soon, and I’ve got postcards and book bag buttons on the way! It’s surreal, and stressful, and fun. I keep yo-yoing between thinking “this is awesome!” and “what if no one likes it? Oh no November that’s less than 5 months away everyone will read this book I wrote what am I going to do?”

My CPs keep reminding me to enjoy it. To not let the stress settle too deeply, to keep my focus on productive things. And there’s a bit of publishing advice that goes like this: when an awesome moment happens, enjoy it, because this is as good as it…

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Goal Reached! …And New Journey Just Begun!

So happy for Kimberly!  Participating in #nestpitch as a Slush Bilbie has been so gratifying.  Read on:  Goal Reached! …And New Journey Just Begun!.

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Musings…from an Aussie Renaissance Woman


Nik Author Photo

      Today on my Writer’s Block, I am interviewing Nikola Vukoja.  I first encountered Nik on Querytracker, when the two of us were attempting to navigate the world of querying agents, trying to make sense of the process.  Since then, we have beta’d for each other on various projects, as well as become good friends.  Nik is a real go-getter, with many varied life experiences which have shaped her life path.  I know you’ll find her story interesting.


     Nik has a book out, entitled Musings – Thoughts & Reflections on Life, Love & Surviving Heartache .  She has been kind enough to allow me to reveal one of the poems and the corresponding artwork from her book (This poem is not to be copied or recreated, either as a whole or any part of, without the permission of the author):

Fruit of Life  Gouche

My Tree, My Forest, My Fears


I stand at your gate, fear is what I feel.

I stand a moment in time, memories are what I fear.

I stand within an arms length of freedom & capture.

I stand on the edge of safety or love.


You: a tall tree.

Me: a small bird.

Each: alive.

Neither: living.


Within the darkened forest, you tunnel my light.

Within humming woods, your heart beats my march.

Within each stride, hope and devastation mix.

Within devastation comes rebirth.


You: my tree.

Me: your voice.

Each: living alone.

Neither: desiring loneliness.


Among the forest of trees you stand unique.

Among the uniqueness we will thrive.

Among us will solid ground sway to our will.

Among the clouds is where we will live.


You: my shelter.

Me: the moss to keep you warm.

Each: working together as one.

Neither: complete without the other.


I walk through the gate.

I walk into the sunlight as fear frees its grip.

I walk to where frost cannot touch me.

I walk toward our future.


You: reaching for the stars.

Me: your one true star.

Each: at last free.

Neither: alone evermore.


Secure in our entwined futures.

Secure in what we share.

Secure in the past on the other side of the gate.

Secure in an endless spring of daffodils and violets.

I Hope you all enjoy what the book has to offer.  Without further ado, I’ll commence with the interview.Nik Chapbook Cover 3


SUSAN:  Hello, Nik, and welcome!  I have known you for quite a while, and love how you are sort of a Renaissance Woman; artist, poet, novelist, statistician, and animal advocate! Tell us about that.

NIK:  Oh my goodness… a Renaissance Woman; wow, can I put that on my CV lol. I don’t know how it all came about; I guess it’s my parents fault, and my grandparents and so on….duplicity runs in the family. Granddad was a Forest Ranger, a Statistician during WWII and a Singer/Musician.

Mum won a Visual Arts University Scholarship & proceeded to major in chemistry and Dad, well he’s a math’s genius, a retired Industrial Engineer and a painter and poet. So I grew up in an environment where everything was open for discussion and consideration. But I also grew up appreciating other beings, human and animal. We always had animals, both pets and for food. I was initiated into animal husbandry the way other people might be initiated into a sport… it was always there. And as a result, I learned the value of life and my duty to all life.

SUSAN:  Your chapbook embodies the Renaissance Woman idea.  It features your writings and personal artwork, with the proceeds going to help a charity.  When I was reading it, I couldn’t help but notice that the artwork and writings seemed to go hand in hand.  Have you always wanted to create a book combining those two disciplines, or did evolve slowly?

NIK:  It’s funny you should ask that, the answer is YES. In fact, I’d won a government grant some years back based on this idea. I submitted combining visual art, the written word and music (my ex was a musician) as an interactive and symbiotic relationship between all medium and genre. Unfortunately my Ex & I broke not long after I’d been awarded the grant and I had to withdraw, however, the idea remained.

SUSAN:  Musings – Thoughts & Reflections on Life, Love & Surviving Heartache is your first book, and is available on Smashwords (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/448444) and Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Musings-Thoughts-Reflections-Surviving-Heartache/dp/1499263376/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1403731525&sr=8-1&keywords=nikola+Vukoja).  Proceeds from the sale of your book will go to a specific charity, which is amazing. How did you decide on AnimalsAsia?

