Perspective

It’s a strange world we live in right now. That’s an understatement, I know. If you are anything like me your emotions shift from fear, to anger, to ennui (one of my favorite words in the universe by the way), to resolve. I read that during a pandemic such as the one we find ourselves in that it is helpful to keep a diary because hopefully we will never find ourselves in this situation again. I’m going to try to do that while I also work remotely, continue my graduate classes remotely, and finish the rewrites on my novel, Ghost of a Chance.

One of the great things about being a writer is that I am used to spending time alone with my thoughts. And another great thing about being a writer (and an actor) is that I have a phenomenal imagination. Which, my husband has so delicately reminded me, is what usually sends me spinning out of control during these uncertain times. Every cough, scratchy throat, or stuffy nose sends me into a self-diagnosis frenzy. Do I have it? No, don’t be ridiculous! But what if I do? Do I have a fever? No. Do I feel sick? No! You get the idea.

Please note, I’m not making light of this situation. I have a mother who is in her 80s with her own medical issues. I have friends who suffer from auto-immune diseases. Others who are battling cancer and all manner of ailments. In reality, I’m one of the lucky ones. Both me and my husband, while on the edge of the age bracket that is more susceptible, are in relatively good health. Plus we live in a rural area–not a congested city. So, more often than not I find myself worrying about my loved ones. I bet you are too.

So, as we travel this new path that has been laid out for us let’s work at keeping perspective. Take a deep breath and enjoy the little things–spring is here and new life is beginning! Temper your intake of the news and being informed with listening to music, or watching a great movie, or READING A BOOK. Take a walk if you can–it does wonders for the soul–even if it is only to the end of your driveway or block (not forgetting social distancing). Remember to smile when you can and especially to laugh whenever possible! Nothing feels better than a good belly laugh, even now. Finally, remember to reach out to each other. Call. Email. Wave to your neighbor across the road. Heck, last night the husband and I had a virtual cocktail hour with friends on Face Time. That did more for my mental health than you can imagine. We need to remind ourselves that we aren’t alone in facing this–we are all one regardless of our political leanings, religion, race, creed, or sexual orientation. And we can do this–together. So, hunker down and wash your hands!

Love, Nikki

Break Time or No Rest for the Wicked?

Last week I finished up my fall semester of graduate school. Only two more full semesters (plus one semester of writing my thesis) and I’ll be finished. Because of the massive amounts of reading I’ve been doing, there has been little time to even think about the website, reading for pleasure, or my own writing. But now? Ah, now I have the next 10 days off, with no work and no classes! Can I just say that one of the best perks of working in higher education is the fact that the Christmas holiday means a paid vacation when the campus shuts down? Yes I can say it, and I will. It is glorious!

In the past week since I’ve wrapped up my course work I’ve started editing one of my novels, I Want to be Like Jane. I hadn’t looked (or even thought about it) in over a month. But I used the feedback I had received from the contest I entered and decided to start looking at it, HARD, so that I could make the changes that needed to be made. I hadn’t realized just how difficult that could be. A writer really does become so invested in the words on the page and it’s like cutting loose one of your kids when you edit out a passage or change part of the story line. But the more that I sat with it, the easier it became. I want to add a few chapters and work on the ending a bit more, but I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. One of the most rewarding moments was when I was reading a passage and stopped and thought, “This is good! I’d want to keep reading this!” Good sign, right? Hopefully, I’ll have it close to completion before the spring semester starts.

In addition to editing, I’m also thinking of new story ideas. So, I’ll be keeping this close by for any inspiration that flits into my brain. After all, you never know when genius will strike, am I right? Ha!

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and a very happy New Year. I promise (well, I’ll try) not to be a stranger in 2020.

Love,

Nikki

Validation

Several months ago I entered my first writing contest. I submitted a sample of my novel I WANT TO BE LIKE JANE. The novel is about a young woman living in Bath, England who considers Jane Austen to be the finest writer to ever breathe air (smart girl), and wants to be a writer herself. She is embroiled in family drama and ultimately finds herself living in London, working for a publishing house owned by her father who she hasn’t seen in 20+ years. Once in London she meets a young man and…. Well, I’m not going to tell you everything! You’ll need to read the book–once it gets published.

But back to the writing contest. As a novice, I had no idea what to expect. I filed my application, uploaded my chapters, making sure to honor the appropriate word count outlined in the submission rules, and promptly forgot about it. Until this morning when I woke up, looked at my phone, and saw an email from the RWA Chapter that held the contest. My heart raced as I grabbed my glasses and scanned the letter. No, I wasn’t chosen as a finalist. Honestly, I didn’t expect to, but I was hoping for some feedback. Low and behold, there WAS feedback from the three judges and it was great! They gave me tips on some issues of mechanics, pacing, and plot development. The ranking system was on a scale of one to five across multiple areas of story development–five being “girl, you are ready to be published!” I was thrilled to receive several fives, mainly fours, and a couple of threes, and I’ll admit one ranking of two in one area from one of the judges (she/he was tough!).

