Writing Progress

Here We Go

It’s happening! The final edit of Ghost of a Chance is complete and I’ve started sending out query letters to agents. Frankly, it’s a weird mix of excitement and dread. Waiting impatiently with a glimmer of hope for a request for more material, but fully expecting the dreaded “ding” letter. Being a writer (or a singer, or actor, or artist) is not for the faint of heart. I’ve received my first two thanks but no thanks emails. I allowed myself just a minute of “Oh my God! I suck as a writer, I’ll never sell this!” but then realized not everyone is going to be interested, and my worth isn’t tied to one agent’s opinion. In reality, it’s just like auditioning for a role in a play. You go in, give it your best, and that’s it. You learn, you grow, and you don’t quit!

One of the things I’m learning is that agents want to make sure you have an audience. It’s a big part of being a writer in a social media world. Not only are you trying to write something that appeals to readers, but you also have to be a marketing and PR person as well. It’s all about followers and how active you are on social media. Sometimes it feels like an uphill battle, but I’m slowly chipping away at gaining an audience. So, here is my shameless plug–tell your friends, family, and co-workers to follow my blog, my Instagram, and my Twitter!

I love the story I’ve created in Ghost of a Chance and I believe readers will too. It’s a blend of sweet and spicy, contemporary romance with just a hint of the paranormal. It’s about possibilities, both in love and the paranormal. As we get closer to Halloween (my favorite holiday), I often think about the “thinning veil” between our world and the next. If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m a believer in the paranormal and I’ve had a few unexplainable experiences in my life. So writing Ghost of a Chance was the perfect opportunity to blend two of my favorite things–romance and ghosts! And hey, who couldn’t use a Victorian ghost as a matchmaker?

I hope you all enjoy the change of seasons, wherever you are. I’ll keep you posted on the continuing saga of getting published!

Nikki's Musings · Writing Progress

Down Time

I’m sitting on my back porch, enjoying the sounds of birds chirping and bees buzzing. Yesterday brought major thunderstorms to the area but they did little to wash away the humidity. That’s okay, though. Because today I have a day off and I plan on enjoying it–regardless of the sticky air!

I don’t know about you, but most of the time I find myself at a loss when faced with down time. There is always a niggling sense of guilt that I should be doing something. But not today. Today I’m embracing the indulgence of down time.

“What brought about this change of attitude?” you may ask. Well, I’ll tell you. A few weeks ago I put out a call for beta readers and folks stepped up to volunteer. Their responses to Ghost of a Chance were not only incredibly helpful, but they were off-the-charts positive as well. It is never easy putting your writing out there for the world to see. While you’re waiting for those first reports back, you think all manner of horrible scenarios. Things like…

Why does she think she can write?

This is the worst thing I’ve ever read.

I don’t believe these characters at all.

Obviously, if you want to be a writer you have to, “screw your courage to the sticking-place,” as Shakespeare wrote. While that line spoken by Lady Macbeth, urging her husband to kill Duncan, is not exactly a perfect metaphor in this case, I think you get the idea–fear be damned–get your stuff in the hands of readers! Those reader responses drove me forward to the next steps and I’ve interviewed and hired a line editor. My manuscript is now in her capable hands for a final pass before I start approaching literary agents. Nervous? Oh yeah. Excited? You betcha! And the side benefit is that right now, I’ve got some well earned down time.

So, today I will drink my coffee on the back porch until it is an appropriate time to switch over to adult beverages. Plus, I have a few new story ideas that are percolating in my brain.

Have a great weekend!

Nikki

P.S. Thank you to my beta readers. You know who you are and I appreciate your efforts!

Nikki's Musings

Beta Readers Wanted!

Lilacs reminds us to take a moment and breathe.

I hope everyone is staying healthy and sane as we continue to navigate COVID 19. It’s been difficult for me and my husband since we are social creatures. He is a GREAT cook and misses trying out new recipes at what used to be our regular dinner parties. However, we’ve been lucky enough to meet with a few friends who have also been vigilant about staying home and quarantined. And since the weather has been great we’ve stayed outside and social distanced. I hope you’ve had the chance to meet with family and friends in a way that not only feels safe but also scratches that itch to be social!

