Nancy: Creativity Is Hard Work

Me, every writing day. Often, I am pushing the same damn boulder I’ve been pushing for weeks or months.

Last week, I had a conversation with a very creative person in a field other than writing. (Yes, it turns out there are creatives in the world who are not writers! I, too, was surprised.) We were discussing “living the dream.” Which is, apparently, what I, as a full-time writer, am doing. My creative friend, still working the day job, is not. And he had thoughts about that.

Actually, he has dreams of his own, which are wonderful things! He also has some misconceptions about what my day-to-day life of dream-living entails.

For those of you who have not met me IRL, I should explain that I have no poker face. Ergo, I could not hide my shock, dismay, and perhaps even amusement at his idea of my life. And while I have my own dreams of spending my writing days frolicking with unicorns and sliding down rainbows while the Best Story Ever Written magically appears on my computer screen, I’ve only had two, maybe three days tops, when unicorns have appeared. And those might or might not have involved whisky. That is to say, this dream gig is hard. Continue reading

Nancy: On Book Clubs, Best-Selling Fiction, and Career Advice You Might Need to Ignore

Over the past 10 or so years, I’ve tried to get on the book club train three different times. Each time, I left the group after only one meeting. That choice wasn’t because I took issue with the people (they are readers, and therefore inherently lovelyūüėä), their passion for the books, or even the wine. It was because I, as a writer, read so differently than non-writers that I was looking for things in a book discussion that the other members wouldn’t find interesting. Ergo, I had nothing to bring to the book club party (other than the wine, which is important! but not really the point).

The real problem I and many other writers have in joining book clubs is that we’re not looking for book discussions at all. We’re looking for book dissections. Writing craft deep-dives. Story geek deconstructions.

That’s why I’m so glad I agreed to join an online book club with one of my writing tribes. We are all long-time writers, with multiple years and manuscripts-worth of experience. Most of us either are or are in training to become book coaches who work with other writers on a regular and ongoing basis. That training has given us a common language and shared tools we use to evaluate writing. Last week, we had a one-hour online video chat to discuss our first group book, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. Our discussion was wonky and geeky and made my little writer heart sing with joy.

Interestingly, though, when I found myself thinking about the book and our discussion in the days that followed, it was usually in the context of current writing career advice and “truths”, how Delia Owens ignored (intentionally or otherwise) much of it, and how none of it is applicable if it isn’t relevant to you and your process. Continue reading

Nancy: Looking for a Summer Romance?

You usually see posts from me on Mondays, but today I’m stopping by the blog to invite you to a summer party! And even better than a normal party, this one includes romance authors and books and chances for prizes.

Coffee Time Romance has been an online gathering place for romance readers and writers for years. Each Saturday, they invite multiple authors to take over their Facebook fan page to talk about their recent romance books, answer fan questions, and give away prizes.

Today (June 22nd) from 9-10 PM eastern time, I’ll be on the Coffee Time Romance page discussing One Kiss from Ruin. This is the second book (but first full-length novel!) in the Harrow’s Finest Five series, aka Daniel’s and Emme’s love story. Check out my final post of the night to find out how to win a free copy of the book. (The contest remains open through Sunday, in case you have IRL plans for the evening).

I hope to see you there!

Nancy: Revisiting Story Brain

This week, I’m sorry to say, I’m a bit overwhelmed and a bit under the weather. While I don’t have the energy or mental focus to write a new blog post, I thought I’d share this one that I wrote two years ago, in which I discuss how stories mold our minds and attitudes, and can ultimately change the world.

How Story Shapes Our Brains

How long did the last fiction book you finished stick with you? What about the romance or mystery or classic you read over and over again as a teen? How about the books your parents read to you before you were old enough to read on your own? Turns out, the fiction we read might just be making us more engaged, empathetic humans according to researchers studying the brain through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). We’ve known this for a while now.

In a¬†New York Times article¬†published more than five years ago, Annie Murphy Paul reported: ‚ÄúThe brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life; in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated‚ĶIndeed, in one respect novels go beyond simulating reality to give readers an experience unavailable off the page: the opportunity to enter fully into other people‚Äôs thoughts and feelings.‚ÄĚ Wow, heady stuff, you authors out there. Continue reading

Nancy: Is That a Book on Your Wall?

There comes a time in every story’s life when, in order to grow up into a book, it will undergo revisions. And just as my writing process has evolved over the years and tends to require variations based on the needs of each book, so too has my revision approach changed over time. One constant, though, is at some point, I need to look at the story differently by literally changing its appearance.