A couple of comments made my day.

  • “Lizzie [the protagonist] is fabulous. She is a round character, and I am rooting for her from your first paragraph.”
  • “I thought the setting was really clever. I like that a writer who admires Jane Austen is working in a tea room in Bath wearing Regency gowns on a regular basis. I can imagine this would make for some fun scenes later in the book.”
  • “You have a clear, engaging voice through your main character. Build on that. It makes her sympathetic and believable.”
  • “This has potential and once the heroine develops her goals, it will be a great story to read.”
  • “I think this work has great promise and every Jane Austen fanatic (which is most of us romance authors) would love it.”

When I read that my novel has potential and great promise, I thought I would weep with joy. Okay, I actually did cry a little. Yes, it needs work and I have to tighten up some areas, but to have professionals tell me that I don’t suck??? Well, I am energized and ready to get back to my novel! There is hope, there is joy, and there is a writer in me!!!

It’s like launching a political campaign!

No, this isn’t a political post. However, launching a writing career feels like a political campaign. Here is what my life has been like for the past few weeks:

  • Launch website
  • Create Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook presence
  • Try to keep up with posts to website and social media
  • Look for beta readers for my finished work
  • Begin the process of reaching out to agents and publishers
  • Stay up-to-date on the news from professional organizations
  • Go to my day job (Hey, a girl has to eat!)
  • Get a haircut so I don’t look like a monster when I have new photos done for website and social media
  • Actually do some WRITING!

Don’t get me wrong, I am beyond excited to be launching this next stage in my career. I guess I’m wondering though, how do other writers do it? What is the secret of managing all of the important duties involved? Do I need more coffee? Whiskey? Maybe both? Which reminds me! Last year for Christmas, my husband gave me the following items.

Yes, a campfire coffee mug and an appropriately named Irish whiskey. Pretty thoughtful, right? For the record, the whiskey, Writers Tears, turned out to be excellent and it has become one of my favorites. FYI, if you ever want to have a whiskey tasting, count me in! When we were in Ireland a few years ago, we had a blast visiting whiskey distilleries. Hmm, there might be a storyline in there… Romance Among the Whiskey Barrels. Ha! I might have to work on that title. Later, friends!

The Next Big Idea

Hello friends!

As a writer, I’m always looking for ideas for my next book. Typically they hit me right before I go to sleep or when I wake up in the middle of the night. I love creating characters and stories, and there is always a little bit of me in them–maybe it’s my love of a specific location, or maybe it’s about a skill that interests me. And that is what’s happening in my next novel…which I haven’t started yet because I’m in grad school and some of those pesky reading lists get in the way of my creative flow! But it is percolating away in the back of my brain and it is bubbling to get out and on the page.

So, I’m going to sketch out for you what I’m thinking for my next story idea. As my “About” page states, I’ve worn a lot of hats in my life–actor and singer being the most fulfilling (along with writing). Actors and musicians have tight knit communities and when you start the rehearsal process for just about any show, you form bonds with your fellow actors, crew, and administrative staff. It becomes one big family–sometimes a bit dysfunctional–but that is to be expected with creatives! Of course, there is also the possibility of romance, and since that is my wheelhouse I’ve decided to write a backstage romance.

Location will be New York City, of course! An actress gets her first big break in a musical on Broadway. She is enamored with her famous leading man who just might be a manipulating, egomaniacal, philandered. Of course, she is blinded by his smarmy charm and all of his trappings of wealth and fame. Will our heroine succumb to the leading man’s wicked ways, or will she find happiness and love in the arms of another? Stay tuned for more!

Curtain up for romance!

A First Time for Everything!

Well, I’ve taken the plunge! After three years of writing, rewriting, self-doubt, and finally a sense of “come on, let’s do this,” I’m launching my writing career. Yes, I proudly declare that I write romance novels! I love them. Always have. From Jane Austen to Harlequin Romances, I’m a sucker for a happily ever after.

There is nothing like a satisfying girl meets boy, girl loses boy, girl gets him back and all ends happily kind of story. Throw in some lovely locations, lots of romance and spice, and I’m a happy camper. My novels are rich in friendships too because best friends are the glue that holds our lives together. If you can’t commiserate with your bestie when you have a broken heart, then all you would have is junk food and booze! Although I’ll be the first to admit that a fine Irish whiskey can work wonders in a pinch.

Within the next few days and weeks I’ll be sharing information on my two novels that will hopefully find a home on your bookshelf or e-reader someday soon! Thanks for being here! Oh, and feel free to drop me a line at nikkilongwrites@gmail.com.