Five Post-Conference Epiphanies….

I’ve been back from the 2015 Romance Writer’s of America annual conference in NYC for nearly a week now and the glow is definitely beginning to wear off. With the diminished light comes a few humbling realizations.

Epiphany #1: Missed Opportunities Can Be a Bitch

Smart phone cartoonI’d hoped to meet with other authors from one of my four publishing houses. Patiently, I waited for a text message on my phone. I checked the Yahoo message board religiously to see where they planned to meet. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. It wasn’t until the last day of conference when I started getting short notes from people I didn’t know wishing another person I didn’t know a ‘safe trip home’ that it dawned on me I probably should have downloaded that document sent to my phone, rather than assume it was spam.

Fortunately, I did make it to one of my other publisher’s dinners and gained two new friends in the process. Big win!

Epiphany #2: Some People Do Know More Than I Do

It’s a humbling experience to attend a workshop on a subject you thought you were knowledgeable in only to find out you’d missed an important fact or two. To make matters worse, you stub your toe on the desk leg in your rush to verify those facts the moment you’re back in your hotel room.

Epiphany #3: Expensive Doesn’t Always Mean Good

One of my greatest pleasures when visiting NYC is the varied (and usually delicious) food. My disappointment was profound. Given all the great restaurants in the general vicinity of the hotel, it seems quite ironic to me that the best meal I had was at a chain restaurant found all over the U.S. Of course, the highlight was, as always, the crème brulee at Sardi’s.

Epiphany #4: After All These Years, I Still Get a Giggle From the Silliest Things

LaughingFor anyone who’s been to a large romance writer’s conference, you understand the danger of getting so many women (and a few brave men) together … especially in an elevator. On Wednesday afternoon I got on the elevator with a young and very good looking man. He had his suitcases with him and I casually asked if he was checking in or out. He responded with a very exasperated “out”. Sorry, but I couldn’t stifle the giggle. I asked if all these women were scaring him away. And, if so, I informed him he hadn’t seen anything yet. His blush was endearing. Finally, he admitted he loved women … he just couldn’t handle the elevator conversations.

Epiphany #5: It’s Quite Possible Fame Has Eluded Me

I sat with a lovely group of ladies from the Midwest during one of the many workshops on marketing. When they noticed my PAN stripe (two were PRO, two were not), they asked if I was newly published. I replied, “no, I’ve been published since the mid 90s.” One by one they looked at my badge, then at me.

“How many books have you published?” one lady asked.

Proudly, I turned my brand new business card over to show them images of my two latest covers. Pointing to each, I said, “this one is book #20 and this one is #21.”

“Hmm,” she responded. “Never heard of you.”

It suddenly dawned on me. I might just be the most published author that nobody knows!

Until next time… writers keep writing and readers keep reading (and reviewing, please). I’m off to find my notes on promotion. With books 23, 24 & 25 due out by the end of the year, it might be nice if someone actually recognized my name!

Nancy

PS: Perhaps I should run a giveaway … just to get my name out there! So, here it is…

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Only Robinson Crusoe Had Everything Done by Friday ~ Author Unknown

ProcrastinationProcrastination is a writer’s worst enemy. With tight deadlines for complete manuscripts, edits and galleys no author can afford to stop and ‘fool around’ doing nothing. Unfortunately, procrastination hits the author as easily as it does everyone else. Sometimes worse…but then it’s called “Writer’s Block”.

I’ve often wondered how other writers waste time, so I asked a few of my author friends to admit to their favorite form of procrastination.  Here’s what they had to say….

My favorite form of procrastination is sewing. Yep, I keep shirts, pants, and half-a-dozen mending projects set to the side for when I don’t feel like churning out the words. The words want to come, but my fingers don’t feel up to it.” ~ Landra Graf

About the Book:

RavenPirateAssassinSpy-200x300Once Upon A Time

Sorella Corvino lost her brother to The Cursed years ago. Sorella is so determined to find him, she’ll make any deal, rescue the outcasts and those like him, and risk flying into any port to rescue him. When her latest pirate efforts partner her with a bounty hunter who’s too charming, sexy, and handsome for his own good, she knows she’s in trouble.

Ian Marshall no longer believes in fairy tales…
Disowned and a marked criminal in the United States, this merchant turned bounty hunter, is one bounty away from freedom; and freedom’s price is handing over one person to the most cutthroat gang in the world, The Cursed. Yet, he can’t get to them without Sorella’s help. Too bad she’s gorgeous, aggravating, and a little trigger happy.

As the attraction mounts, the danger grows and the pair find themselves invading a skin trader den, the ballrooms of dictator-ruled Germany, and fighting battles in the sky in the hopes of getting everything they want. Only thing they didn’t plan on… falling in love.

Release date: August 21, 2015

Where to find Landra:

Website       Amazon Author Page

***

“When I’m stuck, I dig into research, figuring that learning new information may just jump-start my brain in the right direction. My current tendency is to research cultural courting and wedding customs to individualize my stories.” ~ Linda Carroll-Bradd

About the Book:

A Cowboy Celebration_200Forged By Fire is one of 7 stories in the historical anthology, A Cowboy Celebration.

Ivey Treadwell, cook at her family’s boarding house, wants to accomplish something big. For now, she satisfies herself with improving on the traditional recipes for the boarders by adding herbs and spices she gathers. An incident with a broken pan causes her to see Berg Spengler, the town’s blacksmith, in a new light.

Stigmatized for his huge size and blamed for his brother’s injury, Berg has discovered being alone is safer for his heart. But when he sees interest spark in Ivey’s eyes, he decides to take a chance and approach her. The pair discovers an attraction that heats up each time they are alone together. Will Ivey convince Berg his wandering days are over and home is here with her in Comfort?

