What Next?

As I’ve mentioned in my last few posts, I recently finished up a work-in-progress. It’s one that took me about a year to draft, and honestly, I loved every minute of it, even the moments where I felt certain I would be writing it FOREVER. I love it so much that I probably could work on it forever and be happy. It’s a book of my heart in many ways and also (I think) the best thing I have written so far.

So now that I am finished working on it for the time being, that begs the question: what next? As I mentioned in my update post earlier this week, I always make myself take time off between projects to rest and relax and recharge; I know that I need this time, but it isn’t long before I start to get antsy and want to start writing something again. I love writing and I love having a project to work on, so sometimes I have to make myself take a break or extend that break. (Of course, when I’m in the thick of working on a project, I look fervently forward to that time when it’s done and I can chill and come home from work and do nothing but read if I want. There’s just no pleasing me, I guess.)

So now, as I’m relaxing and recharging, I’m also trying to think of an idea for my next book. There’s no rush; I know this (again, aside from my aforementioned antsiness). And I certainly have no shortage of ideas; it’s just that nothing has so far reached out and grabbed me by the throat and said WRITE ME NOW (which is absolutely what happened with the book I just finished). I love that feeling, and that’s what carries me through the long and sometimes tough drafting process.

Better and more experienced writers than me have said it, but it bears repeating: no matter how many books you write, it never gets easier. That next book never feels like a given. If the thing I just finished is the best thing I’ve written so far, where do I go from there? How can I top that? How can I fall that in love with another idea again?

The comforting part in all this is that I’ve been here before. I had the exact same thoughts after I sold The Violinist of Venice, another book of my heart. I was feeling lost and casting around for an idea a little over a year ago, when finally that last idea hit me like a lightning bolt. So I know that these doubts come and go. I know by now that this is all part of the process. It doesn’t always serve to assuage the fears in the moment, but it gives perspective. If I’ve overcome this feeling before, then I can again. And if I ever don’t feel uncertain or scared, then that probably means that I’ve stopped caring. And I hope and believe that that will never happen.

On Making, Not Finding, the Time to Write

I’ve done quite a few author events now in the 10 months since The Violinist of Venice was published, and one question I almost always get is, “Do you have a day job?” When I answer that yes, I do (as most authors do), the question that inevitably follows is “How do you find the time to write?”

This is a fair enough question, as anyone with a full-time job and friends and family obligations can certainly attest to the fact that time always seems to be in short supply. But my answer is that I don’t find the time, I make the time. The distinction between the two, for me, is in the conscious effort behind making time. If I just waited around until I had a large, unspoken-for block of time on my hands, I would never have written anything, let alone the four total book-length manuscripts I’ve produced since I was in college. No one – or at least, not many people – in this hectic day and age ever really have blank blocks of time on their hands, waiting to be filled. Something will always come along to fill that time, be it putting in extra hours at the office or family or friends or Netflix. The list goes on.

So in order to ensure that I have enough time for my writing, I carve out that time and firmly protect it when necessary. I don’t have a set writing schedule that I follow religiously from week to week, just because my life really isn’t conducive to that at this point: sometimes my hours at my job change slightly, sometimes I have other obligations, sometimes I have plans with friends. So I take the time whenever I possibly can, which for me of late looks something like this:

-On week nights when I have a free evening, I try to write at least 1000 words. I’ll often designate at least one night in a week for this and not allow myself to make other plans.

-On weekend days I try to write at least 2000 words.

-I’ll often write on my lunch breaks at work. I only get a half hour break, so on the surface it almost seems like not enough time to bother. But boy, do those half-hour sessions start to add up. I’ve gotten to a point where I can actually write 1000 words in a half an hour sometimes, when I just completely focus in and tune out everything else and don’t let myself stop writing.

-When I’m NOT writing – and this is key – I’ll try to brainstorm new scenes or plot points, or just let my mind wander around with my characters and within the world of the story I’m working on. I also always create playlists for my works-in-progress, which I’ll often listen to while at work (when I can’t be writing) in order to keep my head in the game and possibly give me some new inspiration. I’m a pantser – I don’t do written outlines – so this is the most planning ahead I do with my work. And I’ve found that giving at least some thought to what scene will come next or to a plot or character problem before I sit down to write helps me avoid that blinking cursor of doom on the blank screen.

-Something I did recently when I finished up the first draft of my most recent work in progress is that I went on a solo writing retreat. I took a couple days off from work and booked a hotel room with a balcony and a nice view for a long weekend, and I holed up with some snacks and wine and just wrote for a few days straight. I will absolutely be doing that again in the future, because it was SO helpful to take that time and get away from my usual space and its distractions. It was honestly one of the best weekends of my life. Certainly not everyone will have the time or the means to do something like this, but if you do I highly, highly recommend it.