NIK:  I watched a program on Bear Bile Framing several years ago and it had a lasting impact on me. I could not comprehend why, in this day and age and with all our technology, there was a need and a place for such vile and hideous practices. Now, let it be clearly understood, I support all cultural pursuits, especially those that are dying out, for instance, the Inuit’s right to hunt seals/whales etc. However, in a day and age when we can synthesize DNA, why can not a synthetic Bear Bile be sufficient?

I made contact with the AnimalsAsia Team in Western Australia and pitched the idea to them. Lucky for me they were 100% supportive.

As to why AnimalsAsia? I know the money goes to helping the bears. Just last month (May-2014) the organisation had raised enough funds to buy a Bear bile Farm and convert it into a sanctuary.

SUSAN:  I’m excited to see where this book takes you.  What other creative projects are you currently working on?

NIK:  OK, I’m one of those people tat has at least forty things happening at once. I will be having one of my short stories publishing (2015) in a short story anthology by Fey Publishing. The profits from that anthology will go to a charity in California that looks after stray, abandoned and mistreated animals.

I’m finishing off the last bit of a New Adult Women’s Fiction novel.

I’m working on a really interesting re-tell/dark fantasy novel.

I just came up with an idea for another novel.

I’ve also just started a new BA – Professional Writing & Publishing, as well as doing quite a bit of BETA reading at the moment… and several other things I can’t mention yet, in case they don’t happen!

SUSAN:  Is there anything more that you would like my readers to know about you or your work?

NIK:  I’m a very private person. In fact, you had to ask me for a photo of myself (as you know). I don’t like people knowing much about me; except through my art. I hide nothing when it comes to my art. Whether I’m painting or I’m writing, every word is part of me, even the fantastical or the evil or the supernatural… it’s part of me, and it’s real.

I would also like to remind people of the saying that “no man is an island” – those words are never more true than if you chose to pursue a artistic career… without my wonderful friends within the writing community, people like Susan, I’d be nothing and nowhere.

SUSAN:  Thanks so much, Nik!  I look forward to your updates and blog posts.

Again, a link to purchase Musings can be found here:  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/448444 and here:  http://www.amazon.com/Musings-Thoughts-Reflections-Surviving-Heartache/dp/1499263376/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1403731525&sr=8-1&keywords=nikola+vukoja

As a special bonus, Nik is offering a 30% off discount code for purchases between June 21 and July 21, 2014. The Smashwords code is:  RL33S, and the 30% discount code for Amazon is 3SBRCWC6.

For any of you who are looking to contact Nik, she can be found here:

@Nik_Vukoja (Twitter)

Nikvukoja.wordpress.com (Blog)

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8330140.Nikola_Vukoja (Goodreads)





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The Nobody Show synopsis…


This is one of my favorite indie writers!

Originally posted on Jonathan Dunne's Books:

The Nobody Show is an accident waiting to happen…

Old Castle (population 666 … 665 … 664) is a town ravaged by unemployment. The magic is gone and the economy is in the gutter but newest dole statistic, Arthur Lawless, has a dream…

Despite reality, Arthur wants to chase down his childhood dream and build his own circus. He makes it his mission to put on the Greatest Show on Earth – Old Castle’s slice of Earth, at least.

Arthur soon finds out that there’s a lot more to running a circus than just having a popcorn machine, like performers and acts.

But sometimes the best acts in the world are in your own back-yard…

Arthur discovers this when a car-crash ceremoniously brings together his future performers – a bunch of nobodies who want to be somebodies.

But doesn’t Arthur Lawless know that show-biz is just one big lie?


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Stats & Trends — NestPitch 2014

Originally posted on nestpitch:

tumblr_mzd9dpX6nH1shf8zxo1_500 Hello All,

As we round up to the end of the month, it’s time to share some stats with you all. (everyone loves stats as much as me right?It’s OK, I’ve done all the work for you.

**Note:I will be sending out Scorecards to the 10-reserves & posting the results of those scorecards in two days. I decided to split the scorecards and stats when I realised how much space the stats would need.

So down to the Fun Facts & Figures.

We had around 220 submissions, of which almost 200 were accepted. (Several did not meet the guidelines, remember people Submission 101- follow the guidelines). The final submissions were made up of:

24 % = Picture Books / 11 % = MG  /  33% = YA  /  8 % = NA  /  24% = Adult30. Tawny-bellied hermit

Of those submitted the following % were selected by the…

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Nest Pitch agent round is now on!

 Drafy Nest Pich Logo last stage

The Slush Bilbies have sorted through the entries to help the Nest Bloggers whittle down the entries. Now the top seventy-two entries have made it through and are waiting for agents to hop on by to make requests.