Buy Links:

Amazon     Barnes & Noble    Smashwords

Where to Find Linda:

Website     Amazon Author Page

***

“When a book is not going well, suddenly every website link is interesting and must be clicked on. Every social media update is of upmost importance. And every e-mail must be attended to immediately. I don’t even recognize I’m procrastinating until three hours later when I haven’t written a word!” ~ Sara Daniel

About the Book:

SD_One Night with his wife_SMAfter a grenade took Marine Luke Cox’s leg and ends his career, he cuts ties with his wife to free her from the burden he’d become. On the day his divorce is to be finalized, he travels to meet a woman for a 1Night Stand date—a woman who doesn’t care about his missing leg or his sudden wealth from a business venture. However, things don’t go as planned, and when he arrives for his date, he’s still legally married.

Rosalind Cox tends to the horses on her cousin’s ranch resort, her love for the animals the only thing keeping her going since her husband turned his back on her. When he appears at her stables, all the longing and rising hope is crushed by the realization he’s only sought her out to gain his freedom.

She’ll give him what he wants, but she can’t resist taking one last kiss for herself. The kiss reopens emotions and attraction that neither can deny. To give in will only complicate the tangle as they try to unwind their lives. But even though Rosalind doesn’t care about Luke’s missing leg or his money, as long as he refuses to accept himself as whole, one night with his wife will be his last.

The Buy Links:

Amazon     Barnes & Noble     All Romance

Where to Find Sara:

Website     Amazon Author Page

***

“My go-to form of procrastination when I should be writing is baking. My grandchildren love it when Grandma falters on her self-imposed schedule. Unfortunately, it’s done nothing for my deadlines or my hips.” ~ Nancy Fraser

About the Book:

perf5.000x8.000.inddGo back in time with five delightful stories spanning the first half of the Golden Age of Rock and Roll from 1955-1959.

Love is a Many Splendored Thing – 1955: Will an army widow find love with another military man? Or, will their romance crash and burn?

Love Me Tender – 1956: Can a lady lawyer break the glass ceiling before a younger co-worker breaks her heart?

Wake Up Little Susie – 1957: Will a modern day woman be able to navigate the past, the man she’s fallen for, and a younger version of her grandmother?

April Love – 1958: Can the perfect secretary run interference between her boss’ family and the many women who want to bed and wed him without losing her heart in the process?

Dream Lover – 1959: What’s so special about Nanny #5? Will the bright lights of Paris be her ultimate downfall or the answer to her steamiest dreams?

The Buy Links:

Amazon     Barnes and Noble     The Wild Rose Press

Where to find Nancy:

Website     Amazon Author Page

Slide1We hope you’ve enjoyed spending some time with us and learning about our favorite forms of procrastination. For all the writer’s out there …. stop sewing, surfing, researching and baking …. and keep writing. For the readers, just keep reading. You are why we do what we do!

Until next week, have a safe and happy summer! Or, in the case of my Down-Under authors/friends, stay warm!

Nancy

 

Modernizing the Brothers Grimm … Not an Easy Task

How do you re-work a fairy tale titled The Devil’s Sooty Brother and turn it into a romance? There was nothing even remotely romantic about the original Grimm fairy tale … not even a happily ever after. At least not in the traditional sense.

The tale begins like this….

Antique bookA disbanded soldier had nothing to live on, and did not know how to get on. So he went out into the forest and when he had walked for a short time, he met a little man who was, however, the Devil.

The little man said to him, “What ails you, you seem so very sorrowful?”

Then the soldier said, “I am hungry, but have no money.”

The Devil said, “If you will hire yourself to me, and be my serving-man, you shall have enough for all your life? You shall serve me for seven years, and after that you shall again be free. But one thing I must tell you, and that is, you must not wash, comb, or trim yourself, or cut your hair or nails, or wipe the water from your eyes.”

The soldier said, “All right, if there is no help for it,” and went off with the little man, who straightway led him down into hell.

Q: How romantic does seven years of hell sound? (Okay, all of you married people…stop laughing!)

Instead, I placed my hero with a modern day ‘devil’….

Greedy ManReece yanked the door open and came face-to-face with an out-of-breath Sean O’Malley. It was obvious the man never climbed stairs or lived with a broken elevator.

“Michaels,” O’Malley said, pushing his large frame across the threshold.

“O’Malley,” Reece said in return, backing up but not giving way.

“My son tells me you’re looking for work. My sources tell me you’ve got a line on some top-grade cocaine.”

Reece shrugged. “Maybe. My contact hasn’t got it together yet. He’s been back in the country less time than me.”

“So, which is it? Do you want to work for me, or against me?”

Q: Who, in their right mind, wouldn’t want to work for an Irish mob kingpin posing as a legitimate pub owner?

I added a king with two beautiful daughters (just like the original tale). Only my “king” is the police chief and his daughters are “off limits”….

Reece stood. If he was going to help Mackenzie nail O’Malley and his crew, he needed to put some distance between himself and the police chief before anyone noticed.

“There is one other thing,” Mackenzie said.

Reece stopped a few feet short of the door. “Why am I not surprised?”

“My daughter has become involved with Billy O’Malley. I’m worried she’ll be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I need you to protect her, whatever it takes.”

“Lily? O’Malley’s crowd doesn’t seem like her kind. She was always far too ambitious to get involved with someone as rough around the edges as an O’Malley.” A self-deprecating chuckle escaped him. “Other than me, of course.” 

Abby and ReeceThe chief shook his head. “No, Lily’s married and living in Cambridge with her fancy professor husband.” Mackenzie lifted a picture frame from the corner of his desk and stared at it for a few moments. “It’s Abby I’m worried about. She’s young, impressionable. I’ve tried to warn her, but she insists Billy’s not like his dad and older brother.”

“I’ll do my best to keep her safe.”

A nerve twitched in the older man’s cheek, and Reece suspected he wanted to give a fatherly warning about not touching his daughter. He needn’t worry. After Lily, Reece wanted nothing to do with another Mackenzie woman.

They were far more trouble than they were worth.

Q: Just how long do you think he’ll be able to resist?

The end result….

20 Do You Want MeDecorated Gulf War hero Reece Michaels agrees to go undercover in order to bring down the Irish Mob. In return, the civilian life he’s coveted for the past six years will be returned to him.

Hired by mob boss Sean O’Malley to protect his youngest son, Reece soon discovers the young man needs more protection from his own family than its enemies.