-I have a group of writing buddies that I meet up with most Wednesday nights, and we all write together. This is helpful because we keep each other accountable to show up and get the work done. And while writing is a solitary activity, sometimes it’s fun to have company!

You’ll notice that in the points above I used the word “try” quite a bit. And that’s because that’s what it is, an attempt: I try to stick to these patterns as much as possible, but it doesn’t always work out. Things come up. I have plans with family or friends, or I’ll come home from work and feel exhausted and just in need of a night on the couch. And that is all okay. If you are a serious writer – or artist of any kind – there will be lots of times when you will need to put your work first, and stay in on a Friday night or pass up happy hour with your coworkers. Believe me, that will need to happen a lot. But there will also be times when you won’t want to write that day, or can’t, or need a break, and that’s fine too. Don’t feel guilty when life intervenes. I used to, but I realized that it’s just as crucial to my process that I take a day off here and there.

You’ll need to make a lot of time to write, but do it in whatever way works best for you. Carve it out of your schedule wherever it fits, in fifteen minute increments here and there or chunks of a few hours (though believe me, I know those can be hard to come by). But make that conscious effort to carve out that time, because it isn’t going to happen on its own. It isn’t going to come to you. Soon making that time, even if you don’t write at the same time on the same days every week, will become second nature. You’ll start grabbing whatever moments you can to get some writing in, and that’s when you really get into a groove.

It really irritates me when people say “I’ve always wanted to write a book, but I’ve never had the time”, and I know my fellow writers will relate to that. It’s a frustrating thing to hear, for me, for two reasons: the first being the simple fact that I don’t have any more hours in the day than anyone else. As I’ve outlined above, I don’t have time sitting around unaccounted for any more than anyone else: I make that time, and that takes effort and dedication. The second reason it bothers me is that it implies that spare time is all one needs to write a book, and that is not true either. Anyone who’s written a book has spent years reading everything they can get their hands on, especially in their genre, and tinkering with sentences and characters and plotlines and story arcs and doing research and accepting criticism and trying and failing over and over again to render their story on the page in a way that is just right. Having time to write is crucial, yes, but there are a lot of other ingredients as well.

What I’ve found, though, is that the people who really love writing, who live and breathe words and beautiful sentences and imagery and metaphors, will always find a way to do all of this. They are already making the time whenever they can, because they love to write. They are already disciplining themselves and dedicating themselves to the craft and trying to learn more, trying to grow and get better. They couldn’t stop if they tried.

Sometimes I don’t even know how and when my books get written, when I think about all that I have going on in my life. But they do. They do because at the end of the day, through all the ups and downs, writing is my favorite thing to do in the world, and I will always, always make time for it.

General Updates

Hi everyone! I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted, but there’s been a reason for that: I’ve been working, in the last months, on finishing up a draft of my most recent work-in-progress, and then doing some revisions to it. So all my spare time went to that. But I’ve recently finished up work on that and am (trying) to take a bit of a writing break – though that is always easier said than done for me! I know how important it is for me to rest and recharge for a few weeks between projects, but at the same time I always get antsy when I am not writing or revising something.

Some updates on The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence: I sent back pass pages for this one over a month ago, so it is officially done and wrapped up! Also, I have ARCs! Follow me on Twitter (if you don’t already) @AlyssInWnderlnd, as I’ll be doing some ARC giveaways coming up. Also, be sure to add the book on Goodreads if you haven’t already, as there will be Goodreads giveaways for some copies as well, and as many of you likely know, if the book is on your to-read shelf you’ll be notified when a giveaway goes live.

In addition, I can confirm that The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence is also being published in Australia, again by PanMacmillan Australia. I don’t have an Australian release date to share yet, but as soon as I do I will post it, so stay tuned!

I’ve done a few events and presentations in the Buffalo area in the last few months, both book club events where I got to discuss The Violinist of Venice with readers, and also some presentations where I put together a slide show on the historical context behind the novel. I love sharing the rich and fascinating history of 18th century Venice and of Baroque music, and I also love meeting readers and talking about the book with them, answering their questions and getting their impressions of the novel. Sometimes a reader’s take on a certain aspect of the novel is something I never thought of before, and it allows me to see my own work in a new light. I always love when that happens!