Please remember that until the agents have finished making their selections, comments are for agents only. If you want to cheer on your favourite prior to then, you can do it in the comments of this post, or on Twitter using the #NestPitch hashtag.


Between now and 8am April 19th USA EST


To find out more about the Nest Pitch Easter Pitch Hunt go here: http://nestpitch.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/easter-pitch-hunt-welcome-to-nestpitch/

For the Rules and Conditions, go here: http://nestpitch.wordpress.com/2014/01/19/nestpitch-update-rules-conditions-whats-a-bilby-anyway/

You can find the full schedule here: http://nestpitch.wordpress.com/2014/03/29/have-you-been-paying-attention/

You can find a list of the participating agents here: http://nestpitch.wordpress.com/2014/03/15/agent-reveal/



Below are the blogger’s sites:


Brooke Powell  www.thecakenovelist.blogspot.com 

Kimberly P. Chase  http://kimberlypchase.blogspot.com.au/ 

Jeffe Kennedy  http://www.jeffekennedy.com/category/blog/

Tina Moss  http://www.tinamoss.com/  

Amanda Foody  www.amandafoody.blogspot.com 

Dannie Morin http://dcmorin.blogspot.com.au/ 

Sharon M Johnston   http://downunderwonderings.blogspot.com.au/ 

Sharon Bayliss  http://sharonbayliss.blogspot.com.au/ 

Stacey Nash  http://www.staceynash.com/


Good luck to everyone who has made it to here. May your nest be filled with lots of chocolaty request.






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Living Dead Lovers: A Postman, A Gypsy, and Clairvoyant Cabbage

It is really an exciting thing for me to have a return guest to my blog! Today on my Writer’s Block, we will be chatting with Author Jonathan Dunne. A year or so ago, I had him on my blog and we discussed his first novel, Balloon Animals, the interview for which can be found here:  http://wp.me/p35Mk4-3c.   Today he is back, talking about Living Dead Lovers, his second book.

LDL photoLDL_book cover


Susan: It is a privilege to have you here again. Living Dead Lovers is available now, and I have just read it. I love the cover! Who designs them? Do you design them yourself?


Jonathan Dunne:  It’s probably a collaboration between my wife Ruth and I. We decide what we want and the cover artist comes up with something similar to what we’re looking for. Ruth came up with the idea of having the caravan in the fortune teller’s ball.


Susan: I love the titles of your books! As a writer myself, one of the most difficult parts for me is coming up with titles.   Did you know right away what the title for Living Dead Lovers would be? Or did evolve over time?


Jonathan Dunne:  Normally, the title comes to me within the first few pages. I need a title to hang the story on. In this case, with my second book, I didn’t want to have a hyphen between ‘Living’ and ‘Dead’ because that suggests debasing them to zombies and who needs another zombie story, right? … I wanted to have a little more respect for my characters and decided that one character is very much alive and one is very much dead and there will never be a middle-ground (okay, that’s debatable at the finale of Living Dead Lovers novel)


Susan: One of the things I admire about you as a writer is your character development. Your writing manages to capture every quirky essence which becomes the character’s identity. When meeting people in real life, is that what you see?


Jonathan Dunne:  I can’t help it! Yes, it’s what I see. I’m an observer and mannerisms is something I find peculiar and characters can be defined by mannerisms and tics. Such a little thing but gives us insight into the character rather than how they react in a situation.


Susan: In our last interview together, you described yourself as an outsider. You do not identify yourself as being Irish or Spanish. Does that still ring true? If so, I can’t help but see parallels to both of your books.


Jonathan Dunne:  Yes, I’m in Limbo! I never thought about those parallels with my books but now that you mention it… in Living Dead Lovers, the main character is in a Limbo of her own and so is her guardian, Mr. Brick. As matter of fact, every character is in their own private Limbo! Susan, what have you started here? Cabbage’s romantic father Willy is stuck in a Limbo both metaphorically and literally and Cabbage’s mother is in a literal limbo. Keyword: Limbo.

It can also be said for a few major characters in Balloon Animals also… like Jonny Rowe’s grandfather who lives on in a balloon, yes, that could be seen as Limbo. You’re correct, Susan. I suppose every book has the author in them on a subconscious level – curious.


Susan: Both of your books, Balloon Animals and Living Dead Lovers, feature main characters on the road during much of the story. Growing up, was there a lot of travel in your own life?