What Reece doesn’t count on is his instant attraction to the police chief’s beautiful and willing daughter. Abby Mackenzie is the younger sister of a woman with whom Reece once had a torrid affair. He’s determined to not give in to Abby’s come-hither ways. After all, one Mackenzie woman was more than enough.

Buy Links:

Decadent Publishing  Amazon  iTunes

A contest:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

As always, your comments are welcome. Thank you so much for stopping by.

Nancy

 

 

Some Girls Do It All … and a Blog Tour Too!

MBB_TourBanner_TheMysteriousMrsPennybaker copy (1)

If you read this post when it first went up on June 22nd, you’ll know my heroine, Ariel Pennybaker, is a woman who wears many hats (and very sexy lingerie). Well, not only is she juggling her responsibilities and her two men, but she’s also going on tour. Twenty-five blog stops in one day. Even she might get tired! If you’d like to stop by for a quick “hello” here is where we’ll be:

 

Now, back to the original post:

From WWI Hello Girl … to femme fatale … to philanthropic socialite … some women can juggle many hats one after the other. Or, for that matter, at the same time.

Yet, how many of them can also juggle two very accomplished lovers?

Meet Ariel Pennybaker….

Mrs PennybakerBorn Ariel Trumont in the small town of LaSalle, Quebec, Canada to French and German parents. She grew into a beautiful and intelligent young woman with no idea of the twist her life would one day take. Just prior to World War I, Ariel and her parents moved from Canada to the U.S. Ariel went to work for the telephone company.

HelloGirlsAt the onset of the war Ariel, like many other bi-lingual telephone operators, were recruited by General John J Pershing to become part of his Expeditionary Forces. Their job was to translate communications between the American troops and their French allies. They were referred to as “Hello Girls”. Required to complete basic training and wear military uniforms, it would be decades before they were recognized as veterans, as opposed to civilian employees.

It wasn’t long before the Allied Forces realized Ariel had far more value than just that of a translator. Ariel also spoke fluent German and was recruited for ‘other’ duties over and above those of a telephone operator. Just how far would Ariel go for her adopted country and in the name of liberté?

Stethescope and bagWhile stationed in Chaumont, France, Ariel met Hershel Pennybaker, a handsome American doctor. Together, they formed an alliance in the form of a picture-perfect marriage. He would provide her with wealth and an enviable position in post-war New York society. She would act as his beard.

Fast forward a year and a half later. Dr. Pennybaker has died, leaving the young Ariel a grieving widow and sole administrator of the rehabilitation facility he’d established for military veterans. Ariel takes her responsibilities seriously and works very hard to raise money for the facility and carry on her late husband’s legacy.

Now, if she could only get laid.

18 The MysteriousA chance meeting with a handsome WWI aviator has her imagining thoroughly naughty thoughts. When a second man walks into her life, her naughty thoughts turn downright decadent. What better way to fulfil her fantasies than by sharing both men’s beds.

As tempting as the idea is, Ariel has a huge secret, one she must protect at all costs. And, it’s possible one or both of her lovers is not what he seems.

 

Buy Links:

Amazon   Kobo   Google Play  iTunes

Thank you so much for stopping by. I hope you enjoyed my preview of The Mysterious Mrs. Pennybaker as much as I enjoyed sharing. If you have a comment or question please click on the comment flag opposite the blog title or use the Guestbook tab at the top of the page.

Until next time, happy reading.

Nancy

 

The Eight … Yes, Count Them … Eight Stages of Writer Excitement!

As writers we begin each project with the plan of having our work published. Note, I said “plan” … not hope. If you don’t believe in your project right from the get-go, you will struggle throughout. Each writer goes through a process. It’s definitely not the same for every writer but, no matter how you handle the stages, some of the steps are similar, and every writer will recognize at least a few in another writers’ plan.

Stage 1: The Idea

34357356_sIt may come from a publisher’s specific submission call, or from an incident, object or person from real life, or…even…our own vivid imaginations. Every writer has that “aha” moment when the spark hits and the story starts. We get our thoughts down on paper, perhaps in the form of an outline. Or, if you enjoy doing them, a full synopsis. Either way, the seed has been planted and the process begun. The writer’s reaction: Let’s celebrate my brilliance. Get me a Bailey’s over ice … light on the ice!

Stage 2: The Rough Draft

You’ve followed your synopsis, or your mental or physical outline, and the first draft is done. Completing that project…even in its roughest form…is an accomplishment few fully understand. The writer’s reaction: A celebration is in order, whether it be a day off, a shopping spree, or just a Baileys over ice.

Stage 3: The Editing Process

29561859_sThe first thought? Why the $@%@# did I start this stupid thing? No…wait…this is pretty good. If I just nip this here and tuck this there. Who the heck gave THAT character a voice? Oh, wait, it was me. Morning review: this has promise! After lunch: what the heck was I thinking? End of day: Okay, quite a bit accomplished. The writer’s reaction: Time for chocolate. And Baileys over ice.

Stage 4: Submission

It’s finished, it’s worthy of the NYT bestseller list and now you’re sending it off to the publisher. Or, if you’re self-published, to your hired-gun editor. Either way, it’s out the door and ready for an unbiased and hopefully gentle critique. All you can hope for now is that there’s someone out there who appreciates all your blood, sweat and toil. Oh, and they also recognize your creative brilliance! All you can do is wait. The writer’s reaction: It’s been a stressful day. Someone pour me a Baileys over ice.

Stage 5: The Sale

Whether it’s by phone call or e-mail there’s nothing like an acquisition’s editor telling you … I want this! I’ve got a contract for you! You’re going to be the next Nora Roberts. Oh wait … that’s my fantasy! Still, it’s not official until the contract is signed and executed. Once that’s done you can squee to the entire world! FB and Twitter can be soundly flooded. The writer’s reaction: Damn I’m good! Double shot of Baileys over ice … hold the ice!

Stage 6: More Freakin’ Edits

CartoonOur mantra: these changes can only make it better, these changes can only make it better. We grumble when the editor wants to pare down one of our supporting characters. We LOVE Aunt Ginny and her eccentric ways. So what if she’s taking over a major scene. What do you mean we have to cut 2K’s worth of hard-earned words? I LOVE those words. The writer’s reaction: Screw the Baileys. Pour me a shot of whiskey, straight up.

