Nancy: Love for the Long Haul

kiss-on-windowBecause most of us here on the blog write (and read!) a lot of romance, the week of Valentine’s Day presents an opportunity to talk about that core component of a romance story: love. More specifically, believable, happily ever after (HEA) love.

I thought about HEA love this past week when Maria V. Snyder posted on her FB page about the need for Valentine’s Day cards for 25+-year relationships, cards along the lines of “you annoy me and drive me crazy but I’m still willing to put up with it” or “we worked hard to mesh and I don’t want to train anyone else”. Yeah, those aren’t quite the messages we tend to read or write in our romance novels, but they are tongue-in-cheek reminders that there are real-life HEAs.

Back in the fiction world, though, that ‘believable HEA’ part isn’t always easy to write, and doesn’t always resonate with readers. For example, Continue reading

Nancy: The Duchess’s Christmas Wish

misteltoeFor last year’s Christmas story contribution, which I reposted a few weeks ago, I took you to modern-day Copenhagen to see how Nicky O spent his Christmas. (Hint: there were Danish Christmas hearts, a potential murder charge, and a very hot night with his married lover.) Ahem. This year’s installment, with a mischievous dowager duchess and a reluctant widower earl in 1870’s England, an excerpt from a future novella, seems downright tame by comparison. But there is that pesky little matter of the mistletoe…

Bennett Fairbank, Earl of Sandalwood, stood in front of the newly-stoked hearth in the study of his son-in-law’s country house and hoped very hard he had not allowed his beloved daughter Lucinda to marry badly. He’d been about to ask her about the inattentiveness and slowness of the servants in her new home when the maid had finally arrived with tea service.

“I’m so sorry.” Lucinda reached for his hands as soon as the maid had left the room and finally stood still long enough for Bennett to kiss her cheek. “We’ve had to hire so many new staff so quickly, what with fifteen guests arriving for the weekend, and Christmas preparations well underway.”

“I’d have thought your husband would have had a full staff ready for his new bride.”

Lucinda squeezed his hands. “Daddy, don’t—”

“Lady Lucinda, here you are!” A familiar voice grated on Bennett’s ears.

The Dowager Duchess of Bridgehampton sailed into the room, bringing with her a blast of cold air from the hallway that reminded Bennett of the long icicles hanging from the eaves, one more task unattended. He might have to take the new servants in hand himself.

“I’m perfectly fine,” the duchess told his daughter, and Bennett realized he’d missed the conversation. “You go see to His and Her Grace.”

Lucinda flashed a smile and dropped a quick curtsy before flying out of the room as fast as the duchess had flown in, ruining yet another chance for him to have a private word with his daughter.

“Uh-hm.” At the sound of the duchess’s throat clearing, Bennett glanced at her. The woman had ensconced herself on the black leather settee, her fitted green gown with its waves of ruffles on the skirt flowing around her like an emerald sea.

Bennett shook his head slightly, wondering when he’d last been distracted by the color of a lady’s gown and realizing it matched the green of her eyes and, more perplexingly, why these unbidden thoughts had come to him now, just as he was considering taking his leave to find Lucinda.

“Uh-HM.”

This time Bennett caught sight of the duchess’s face. Those dress-matching eyes bored into him and her mouth was set in a slight scowl, as it usually was when he was in her company. Continue reading

Nancy: Carbon + Pressure = Diamonds

Rough_diamondI have to admit it: I’m jealous. It looks like you ladies had a lot of fun on Writing Sprints Friday. Micki had a fabulous week of writing, with over 4,000 new words. And Jilly has come up not only with a new story, but a whole new world and possible trilogy.

Meanwhile, over here, I’ve been subsumed by the non-writing world and have only managed to peck around the edges of my Victorian romance series. And I’ve driven into some well-worn ditches while I’ve been at it.

For instance, I realized that once again I’m coddling my heroine. I can’t help it. I love my characters. I brought them into this world, and I feel responsible for them. I don’t want life to be hard for them. Which makes for hella boring fiction.