Jonathan Dunne:  No, but I did travel around a bit after leaving school, just me and my backpack … Europe… India. I love India. I think I live through my characters and get to do what I’ve always wanted to do. One part of me wants to take to the roads in a caravan or go to the USA with a balloon. My new book, The Nobody Show, will turn all that on its head though, and makes a point of it too. I won’t say too much for now… I’m tempted and have just thought about writing just a line but it’d give too much away so I’ll say nothing. I also have another book planned (very loosely) after The Nobody Show and that won’t be a road-trip either. The very opposite, as matter of fact: it will be based in a hotel. But the thing is that a hotel is a little microcosm of its own, and in a way, that too is travelling. This is getting too deep for me… I’m dizzy. Next question.


Susan: Another similarity: both stories feature the dead. Is that a coincidence or is the notion of death/the afterlife something that you have often wondered about?


Jonathan Dunne:  I tend to worry about death, yes. More so to the fact that I can do nothing about it. I’ve been trying some experiments lately to see if I can find the trick to eternal life but the experiment ends in an explosion every time. I cannot comprehend how, one day, I will cease to exist, just as before I was born. But I suppose it won’t be too bad because I wont have the option to think too long about it when I’m dead – that would be depressing. Who needs to be depressed AND dead? Yes, the dead and death do interest me and am known to go for an occasional walk in the old cemetery here in Toledo, Spain.


Susan: Well put.  When I read Balloon Animals, a family member was in the ICU and your book provided me with a much needed laughter. I recently downloaded Living Dead Lovers during a very busy and stressful time, and once again, your writing delivered! I want to thank you for that! I get the feeling that your personal life must be filled with laughter! Is that a fair theory?


Jonathan Dunne:  I think I have as many laughs as anybody else. I’m not a person who goes around laughing all day. Actually, it’s hard enough to get a laugh out of me but some situations just crack me up. I tend to be serious (so my wife says) when in company. I keep telling her that it’s just my face that’s serious but I’m actually rolling around inside. I don’t feel the need to laugh a lot of the time, unlike Cabbage’s father who retires to his bedroom in the caravan for half an hour each day to purposefully laugh his head off because it’s his way of getting back at the world. I live when I’m writing and there are no limits to the world while I’m writing and I’ve decided that, if my books are going to have an element of humour, then make it as good as possible because I feel that if my books are going to gain momentum, it will be for the comedy and the odd situations plus the characters. While I’m writing these people and situations are very real and the characters must act accordingly. This is why, I think, many reviews say the same thing: such an unbelievable story but somehow logical. If you take your characters seriously, the reader will take them seriously.


Susan: I found that in Living Dead Lovers, my emotions ran the gamut. I laughed hysterically at the crazy images your writing conjured during those opening few chapters as you introduce the reader to Nicolasia and Willy. And as Cabbage speaks to us from the womb, then as a girl growing up, I felt such compassion for her loneliness. Brilliant. Can you tell us how you see those three characters?


Jonathan Dunne:  I see them as the reader sees them.


Susan: Another aspect of your writing that I adore is how you take unbelievable irony and make your characters go through it, and come out the other side, somehow. One such scene that comes to mind is the birth of Cabbage. Without getting too graphic, how on earth did that scene come to you?


Jonathan Dunne:  That’s a good question. I don’t know, what image lead to another, I suppose. The thoughts of Cabbage’s mother running around a cabbage patch under a full moon was beautiful and wild. Then you’ve heard the expression, maybe, ‘Cabbage-Head’. It was kind of born from that, no pun intended. Susan, I don’t know how to answer the question. The image just came to me and I thought it would be the best place for Cabbage to be born. My writing is organic, as organic as the cabbages that grow in the cabbage patch, and to capture something of the magic is impossible.


Susan: A general comment: Your characters have great names.  Great job with that!  Now, next question:  I am almost afraid to ask this, but what would Willy, being a romantic, have on his iPod?


Jonathan Dunne:  I think Will would probably listen to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata over and over again because of its haunting, romantic quality.


Susan: Do you have a favorite character in Living Dead Lovers? If so, who?


Jonathan Dunne:  Can you pick a favourite from your own kids? I can’t.


Susan: Great point! Tell us: What writing projects are you currently working on?


Jonathan Dunne:  Yipee! I get a chance to introduce my new book (it’s not really a book yet) . The Nobody Show is about a bunch of nobodies who want to be somebodies but sometimes we have to settle for just anybodies.  Did you get that? Good. All I can say is that, if you like what I’m doing, then stay tuned… It should be out at the end of Summer (I said that the last time).


Susan: I want to thank you for taking the time to do another interview with me. My Amazon review of Living Dead Lovers is here:  http://www.amazon.com/review/R10F3FSXFTU5LM/ref=cm_cr_pr_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B00H881V14.  I look forward to your next effort with great anticipation.

Jonathan Dunne:  Thank you, Susan.


Jonathan can be found in the following locations:










Jonathan’s Amazon Page:

http://www.amazon.com/Jonathan-Dunne/… Jonathan’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jonath…



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