As some of you know, I finished my spring semester of graduate school in May. I had one of the most rewarding courses ever in creative writing and feel that I’ve made great strides in shaping up my novel Ghost of a Chance. While I’m hopeful that I’ll find a publisher and/or agent, I’m not casting aside the possibility of self publishing as well. But before I do any of that, I need to get my novel in the hands of a few people who wouldn’t mind being beta readers.

“But what are the requirements,” you may ask.

Here are a few guidelines. If you answer yes to these, then you could be one of Nikki’s Beta Babes (or Boys).

  • Do you like romance novels?
  • Are you okay with a little spice in the boudoir scenes? Nothing too kinky, just a good old fashioned romp or two!
  • Are you willing to give honest feedback on what you like and what you don’t like? I can’t grow if you don’t tell me what works and what doesn’t, so please be honest–all constructive criticism is welcome.

Here is a quick description of the novel:

Ghost of a Chance, is a 77,000 word contemporary romance that blends the charm of east coast seaside living, strong friendships, and Irish history—all with a dash of the paranormal.

Kate Murphy is a practical, successful young woman, who upon completion of her MBA moves to New York City to work for a large banking corporation. But after two years of pushing a never-ending parade of spreadsheets across her desk while trying to put a broken engagement behind her, Kate realizes that maybe she hasn’t made the best career decision. It isn’t until Kate receives a phone call from her best friend, Eve Marsden, asking for her help to revitalize her floundering occult shop in Salem, Massachusetts, that Kate sees a new way forward in her life.

But Salem holds more than a career change for Kate when she meets Pete O’Brien, assistant professor of Irish history and part-time paranormal investigator. When Eve informs Kate that she has seen the ghost of a Victorian woman in their shop, it sets in motion a story of changing perceptions, friendship, trust, and ultimately love, with a little help from a ghostly apparition named Abigale Hastings. Filled with engaging characters, beautiful locations, spicy romance, and a happily ever after, Ghost of a Chance will hold the attention of romance genre fans until the last page.

If this sounds like something you would be interested in reading, please drop me a line at nikkilongwrites@gmail.com and tell me why you want to read my stuff! While being a beta reader doesn’t pay, I will give a shout out to my Beta Babes/Boys in the acknowledgements. I look forward to working with you!

Nikki's Musings

How Many Times Can You Edit?

I finished the first major edit/revision on my novel, Ghost of a Chance. My plan is to leave it alone for a week or two and then go back and “tweak.” But the reason for this post today is that I keep wondering just how long do I hold on to this sucker before I start pushing towards publishing?

The finished manuscript.

Now, there are a few caveats with all this. I am using GoaC (hey, my day job is in higher education-we LOVE acronyms) as my final creative writing/thesis project for my graduate degree. Along with supplying a finished manuscript, this fall I’ll be writing a supplementary document outlining… well, the topic is still up for grabs. It’s either going to be about feminism and the romance novel…yawn. Or it is going to be about the writing process and my influences, which is far more exciting to me because I can talk about my favorite girl, Jane Austen. I often find myself wondering, if Jane Austen was living in our time, how would she write a romantic sex scene? But that’s a topic for another post!

But even though I’m using this novel for my thesis project, I figure that I shouldn’t just wait until that’s done to try and get it published, right? I mean, wouldn’t it be a feather in my cap if I could present my thesis next spring and be able to say, Oh yeah, and by the way, I got a book deal? A girl can dream, right? So, all of this is just a long way of getting back to the title of this post, “How Many Times Can You Edit?” Let me tell you, it is damned difficult to let go of something you’ve been working on for a year. You (and by you, I mean me) find yourself wondering if there isn’t just one more thing you should change or add or more importantly delete. I swear that I could just fuss and mess with it until the end of time. It reminds of when I worked in a cinema and television department at a college. I remember talking to professors who taught beginning film classes and how they said young filmmakers sometimes spent so much time “editing” that that they destroyed the nugget of a great story. I don’t want to be that person!

In the next few weeks I promise to give GoaC one more go on minor edits and then I’m passing it on to my thesis committee. Then I think I’ll get rolling on writing a synopsis, which will mean that I’ll more than likely come back here and tell you what a pain in the ass that is! But it’s a necessary evil in the publishing process. Trying to distill a 77,000+ word novel into a one page synopsis. Keep me in your thoughts.

In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy, and most important read a book!

Nikki's Musings

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

Nikki's Musings

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

Nikki's Musings

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!!!

Nikki's Musings

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!

Nikki's Musings

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!