Stage 7: The Cover Art

On first sight: No. I told you on the cover art detail sheet … my heroine’s hair is auburn, not brown. And why did you put that flower there? This isn’t a story about a gardener. An hour later: Okay, this cover has promise. Ten minutes after that: Wow! This is the most awesome cover ever! I can’t wait to show it off. Damn, this cover artist is phenomenal! The writer’s reaction: Let’s celebrate. Bailey’s over ice, please.

Stage 8: Release Day

The day every writer looks forward to. You’ve been planning for it ever since the final galley edits. You’ve got 200 tweets ready to go and a big post for FB that you’re going to share with every group you belong to. Plus, of course, there are the blog tour visits…you have to check on those hourly so you can answer comments. No sense planning to work on something new today. You’ll need to be monitoring social media all day. But, in the end, it’ll be worth it when your book is sitting in the top 100 on Amazon! The writer’s reaction: Just leave the bottle of Baileys on the corner of my desk and stay the heck out of my office!

Fortunately I’ve survived the process and reached release day many, many times. Each process differs slightly but, in the end, one constant stands out: The Baileys over ice (just in case you hadn’t figured that out)!

Upcoming Release Day #19 is June 23rd:

18 The MysteriousNew York, 1922

A former Hello Girl during WWI, widowed Ariel Pennybaker served her country proudly. She now carries on her late husband’s legacy…a home for the many returning, injured soldiers.

With her year of mourning nearly at an end, she’s had enough of her self-imposed celibacy. It’s time to get back in the game.

A chance meeting with a handsome WWI aviator has her imagining thoroughly naughty thoughts. When a second man walks into her life, her naughty thoughts turn downright decadent. What better way to fulfil her fantasies than by sharing both men’s beds.

As tempting as the idea is, Ariel has a huge secret, one she must protect at all costs. And, it’s possible one or both of her lovers is not what he seems.

Followed by Release Day #20 on July 7th:

20 Do You Want MeBoston, 1991

Decorated war hero Reece Michaels agrees to go undercover in order to bring down the Irish Mob. In return, the civilian life he’s coveted for the past six years will be returned to him.

Hired by mob boss Sean O’Malley to protect his youngest son, Reece soon discovers the young man needs more protection from his own family than its enemies.

What Reece doesn’t count on is his instant attraction to the police chief’s beautiful and willing daughter. Abby Mackenzie is the younger sister of a woman with whom Reece once had a torrid affair. He’s determined to not give in to Abby’s come-hither ways. After all, one Mackenzie woman was more than enough.

Both releases are from Decadent Publishing

In Summary:

As writers we have control (or at least we think we do) over the stages of creating, selling and releasing our story. What we can’t control is the reader. Of course, we hope we can gather a following, garner interest in not just our latest book but all of our previous work as well. The only thing we can hope for where the reader is concerned is that they enjoy what we’ve put out there and, if they’re so inclined, they provide us with a positive review of our work. There is no better way to thank an author than by leaving an honest (and of course glowing) review.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my little tongue-in-cheek look at the stages of a writer’s excitement. It was fun and in the wake of prepping for those two upcoming releases…a great way to procrastinate. If you’d like to leave a comment, please do so on the Guestbook tab at the top of the page.

Best wishes,

Nancy

 

A Fairy Tale by Any Other Name….

Blog Hop

 

Welcome to my stop on the Beyond Fairy Tales Blog Hop. Please remember to visit all the sites listed below for a chance to win great prizes at each stop.

 

The criteria for a great fairy tale is not all that different from the formula used for an engaging romance. Both require the following:

  • A sensitive, brave, intelligent hero—preferably good looking, or at least confident in his appearance.
  • A strong, beautiful, empathetic heroine who’s not afraid to kick a little butt should the situation call for it.
  • A plot fraught with angst, danger and attraction. Whether the attraction leads to a chaste kiss or a steamy love scene depends on your audience.
  • A resolution that is both enlightening and satisfying, not only for the reader but also for the characters.
  • And, of course, the Happily Ever After required of all great tales.

My upcoming Beyond Fairy Tales story titled Do You Want Me is based on the Grimm tale, The Devil’s Sooty Brother. More macabre than romantic, The Devil’s Sooty Brother is the tale of a soldier who returns from war to find he’s lost everything he’d left behind.

In order to make a new life for himself, he agrees to work for the devil and earn the money he needs to begin again. The idea of creating a ‘devil’ gave me the perfect protagonist for my story. Do You Want Me also contains a king who has two daughters. While not a huge part of the original story, the idea of sisters fueled my naughty imagination.

So, how does an author of modern-day romances take a fairy tale written hundreds of years ago and make it current?

Beyond FT 1I started by finding some visual inspiration for my main characters. Outlining my hero was easy…it had to be the soldier from the fairy tale…complete with memories and scars. In most cases, the next character I’d work on would be the heroine. However, since in the original, there are no female characters present until the very end, I decided to flesh out other aspects of the story first before getting a handle on who would steal my hero’s heart.

There were also certain requirements set forth by the publisher. The biggest challenge among those was the inclusion of a narrator. Nicodemus, the storyteller, is a must for every book. I admit, I fretted over how to include this ‘outsider’. Then, two glasses of Baileys-over-ice later, I had it! (I do some of my best plotting under the influence of Bailey’s and crushed ice.)

I don’t want to give too much away other than to say, I have a sexy, battle-weary hero, a feisty tease of a heroine, a devil of a protagonist, and a father who holds an important position of influence (a king of sorts).

I’ve also done something I’d never attempted before. I wrote the entire story in the hero’s point of view…even the steamy love scenes.

I look forward to sharing my take on this fairy tale in the near future. The summer release date will be posted to my FB page and tweeted as soon as it’s available.

My Rafflecopter Draw:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

In order to leave a post related to this blog (and part of the Rafflecopter draw) please use the Guestbook tab at the top of this page.