At the moment, as I am on my self-imposed writing break, I’ve been doing a lot of reading now that I have a bit more time. Since it’s October I am deep into my Halloween reading, working through a list of dark and creepy reads. Currently I’m in the middle of three books, and I love all of them so far: Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco, Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin Dickey, and Within These Walls by Ania Ahlborn.

That’s all the updates I have for now, but check back for new news as I have it, and also some more writing and book related blog posts in the future!

My Top 10 Books of the First Half of 2016

I can’t believe we’re already into the second half of 2016! Once again, this is a year in books that will call for two “best of” posts.

Below is my list of the top 10 books I’ve read so far in 2016 that were published in 2016, in rank order:


10. The Dutch Girl by Donna Thorland

This novel, set during the American Revolution, really hit the spot after having listen to Hamilton approximately six million times. Additionally, it is set in the Hudson River Valley, and so I read most of the book while on a trip there. I love when I can synchronize my reading and travelling so perfectly!

9. The Rose & the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

The conclusion to the saga that Ahdieh began with The Wrath & the Dawn is just as epic, gorgeous, and cinematic as the first book. Someone make movies out of these books, stat!

8. The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye

This historical fantasy novel about a duel between two rival enchanters in Imperial Russia hits all of my sweet spots: vivid period detail, romance, lush descriptions, well-rounded characters, and romance. Can’t wait for the second book, which will be out next year.

7. Mrs. Houdini by Victoria Kelly

This historical novel from the point of view of Harry Houdini’s wife Bess is wonderfully researched and brings the period – and the life of one its most notable figures – to brilliant life. The novel also provides a space to meditate on the meaning of magic, and on the fine line between illusion and reality.

6. A Fine Imitation by Amber Brock

This novel about art, artists, and art forgery among the elite and wealthy of 1920s New York City is an absolutely delicious read that you will just sink into. I read this via audiobook, which I highly recommend, as the narrator is just fabulous.

5. I’ll See You in Paris by Michelle Gable

I was a big fan of Gable’s first novel, A Paris Apartment, and so was very much looking forward to this book. I was not disappointed! A big, sprawling novel with storylines in different time periods, long-buried secrets, and one very outrageous duchess make for a read you won’t be able to put down.

4. Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

Any fan of the smash hit musical Hamilton will surely love reading the “Hamiltome”, and I was no exception. I tore through the massive book, loving the wonderful and epic story of how the musical was conceived, written, and developed before finally making its way to Broadway. Miranda’s annotations on the lyrics to each song in the show are by turns enlightening, fascinating, and humorous. The gorgeous pictures from the show and backstage are an absolute treat as well.

3. Down With the Shine by Kate Karyus Quinn

This dark yet also funny YA novel is a rollercoaster ride that will have you frantically turning pages until you reach the end. Teenage Lennie’s uncles make moonshine, and before drinking they always make a wish and toast with the words, “May all your wishes come true – or at least just this one”. When Lennie steals some of their shine to take to a high school party, she has no idea that the toast actually does grant wishes. As you can probably imagine, chaos reigns as everyone’s drunken wishes come true. The ultimate tale of “be careful what you wish for”, this book is an original and well-crafted page turner that should not be missed.

2. And After the Fire by Lauren Belfer

This novel, about a woman who discovers a previously unknown Bach cantata with strong anti-Semitic content, is a powerful meditation on the role of music and art in our lives and on the far-reaching repercussions and legacy of prejudice and hate. With two storylines – one set in the present and one tracing the cantata as it moves through various hands over history – this novel poses difficult questions while at the same time still being a riveting read that will keep you turning the pages. This book has made it onto my all-time favorites list.

1. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

The second installment in Maas’s fae series, the novel expands on the worldbuilding of the first book in excellent fashion and presents new challenges for heroine Feyre. This book took many turns I did not expect, and I absolutely could not put it down. The new cast of characters is just wonderful and makes the pages fly by, while Game of Thrones level action keeps your eyes glued to the page. I read this book over a month ago now, and I still have a lingering book hangover from it.


Honorable mentions:

Map of Fates by Maggie Hall

A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry

Three-Martini Lunch by Suzanne Rindell

The BFF Bucket List by Dee Romito


Non-2016 books that I loved:

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Dressed for Death by Donna Leon

The Woman at the Light by Johanna Brady

The Ludwig Conspiracy by Oliver Potzsch


Also, I have to mention these two novels that I was fortunate enough to read early and which will both be out later this year:

Girls in the Moon by Janet McNally (11/29/16)

The Order of the Eternal Sun by Jessica Leake (8/9/2016)

Story & Song: Part 6

Welcome to the sixth and final installment of my blog series that I’m calling Story & Song. Each post will feature two pieces of music: a modern/contemporary song from the playlist of The Violinist of Venice, and a piece of Vivaldi’s music that features in the novel. I’ll describe how both pieces fit into the story with a minimum of spoilers!

