Reflections on relaxation

Flowers and weedsHappy Monday! I’ve been busy resting, LOL! Me, my husband, our son, and several of our friends have all had health issues that have forced us to slow down. I guess those who are already taking care of themselves and not pushing themselves too much, have fared better during this Mars in retrograde period.
Flowers and weeds-3Speaking of Astrology, I just finished reading An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears, and it’s now my favorite book. Here’s my review. In this historical mystery, the budding new field of medicine included consulting the stars before performing any medical procedures. While I find Astrology fun and sometimes remarkably helpful, I really don’t want my doctor relying upon it, so I guess I’m glad that they don’t. (Although perhaps some of the diagnoses would be more accurate…)

My second novel is coming out on Wednesday, woo hoo! Unlike An Instance of the Fingerpost, no animals get hurt in Third Strike’s the Charm.

Flowers and weeds-2

Today’s images are from my treasure trove. I’m on for a photo outing on Friday. I can’t wait to get fresh shots for you.

Flowers and weeds-4

Have a great week!

The writing life, generating creativity

Happy Monday! 

2GH7hkY5I want to share with you the long and winding exploration in which I’ve indulged during the magical cold days of December, days that somehow lend themselves to introspection, giving the psyche time to go deep like the dormant trees doing whatever it is they do to prepare themselves to leaf out in the spring.

This exploration  all started when I read my friend Gayle Parness‘ debut novel Rebirth (Rogues Shifter Series 1). She has a dozen or so books out, and she gave me the audio book of the first one, which starts the series. Rebirth brims with imagination and gorgeously rich language not to mention brilliant characterization, snappy dialogue and good plotting. But it’s the brimming imagination that triggered a negative thought about myself as a writer.

When something happens to make me doubt myself as a writer, I am all over it. I am a disciple of Eric Maisel, my go-to writer for all the baggage that goes with being an artist. Because I’m a “self-coach,” as he teaches, I know when I am having a self-defeating thought about writing, and I get on that. Not to deny it, but to examine it and understand the thought so that I can then dispute it.

First the examination. It is a known self-defeating action to compare oneself to other writers. However, if we have the solid anchor of being a creativity self coach and know that we are not going to let the self-defeating part take root, it can be a useful exercise. I do have this creativity self coach thing down now, so let’s take a look.

Author at workUnlike Gayle, who is prolific, I am a lean writer. With my debut novel, my newly assigned editor said, “This could be a lot longer.” I said, “I know. I write lean. I don’t know why, but no matter how much I try, that is what I do.” She said, “It’s your style. Most authors throw everything on the page and I have to sort through it.” I felt lots better. This leanness is just my style.

However, I want to do more, much more.

As I was examining this comparison of myself to Gayle, I thought, I’m semi-scientific. I say semi-scientific as I like to dwell on the fringes of science; I am not myself a disciplined scientist. In my previous career, I was a senior technical writer, a role that is on the border of the engineer the IT professional and the written word. Nothing in my life has ever come to me so naturally as technical writing; the field was a perfect match for someone who majored in math and English.

This thought that I am semi-scientific rather than richly imaginative led to the idea of Googling creativity for scientific minds, which led me to: How to Train Your Creative Brain, which led me to: A Technique for Producing Ideas, by James Webb Young. Gold mine. I need a deliberate methodology for cultivating creativity because while flashes of insight and imagination come to me, I want to go deeper and I want to have some control over it. If I am analytical, how can I use that quality in the service of my art?IMG_6806

I put together this from A Technique for Producing Ideas. This book is about advertising, which is a highly applied form of creativity. I translated the book to writing fiction this way:

  • Ideas — ideas for plot and character
  • Product — whatever the characters do for a living and the setting or other element that plays a big role in the book
  • Consumers — readers

Here is a longish quote from the shortish book:

We constantly talk about the importance of having an intimate knowledge of the product and the consumer, but in fact we seldom work at it.