The Group Rafflecopter Draw:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Other Stops on the Multi-Author Tour:

T.L. Reeve

Bab’s Book Bistro

Gina Writes Words

Stephanie Beck

Vicki Ballante

Anastasia Vitsky

Dakota Trace

Sara Daniel

Erzabet Bishop

Louisa Bacio

Desiree Holt

Eva Lefoy

Jessica E. Subject

Nancy Fraser

VS Morgan

Taryn Kincaid

Cassandra Dean

Alexa Bourne

Jennah Scott

Sorcha Mowbray

Jewel Quinlan

Landra Graf

Zee Monodee

Tara Quan

Linnea Alexis

D.L. Jackson

Nicole Pouchet

Thank you so much for stopping by. Happy reading and good luck in the draws!

Nancy

A Picture’s Worth … At Least a Book Worth of Words

I’ve often heard other writers talk about how they use pictures to inspire them when they write. Whether it’s a headshot of the latest action movie hero, or a sexy singer, or even a god from Asgaard … if it works for you that’s great.

And while I’m well past the age of swooning over celebrities. I still like to use photos as inspiration. Quite often, when I begin a book, I’ll search my favorite stock photo site, 123rf.com, for what I need. I can usually find something to spur the imagination. And, if I’m lucky, I might even end up with a photo that’s cover-worthy.

As every author will tell you, the publishers’ art form is an important part of the process. Most often, they’ll ask for cover comparisons…another cover from their catalogue that sparks your interest. While I can usually find a few to inspire me, I most often attach links to the stock photo I prefer.

On two previous occasions, my stock photo became my cover.

Zack McCadeFirst, was the second book in my McCade Legacy series, The Lawman’s Agreement, from Entangled Publishing. I sent in this photo.

lawman_500And, lo-and-behold…the finished cover!

 

 

For my holiday novella, Pushing the Limits, also from Entangled, we went back and forth with ideas.

11064112_s12 Pushing the LimitsI’d originally proposed a single character (my sexy hero) dressed up as Santa. However, what we discovered was this same model had been used in other poses on a number of holiday books over the past few years. I didn’t want readers to think my hero was sleeping around so, instead we opted for a cute clinch.

 

 

Beyond FT 1For my current work-in-progress, my emphasis was on a sexy hero and petite heroine (although all my heroines have to have nice boobs). The story, a Beyond Fairy Tales re-telling of the dark Grimm fairy tale, The Devil’s Sooty Brother, is titled Do You Want Me (Decadent Publishing). My choice for inspiration was this steamy photo.

 

1NS 1I’m also working on a story for Decadent Publishing’s 1Nite Stand series. I wanted something uber-sexy to inspire me as I wrote, and I found this. Just as exactly as I pictured my hero…all business-like. And, my heroine…tempting as sin.

 

I’m still looking for visual inspiration for my next post-Civil War historical (3rd book in the McCade Legacy), but I’m sure I’ll find it.

Whether you listen to music, post photos of celebrities, or…as I do…scour the stock photo sites…inspiration is everything. Without it, we’d muddle through our work with no clear direction.

If you’re a writer, keep writing. If you’re a reader, by all means keep reading. You are why we do what we do!

Nancy

stack-of-books

 

 

 

The Things Authors Say

 

As authors, we often look to other writers for inspiration. I thought I’d share some of my favorite writing-related quotes.

Writers on Writing:

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by. – Douglas Adams

I love being a writer. What I can’t stand is the paperwork.  - Peter de Vries

If you start with a bang, you won’t end with a whimper.  - T.S. Eliot

There are three rules for writing. Unfortunately, no one can agree what they are.  - Somerset Maugham

The first chapter sells the book; the last chapter sells the next book.  - Mickey Spillane

If the sex scene doesn’t make you want to do it – whatever it is they’re doing – it hasn’t been written right.  - Sloan Wilson

Writers on Editing:

CartoonGet it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.  - William Faulkner

It is perfectly okay to write garbage–as long as you edit brilliantly.  - C. J. Cherryh

Never throw up on an editor.  - Ellen Datlow

 

Writers on Critics/Reviews:

Asking a working writer what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamppost how it feels about dogs.  - Christopher Hampton

It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.  - Ernest Hemingway

It is advantageous to an author that his book should be attacked as well as praised. Fame is a shuttlecock. If it be struck at one end of the room, it will soon fall to the ground. To keep it up, it must be struck at both ends.  - Samuel Johnson

Writing Self-Deprecation:

It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous.  - Robert Benchley

I am irritated by my own writing. I am like a violinist whose ear is true, but whose fingers refuse to reproduce precisely the sound he hears within.  - Gustave Flaubert

Having been unpopular in high school is not just cause for book publication.  - Fran Lebowitz

A Writer’s Obsession:

We do not write because we want to; we write because we have to. – Somerset Maugham

When writing a novel, that’s pretty much entirely what life turns into: ‘House burned down. Car stolen. Cat exploded. Did 1500 easy words, so all in all it was a pretty good day.’  - Neil Gaiman

A writer never has a vacation. For a writer life consists of either writing or thinking about writing.  - Eugene Ionesco

A Writer’s Sense of Humor:

He was such a bad writer, they revoked his poetic license.  - Milton Berle

Writer

 

Just for Fun:

In honor of April Fool’s Day, the advent of spring and (hopefully) the end of winter, I’ve decided to hold a Rafflecopter draw for the month of April.

First prize: A $10 gift card the online book retailer of your choice.

Second prize: A digital copy of any of the books from my backlist (1 full length or 2 novellas)

Third prize: The chance to become a character in my next Golden Age of Rock and Roll novella. Or, if you’d prefer, my next erotic romance!

Please follow the instructions below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Coming Soon:

perf5.000x8.000.inddOn April 22nd, The Wild Rose Press will be releasing the first five of my Rock and Roll novellas in one beautiful collection. Play It Again, The Golden Age of Rock and Roll, Volume 1 will be available in both print and digital formats.

 

 

 

Until next time, writers keep writing. Readers keep reading. You are why we do what we do!