Character growth is fundamental to most fiction stories. And how do you make characters grow? Put them under pressure and watch how they react and adapt. And change. And grow into beautiful diamonds. As Chuck Wendig has written in The Kick-Ass Writer, “You as storyteller are a malevolent presence blocking the character’s bliss.”

But what if you’re not feeling the malevolence? What’s an overprotective writer to do? Continue reading

Nancy: Justified Part 4: The Lessons

Justified_2010_IntertitleOver the past month, I’ve blogged about one of my now-favorite TV series, the FX channel’s Justified. My husband and I started watching the series as part of our binge-watching approach to television because it had been recommended to us by a few different people whose TV and movie viewing tastes are similar to ours. I started rewatching episodes to deconstruct and analyze the writing because, from the very beginning, the approach to story writing resonated with me. Then I started discussing the writing elements with my husband who, though not a writer, is a good sport and enjoys talking story with me…to a point. Once I’d passed that point (identified by the way his eyes glazed over), I knew it was time to bring the discussion here and share it with other writers.

But I also knew my writer brain wasn’t just connecting with the story for the pure enjoyment of it. It was figuring out how I could use the story lessons in my own work. This week, I read over those last three posts, each of which focused on a writing lesson the series had reinforced for me, and considered how I’m using those lessons to improve my own WIP.

Lesson One: Open Strong

This is not new or earth-shattering advice. It’s not something that I or most writers I know willfully eschew. But it is something that’s so easy to inadvertently fall short of achieving. Continue reading

Nancy: We Interrupt This Regularly Scheduled Writing Plan…

Interruptions. Life is full of them. There’s no avoiding them. Sometimes it seems we spend more time dealing with the things that interrupt us than on the things that are being interrupted. So it was for me this past weekend. And here is the main culprit:

I am here to be so cute and interrupt you and PLEAZ PET ME!

I am here to be so cute and interrupt you and PLEAZ PET ME!

Like many of life’s interruptions, I didn’t see this one coming. On Saturday morning, this adorable little girl showed up in our driveway where my husband was moving some things out of the garage. And she hasn’t left yet. After long walks in the hot sun in search of owners to claim her, a trip to PetsMart to have her checked (fruitlessly) for an identifying microchip, a drive to the SPCA to register her as a ‘found pet’, then another stop by PetsMart to buy all things dog and have the vet do a closer inspection of her, our little Saturday surprise had used up all of our free  hours.

Except those weren’t exactly free hours for me. They were hours not claimed by day-job work or family obligations or house projects. They were some the rarest and most coveted hours of all in a writer’s life – leave-me-alone-I’m-writing hours. Sunday wasn’t much better, as I had fewer writing hours set aside and we spent that precious time reaching out to friends to find a potential forever doggy home, and buying all the rest of things dog we forgot to buy yesterday. In the end, we had success! – our foster puppy will meet her potential new family in a few weeks, after we take care of a few of her health issues. But my writing plan Continue reading

Nancy: July Recap

july 2015 calendarIn many ways, you already know the big story in my July progress report: bright lights, big city. Much of the month was consumed by preparation for, attendance of, and decompression from converging on RWA Nationals in NYC with the other eight ladies. But wait, there’s more! And it has to do with story progress, which is always exciting, so let’s get started!

New Story. My five-book Victorian Romance series has now grown to 7 (planned) books. While there was always going to be a sixth, a wrap-up novella where one of the characters driving the others to their HEAs gets her own love story, there wasn’t going to be a launch novella. That changed at RWA when one of my business-savvy self-publishing friends recommended I write a 20k novella to launch the series.

My first reaction was, ‘yeah, right, good one’. Continue reading

Nancy: June Recap

june-15-strawberry-fields-fullIt’s that time again – time to reconcile my monthly progress against plan. The good news is, my writing projects are moving along nicely. The bad news is, I’ve lost track of what my actual monthly plan is. But now that we’ve officially passed the halfway point in the year, it’s a great time to revisit (or in my case, completely retool) the annual plan. More on that in a minute. First, a progress report.

Writing: Balancing Three Projects With One  Brain. When I discussed my 2015 writing plan way back in January, my number one goal for the year was to touch my story every day. Not only did I meet that goal in June, I exceeded it. Continue reading