I’ve used the standard tricks over the years. Change the entire manuscript to a different font. Color code each POV or type of scene/action occurring. Print out the document in hard copy. For my current revision¬† fiasco project, I needed a new trick. Cue the music of worlds colliding as I realized I might have just the right tool sitting in the toolbox I used for my “day job” career.¬† In that career, I managed projects creating business proposals made up of multiple volumes of information, sometimes with hundreds of pages in each volume. These proposals had strict margin, font, and formatting requirements; included graphics, tables, and charts; and usually had page limitations per volume as well.

Teams would write, revise, and review the documents online, but by the time we got to our first round of document reviews and revisions, it was time to hang that puppy…er, proposal…on the wall. It’s such an industry-standard practice that companies with enough capital (and interest in investing in the department that brings in the business) install rails on the wall that are sized to slide 8.5×11-inch pages in and out of them. And it’s such an important step to get the big-picture visual of the proposal’s progress that if the CEO walks into a war room (the affectionate name for conference rooms where teams work on these projects) and does not see the proposal on the wall, someone in my position could get fired over it.

In other words, multi-billion dollar companies take this tool seriously.

I’m not suggesting there’s a lot of cross-over between what works for such companies and what works for novelists. I’m just willing to look far and wide for ways to get through the #E(*@+%! revision process. It’s that kind of thinking that gets you a wall full of a book manuscript and a spouse sleeping with one open in case you’ve really snapped this time. Continue reading

Nancy: Accountability Thread and…Free ARCs!

It’s the first Monday of the month, and that means accountability here at Chez Nancy. However, today I have something else to share first, and since I used the titillating word “free” in my post title, I’m going to start with that. You see my novella book cover over/up there in the image? That cover and the words attached to it (aka my book) will be released at the end of November. Yippeeee!

Now it’s time for me to think about the care and feeding of Too Clever by Half as it goes out into the world. In this day and age, a big part of a book’s survival is garnering reviews, primarily at booksellers that carry it (mine will be Amazon-exclusive for a bit), secondarily at popular reader sites like Goodreads. To get the review party started, authors give away advance review copies (ARCs) before release, with the request that recipients post a review in the first few days of a book release.

Starting today, I’m looking for my ARC readers! If you think that could be you, you’re just a few clicks away from requesting one. Just go to my author website contact page, where you can choose to email me (please include ARC in the subject line), or continue onto my FB author page to message your email address to me. Easy peasy!

A few important deets: I’ll send out a limited number of ARCs on a first-come, first-served basis. ARCs will not include the pretty pink cover you’ve been seeing for the past few weeks, so don’t be surprised by that! I will NOT collect your email address for nefarious purposes or, well, for any purpose other than to send you the e-ARC and a quick note with the basics about ARC reviewing, and a follow-up reminder to post your review on or after release day.

Now, back to Monday and that accountability thing… Continue reading

Nancy: Cover Redux: Paint It Black Edition

What would you think if your lover gave you a black rose?

Last week, we Ladies spent a lot of time looking at, talking about, and sharing book covers. By the end of it, I thought I was ‘covered’ out; then I quickly realized I have to engage a graphic designer for my January release, pronto. That sent me back to the interwebs, down rabbit holes and into quicksand pits. Eventually I emerged, a little worse for wear, but brimming with ideas not just for One Kiss from Ruin, but for the other books in the Harrow’s Finest Five series as well.

And one of those books might get a black cover.

Just like weddings, it’s all about love, romance, and the dress

As you might remember from my cover reveal last week, the cover of my series-launching novella features the heroine in a Victorian-era dress. A very pink dress. As a general concept, a woman in a period dress without her face showing has set the tone for the series covers. However, none of the other books in the series are the same low-heat (formerly known as sweet) level, so the innocence of pastels won’t be a hallmark of the series branding.

I already know the heroine on the cover of the first full-length novel in the series will be in green. The hero loves her in green, as it brings out the color of her eyes and makes him all swoony. And I found a stock image of a woman in an amazing green dress that I hope my designer can use (although that’s not necessary, as dress color is apparently a pretty easy thing to change). Then there’s the heroine of the third novel, who’s a fiery redhead, a femme fatale, and – so Society thinks – a merry widow. She wouldn’t show up to the event of the Season in anything less than a red dress.

As for my second novel’s leading lady, she would look lovely in blue. However, in the first few scenes of the book, she’s the mysterious woman in black. That black dress gets the hero’s attention, tugs on his – ahem, let’s keep it G-rated and say heartstrings, and is referenced occasionally throughout the book. I would love to have a cover with her in her black dress, holding her sparkling masquerade mask from the same scene, and maybe featuring another fun element that I’ll keep under wraps for now. But a black cover on a romance that’s not gothic or erotica? Is such a thing done? I’m so glad you asked, because I did some research, and here’s what I learned. Continue reading