Nancy

 

Can You Ever Have Too Many Projects in the Works?

laundry basketI guess it’s a good thing I have a lot of “around the house” clothes because I honestly CAN’T remember the last time I had all the laundry done at once.

coffee cupsAnd … is there really a bottom to my kitchen sink? Or, are unwashed coffee cups the preferred design?

The weather here in Atlantic Canada is forbidding … often a good thing where a writer is concerned because, barring power outages, we’ve got the perfect excuse to stay inside and write. However, we also have an opportunity to over-extend ourselves and enter into yet another “work in progress” or, for short, a WIP.

How do you determine whether or not you’ve got too many irons in the fire? How do you prioritize? Most importantly, how do you keep focus when jumping from one project to the next? Or, even more difficult, work on two or more projects at one time?

I don’t know about other authors but I’m a sucker for a new submission call. I see it posted on my publisher’s website, or it might be a call sent out via one of the many Yahoo groups. The moment I read the specs, my mind starts churning out ideas. And, it doesn’t seem to matter that I already have three projects scheduled. The creative mind wants what the creative mind wants … another outlet for my weirdly vivid imagination.

Rather than tell myself “NO”, I’ll usually open a new word document and jot down a few ideas … something I can come back to in a day or two when I’ve had time to let the idea percolate. I have to admit … I rarely wait that day or two. Most often, the “ideas” turn into a synopsis right there on the spot. How does this happen? Writers must be disciplined in order to write. YET, we can’t seem to resist the submission call.

4103952_sAs an example. Just this past weekend one of my four publishers put out a call for Valentine’s Day stories for 2016. The basis for the limited series was those sugar-rush candy hearts with the cute sayings on them. The title for each story (10,000 – 15,000 words each) would be taken from one of the candies. Authors who already write for the publisher would be given first chance at the series. All you had to do was submit your proposal to the editor with whom you work and, if they liked the idea, they would contact the coordinator for the series to “lock in” your title.

My few ideas turned into a two page proposal. I chose an appropriate candy title and sent the idea off to my editor. The next day I got a response … she loved the story idea and has contacted the coordinator to assure me the title.

Okay, add this to the pile of projects! When will I ever learn.

Now, here I sit, updating my blog … something that’s suffered greatly under the weight of my WIPs. Next, I really need to list and prioritize the following:

  • Final galley edits on my next release, The Mysterious Mrs. Pennybaker, coming this spring from Decadent Publishing.
  • Complete my re-telling of the Grimm Fairytale, The Devil’s Sooty Brother for Decadent Publishing’s Beyond Fairytales line. Titled, Do You Want Me, it’s my romantic take on a very non-romantic story. I have two chapters left, as well as the final read-through.
  • Complete the third McCade Legacy story. The Barrister’s Temptation. I’m about 5,ooo words from the end and still struggling with the loss of my co-author. Thank goodness my wonderful editor at Entangled Publishing has been patient. I will get this done.
  • Write the next novella in the Golden Decade of Rock and Roll series from The Wild Rose Press. Set in 1960, Are You Lonesome Tonight should be a fun project to complete.
  • First round edits on Eye of the Pharaoh, an Egyptian time travel from Soul Mate Publishing.
  • AND … finally (for the moment) the new novella based on my candy heart choice.

I’m sure I’ll add other projects along the way (e.g., the fourth McCade Legacy book or the 6th Rock and Roll novella) but, for the next couple of months, the list above should keep me busy.

How do I prioritize? - I prefer to prioritize by book length, the shorter novellas first. Of course, publisher’s deadlines and first round and galley edits take precedence over everything else. But, otherwise, it’s a real boost to the writer’s ego to complete a project. So, I go for the easiest first.

How do I keep focus? – I have an order to things. And, like prioritizing, everything has its place and time. When I’m working on a specific project, I surround myself with my research for the time period. I totally SHUT DOWN external media … no FB, no email … until I complete my goal for the day.

Can you work on more than one thing at a time? – I truly believe so. As a matter of fact, it’s what keeps my mind fresh and staves off boredom. I love working on two, sometimes three, things at once. I often find by switching projects, I come back to the first one with a number of new ideas. This doesn’t work for everyone but I encourage you to give it try.

Time to go make another cup of coffee … assuming I can find a clean cup.

Writers, please keep writing (I like to know I’m not the only one breaching insanity). Readers, please keep reading. You are why we do what we do.

Nancy

 

 

 

 

Keeping Track of Multiple Works-in-Progress

Like a number of authors, I write for more than one publisher. As a matter of fact, I currently actively write for four, have a complete manuscript out for consideration with a fifth and am running out a contract on yet another. Each publisher offers me something different, a way to avoid being pigeon-holed.

I also currently have Works-in-Progress (WIPs) for each of the four active publishers. Sometimes just the task of keeping them all up and running is as stress-inducing as the writing itself. Why then do I do it? Well, first of all, I’m in the middle of established series for two of the publishers. The third publisher gives me a chance to stretch my creative wings in a more “erotic” area not covered by the other publishers. And, the fourth, gave the book of my heart a home when everyone was telling me ‘secret books aren’t selling’. Since it’s release, that non-seller has been my best seller. Just goes to show you, not everyone can predict what will sell and what won’t.

How do I keep track of each project? Or, more precisely, how do I keep on track?

I calendar eachWIP. I set aside 3-day stretches per book and a half day for edits, followed by a day off before I move onto the next project. I truly like going from book to book, genre to genre, mostly because they’re so diverse I never get tired of writing. This week I thought I’d share a short tidbit from each of the current projects.

First, the next book in my Golden Decade of Rock and Roll series from The Wild Rose Press.

Are You Lonesome Tonight is a vintage historical set in 1960.

CHAPTER ONE

Elk Grove Village, IL, September, 1960

“Can you move just a little to the left?  Yes, that’s it. Much better.  Now, take it in your hand just like this.”

Lesley moved her hand cautiously across the smooth surface, eager to learn from Jake’s expertise.  Her hand slipped, her obvious ineptitude drawing his deep-throated groan.  Cautiously, she began again.

“Now squeeze, gently.  Good.  Not too tight,” he cautioned.  “You don’t want to do damage.”