Delain – “On the Other Side”

This song, as I’m sure you can hear, is just beautiful. It’s a sad, lovely, and bittersweet song about losing a loved one, about being left behind when they die, and as such it fits perfectly with the epilogue of the novel, as Adriana and Vivaldi say their last goodbyes. I would always play this song when writing/revising/reviewing that final scene in the book, and to me it’s the “rolling credits” sort of song for the book. Even now, every time I hear it I get a little emotional!


“Domine deus” from the Gloria in D

In chapter 65 of The Violinist of Venice, Adriana’s children give a concert for their friends and family, and enlist their mother and her best friend, Vittoria, to be the “opening act”, shall we say. Vittoria contacts Vivaldi, her former teacher at the Pieta, for a suitable score for violin and soprano, and what they end up with is this piece, the beautiful soprano solo from Vivaldi’s choral masterpiece Gloria in D, the very famous first movement of which I’m sure most people have heard, even if they didn’t realize it. So Vittoria performs this piece, accompanied by Adriana on the violin (though an oboe is used in this recording for the solo instrumental line). It is an important moment for both of them: for Adriana because she has never really performed before and is able to get a taste of what it is like, and for Vittoria because she gets to return, however briefly, to the performing career that she was forced to give up when she left the Pieta and married. And, of course, it is a lovely piece of music. Vivaldi’s work with the orphan girls at the Pieta meant that he was able to write for the female voice exceptionally well, something that, as a female singer myself, I can personally attest to!


This is the last post in my Story & Song series for The Violinist of Venice. If you’ve enjoyed it, though, be sure to stay tuned, as I have something similar up my sleeve planned for closer to the release date of The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence!

The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence – cover reveal!

I am so excited and thrilled to be able to reveal the cover for my second historical novel, The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence, out 4/25/17 from St. Martin’s Griffin. Like with The Violinist of Venice, I was having a hard time visualizing what the cover for this book might look like, and once again the creative team at St. Martin’s absolutely went above and beyond and gave me a cover that is just perfect and is everything that I didn’t know I wanted.

Without further ado, here it is!

themostbeautifulwomaninflorencecoverbigger (1)


There are so many things I love about this cover. The first is the pink color scheme. My notes in my notebook for this novel were all color-coded pink, so it’s very fitting that that’s the color scheme here. I also love how the woman looks just like the real Simonetta Vespucci (whom you can see if you take a look at Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus). The angle of her face/head also reminds me of another Botticelli portrait of her, one that she poses for in the novel. Finally, I love the panoramic image of Florence at the bottom – it’s a beautiful city, and this picture really captures that, as well as capturing its dominant feature, the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (aka the Duomo) with Filippo Brunelleschi’s amazing, enormous dome. This same vista can be seen by climbing up to the Piazzale Michelangelo in the hills overlooking the city, which I did when I was in Florence researching this novel. So to have that image on the cover is really wonderful.

I hope you all love this cover as much as I do! Please let me know what you think. And I just can’t wait for this book to be out in the world for you all to read it.

Below is the synopsis of the novel.

A girl as beautiful as Simonetta Cattaneo will never want for marriage proposals in 15th century Italy, but she jumps at the chance to marry Florentine Marco Vespucci. Marco is young, handsome, well-educated, and shares her longtime love of reading. Not to mention he is one of the powerful Medici family’s favored circle.

Even before her marriage with Marco is set, Simonetta is swept up into Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici’s glittering circle of politicians, poets, artists, and philosophers. The men of Florence – most notably the rakish Giuliano de’ Medici – become enthralled with her beauty. That she is educated and an ardent reader of poetry makes her more desirable and fashionable still. But it is her acquaintance with a young painter, Sandro Botticelli, which strikes her heart most.

Botticelli immediately invites Simonetta, newly proclaimed the most beautiful woman in Florence, to pose for him. As Simonetta learns to navigate her marriage, her new home, her place in Florentine society, and the politics of beauty and desire, she and Botticelli develop a dangerously passionate artist and muse relationship, which will lead to her ultimately being immortalized in his masterpiece, The Birth of Venus.

Alyssa Palombo’s The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence is a story of love and tragedy, of passion and humor, and ultimately, of what happens when love finds us when we least expect it.

The Violinist of Venice – Slovenian cover!

Check out the beautiful Slovenian cover of The Violinist of Venice! Each different cover so far is equally beautiful, in my opinion!🙂