Nancy: What Gets You Out of Bed in the Morning?

Years ago, when I was in my previous life and profession and was using a white board for something other than character arcs and plot progressions, I kept a question on my board at work. It was, “What keeps you up at night?” This is a question used in sales in marketing to remind sellers to think about what the customer wants/needs/stresses about, NOT about the widget or service we want to sell.

Then about five years ago, I read an article that argued (rather convincingly) that we should stop asking what keeps our customers up at night, and start asking, “What gets you out of bed in the morning?” Do you see the shift from negative to positive? I brought that to the teams I managed with the goal of writing our business proposals with a different spin. We still needed to write about knowing the customer’s pain and how to solve it. But I started pestering my teams (and the business development execs who interacted with the customers) to learn about customer’s bigger-picture visions. I wanted to expand our message to say, “We support solutions, but also aspirations.”

By now you’re wondering, WTH does this have to do with fiction writing? I’m so glad you asked! Continue reading

Nancy: Preorder Party: A Sale and a Snippet!

As I announced last week, May is release month for the next story in my Harrow’s Finest Five Victorian romance series. Two Scandals are Better than One is Luci and Edward’s book. And to celebrate their story coming out into the world, I’m throwing a preorder party!

Two Scandals will be released on May 30, but you can order your copy now at the discounted preorder price. And this week, the other two books in the series are on sale as well. Monday through Thursday, you can get all three books for less than six bucks! Check out the series page on Amazon to get the whole series (thus far!) today.

Once you’ve read Too Clever by Half and One Kiss from Ruin (or even before, if you’re so inclined), you can read the first chapter of Two Scandals are Better than One over at my website. In the meantime, here’s a snippet from one of my favorite scenes from later in the book. I hope you like the snippet and sample chapter, and enjoy the entire series!

Two Scandals are Better than One – Excerpt

“Since I won’t be staying in this room, I’ve brought you something that will make you feel safer.” Edward reached into his pocket and slowly withdrew the cloth-wrapped offering. Flipping back the edge of the handkerchief, he revealed the glint of a four-inch silver barrel. Continue reading

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