“I’m trying,” she said.  “This is all foreign to me.  I’ve never done anything quite so daring.”

“I’m sorry. I guess I’m not used to doing this with a beginner.  You’ll get the hang of it eventually. Only a few more minutes and we’ll be done, I promise.  Just take it easy, and relax.”

“Hey, mom, whatcha’ doing.”  The sound of her son Tyler’s voice reverberated around Lesley, his words echoing in the small space, causing her hand to slip.

“I’m trying to fix this darned leaky pipe,” she explained.  “Jake…Mr. Spencer was teaching me how to wield a wrench.”

“Why don’t you just call the plumber?” Tyler asked.

“Because plumbers cost money, something we don’t have.”

“Can’t you just ask dad for the money?”

Lesley gritted her teeth in a mixture of anger and frustration. “I’d rather learn how to do this myself.”

Tyler removed a cookie from the jar on the counter, replacing the ceramic lid with a solid clank.  “Suit yourself.  I still think a plumber would do a better job.”

 

Next, the third book in the McCade Legacy Series from Entangled Publishing.

The Barrister’s Temptation is the story of the illegitimate leaf on the McCade tree.

CHAPTER ONE

Vicksburg, Mississippi, Early December, 1868

“You need to have a word with those women who work for your Mama, little girl. I don’t want the likes of them up here in my store.”

“They can go wherever they want. They’re free women.”

Aiden Parker shut his office door and secured the lock, his attention drawn to the sound of raised voices just two storefronts away. He recognized the first voice as that of the storekeeper, Miriam Hoskins, although the second voice eluded him.

Because Mrs. Hoskins was one of his valued clients, he turned toward the argument. Surely he should offer his assistance to mediate the heated discussion. What he really wanted was to head home, have a quick supper and relax in front of the fireplace with a glass of brandy clutched tightly in his fist.

Instead, the distinct ire of Mrs. Hoskins’ voice hurried his steps. “Their kind needs to learn their place.”

He came to an abrupt halt, just as the other woman—a diminutive redhead—fired the next volley. “That’s funny. I could have sworn Molly’s place was beneath the likes of your husband just two nights ago.”

Miriam Hoskins raised her hand but, thankfully, he caught her wrist on its way to the young woman`s cheek. “Ladies, perhaps I can offer my assistance to help—”

The redhead flashed him a scowl. “And just who the blazes are you?”

“I’m Aiden—”

Miriam Hoskins pulled her wrist from his grasp and turned on the younger woman. “He’s my barrister. I’m certain he’ll confirm for you, Cassie Maguire, the fact that I can refuse admittance to my place of business to whomever I choose.”

Miss Maguire’s amber gaze flared and met his head-on. A twitch tugged at the corner of his mouth and he fought back a threatening smile.

She planted her hands on slim hips and raised her chin an extra notch. “Is that so, Mr. Barrister? Can she refuse to allow my mother’s employees to shop in her store?”

He wasn’t sure who her mother’s employees were, or why Mrs. Hoskins wanted them barred from her establishment, yet he was reluctant to provide a firm answer. Especially, if it meant Cassie Maguire would turn and leave. He wasn’t quite ready to see her go.

He mustered up his most serious, lawyer-like expression. “Well, first of all, it would depend on the circumstances. Have these people done anything to warrant exclusion such as thievery or public drunkenness?”

She shook her head. Shoulder length hair dusted alabaster skin at the neckline of her dress. Aiden’s body clenched tightly. His fingers itched with the urge to gather a strand of the gossamer silk in his hand and run it between his thumb and forefinger.

“They’ve done nothing other than spend their hard-earned wages on the wares in this mercantile.”

He turned to face Mrs. Hoskins. “Have they stolen anything? Broken something.”

The shopkeeper crossed her arms in front of her, the thickness of her forearms settling beneath an ample bosom. “No, they haven’t. However, allowing women of such ill repute to shop in my store makes my other customers uncomfortable.”

Miss Maguire shook her head and snorted a laugh. “Oh, fiddlesticks. I’d wager at least half of your fine customers are regulars at The Wild Pony.”

The Wild Pony? Her claim caught him totally off guard. “The saloon…that’s your family business?” He tried to staunch the words even as they were leaving his lips. Or, at the very least, couch the sound of surprise in his voice. Unfortunately, it appeared he’d been unsuccessful when Cassie Maguire’s features pinched. Her lashes fluttered, as if fighting back tears or, possibly embarrassment. He wished, with all his being, he could take back the bald statement.

She stepped back and then off the wooden walkway and into the street. “Yes, The Wild Pony belongs to my mother, not to mention the attached whorehouse.” Sparing one last heated glance in Mrs. Hoskins direction, she met his gaze, her eyes widening with emotion. “You’re welcome to stop by any time.” She took two more steps and then stopped to add, “Although, we’re usually quite busy on Thursdays.”

Her sarcasm forced him to bite back an outright chuckle. He wasn’t sure what to make of Cassie Maguire. Surely she was beautiful, spirited and full of conviction. He admired the way she stuck up for her mother’s employees. He wasn’t sure why, but he felt he should say something to keep her from walking away angry. “Wait, Miss Maguire.” When she stopped but didn’t turn, he took a step in her direction. “Perhaps I could talk to Mrs. Hoskins on your friends’ behalf. Surely, their money is as good as any.”

He couldn’t tell if his offer had made things better or worse. She swung around slowly, her glorious mane of hair floating from side to side, teasing her shoulders and his senses at the same time.

“Their money’s better than most, I’d reckon.” She surveyed the open street around them. “After all, it used to belong to a goodly number of these fine, upstanding citizens of Vicksburg. So, Mr. Barrister—”

“Aiden. Aiden Parker.”

She nodded. Her shoulders lifted and fell on a delicate sigh. “Neither me, nor the ladies of The Wild Pony need your help. But, I do appreciate the offer.”

 

Third, is my next project with Soul Mate Publishing.

The Eye of the Pharaoh is a time travel set between modern-day New Orleans and 1920′s Egypt with a bit of paranormal activity thrown in for good measure.

CHAPTER ONE

Department of Art and Archeology, Princeton University

Teri Hunter stood in the doorway of the dark and musty storeroom. A dim light shone from a glass-enclosed workroom in the far corner.

She took a tentative step forward. The floorboards creaked beneath her feet, and she could have sworn something small and furry brushed against her ankle. A shiver ran down her back, yet she fought the urge to return to turn and run.

Her breath held, she pushed forward, winding her way past a half-dozen crates, some open, some not. To her left she heard a rustling of paper, to her right the distinct sound of footsteps. Her apprehension grew. The hair on her forearms stood at attention.

She’d barely made it halfway across the room when she bumped into something large and solid. When she looked up, she came face to face with the painted mask of an Egyptian noble. The chipped finish gave the death mask an almost deranged look of menace.

Side-stepping the ancient sarcophagus, Teri moved closer to the light.

That was when she saw him. Dr. Joshua Cain.

Bent over his workbench, he held an ornate canopic jar in one hand and a fine horsehair brush in the other. With each stroke of the brush, he cleared away thousands of years of accumulated dirt, revealing yet another fraction of an inch of the beautiful artifact.

She couldn’t see his face, yet his shoulders were broad. His hair, dark brown with a hint of gray, brushed the collar of his lab coat.

He shifted on the stool, inching closer to the small overhead lamp. When he turned the jar over in his hands, Teri found herself mesmerized by the gentle way his long fingers caressed the priceless object. Beneath the sleeves of her silk blouse, her skin tingled.

She waited for him to place the jar on the workbench before she cleared her throat, coughing softly to get his attention.

He turned on the stool, his attention draw to, of all things, her feet. Inside her sensible, three-inch heels, her toes curled.

He raised his head slowly, his intense perusal running over her like water from a hot shower, causing her cheeks to flush warmly. Their gazes met briefly, his brown eyes magnified by the protective goggles he wore. His jaw, covered with the stubble of a day-old beard, was square, his lips full and turned down in an obvious frown of disapproval.

“How the devil do you expect to work in that outfit?” he asked, his voice deeper, richer than she expected.

Teri glanced down at her suit, the pencil-straight skirt hugging her knees. “Excuse me?”

“I said—ˮ

“I heard what you said, Dr. Cain,” she explained. “I just don’t understand why my choice of clothing should matter?”

“You can’t empty dust-covered crates dressed like an uptight librarian?”

 

And, finally, my next erotic romance from Decadent Publishing, currently in the final galley stages.

The Mysterious Mrs. Pennybaker is set in 1922 Manhattan and the story of a woman who served as a “Hello Girl” during the first world war.

CHAPTER ONE

Manhattan – Upper East Side, May, 1922

“Mrs. Pennybaker, the Coppers are at the door. Shall I show them in?”

Ariel Trumont Pennybaker tucked the papers she’d been reading into the drawer of the chair-side table. She stood, pressed the wrinkles from her satin drop waist dress, and straightened the starched headband holding her wild, brown curls in place. “Yes. Of course, Marie. I’m always happy to speak with our wonderful men in blue.”

“Humph, wonderful indeed,” the older women grumbled. “Those flatfoots don’t know their arses from a hole in the ground. They’re all on the take.”

Ariel stifled a laugh at Marie’s disapproval of the local authorities. Although, given the trouble Marie’s somewhat colorful family had suffered over the past few years, her maid’s disapproval didn’t come as a surprise.

The moment the two officers came through the door, it was obvious this wasn’t one of their usual shakedowns. The captain himself had come this time, and that didn’t bode well for the topic of conversation.

“Captain Beaton, how may I help you today?”

“Mrs. Pennybaker, we understand you held a party here last evening. And, a loud party at that. Neighbors attest to the fact there was drinking involved.”

“I did indeed, Captain. A rather nice fundraiser in honor of the new rehabilitation home built for our war veterans.”

“And was there drinking, Mrs. Pennybaker?”

She nodded and smiled. “You bet your shiny silver badge there was. And lots of it.” She paused, studying the captain for a brief moment before adding, “And, as prohibited by the 18th Amendment to the constitution, I neither produced nor sold the liquor to my guests. Everything was given free of charge from my late husband’s vast cellar.”

“You don’t call making the swells donate to your cause the same as selling the liquor?”

“Of course not, Captain. I would have given them food and drink, whether they donated to the home or not.”

The second officer, a much younger man, stepped forward. “The Volstead Act…”

Ariel took a step forward until she stood opposite the man. Her bold advance stopped him mid-sentence. When their eyes met she raised her hand and ran her fingertip rather teasingly across the officer’s name tag.

“The Volstead Act, Lieutenant McMillan, does not prohibit the consumption of any wine or liquor purchased prior to its enactment on October 28, 1919. I assure you, my late husband’s cellar contains stock purchased long before the passing of either the 18th Amendment or the Volstead Act.” She edged toward the door, eager to escort her unwanted guests out. “Now, if you gentlemen will excuse me, I need to prepare for another fundraiser later this evening at the home of the mayor.”

Lieutenant McMillan started toward the door, but the Captain stood his ground. The sight of his well-fed and unkempt person making bile rise in her throat.

“Not so fast, Mrs. Pennybaker,” Beaton warned. “There’s still the matter of inspecting your cellar.”

“An inspection?” Concern hammered within her chest. The cellar held secrets far more dangerous than bottles of booze. She drew a few calming breaths and composed herself in a matter of seconds. She knew from experience, a calm demeanor would guarantee the safety of her cache.

“Yes. Despite your assurances, we need to see for ourselves there’s no bootleg liquor hiding among your late husband’s stores.”

With much reluctance she motioned the two men forward and then followed them into the hallway. “Marie!”

Within seconds the woman appeared at her side. “Yes, Ma’am?’

“I would appreciate it if you could accompany the officers and me to the wine cellar.” Turning to the captain, she explained, “I would feel more comfortable in the company of one of my employees. I hope you understand, Captain Beaton.”

The captain snorted, no doubt amused by her concern. “Whatever suits your fancy, Mrs. Pennybaker. We’re interested in the hooch. Nothing more.”