This I suppose is because a real knowledge of a product, and of people in relation to it, is not easy to come by. Getting it is something like the process which was recommended to De Maupassant  as the way to learn to write. “Go out into the streets of Paris,” he was told by an older writer, “and pick out a cab driver. He will look to you very much like every other cab driver. But study him until you can describe him so that he is seen in your description to be an individual, different from every other cab driver in the world.”

This is the real meaning of that trite talk about getting an intimate knowledge of a product and its consumers. Most of us stop too soon in the process of getting it. If the surface differences are not striking we assume that there are no differences. But if we go deeply enough, or far enough, we nearly always find that between every product and some consumers there is an individuality of relationship which may lead to an idea.*

Another book I read in December had a major impact on my writing: Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen. So I looked him up and found this quote which captures what is so genius about Freedom and which ties in neatly to what James Webb Young said:

…if you pay careful enough attention to a character’s inner life, it turns out to be a marvelously detailed mirror of the character’s outer world.**

Here’s another quote from a book that is playing into my new methodology of creativity (The Plot Thickens, by Noah Lukeman):

…it is the purpose of this book to show that plot is not just about having a single great idea; on the contrary, a good plot is an amalgamation of many ideas or elements of writing, including characterization, journey, suspense, conflict, and context. An idea is paramount but without the supporting elements, an idea by itself is just that — an idea, not a 124 or 300 page living being replete with shades, colors, and textures. Most stories do not come in one flash — on the contrary, the best stories or are organic to their characters, to their layers of suspense and conflict.***

Creativity and imagination can be cultivated. Stay tuned for Part II on how I employed the methods and the results.

A Technique for Producing Ideas, by James Webb Young


***The Plot Thickens, by Noah Lukeman

#Giveaway Australian literature & sale

Ebook Heartland 2015

As many of you know, I did the editing and formatting for my friend John Holland’s four novellas. Now there’s a collection of all four in one book and it’s on sale today. There is also a one month long giveaway of the paperback edition on Goodreads for USA residents (due to budget constraints with shipping).

If you read it and see the editor is Nia Simone, don’t worry, that’s me!

Here is the description:

Heartland is a collection of four novellas connected by the theme of life in the Australian outback.

Somewhere Far from Iris:

In this noir style tale, a depressed man seeking to heal himself by returning to his hometown walks into an explosive situation that threatens friends old and new and is somehow entangled with the secret of his origin.

The Light at the Bottom of the Garden:

In this light mystery, Senior Police Constable Mick Creedy faces his toughest case: a governess gone missing, perhaps because she followed the legendary Min-Min Lights. When the young woman’s mother, Eveling, arrives from England wanting a full investigation, including into the possibility of a paranormal event, Mick needs to balance his no-nonsense methods with a grieving parent’s needs. Eveling further complicates matters as she endangers herself and threatens to distract Mick.

Bitter Bread:

In this noir-style story, a severely scarred reclusive man who moves to a small town after his wife’s death finds himself embroiled in a violent labour dispute that forces him to become involved with the community.

Left of the Rising Sun:

In this survival adventure, a boy who is the only one to walk away from a small plane crash in the remote outback of the Australian Northern Territory believes he won’t be found and decides to walk 300 kilometres home. His trek requires resolve, knowledge of the harsh wilderness, and ingenuity and leads to surprising friendship and maturity.


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Heartland by John  Holland


by John Holland

Giveaway ends January 17, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

For today only, the digital edition is on sale at these outlets:






Find John online here:

Robyn Carr Virgin River book review and photos of New York City

Yesterday was hard work in some ways, with a lot of walking and emotions ranging from fun to sobering to sad. New York provided extraordinary weather for being a photographer and tourist: cool with a pretty sky.

Even after all the touring, which started at sunrise at the Flatiron Building and ended after 10:00 p.m. on top of the Empire State Building, I finished reading Virgin River by Robyn Carr. The last 50 or so pages were so riveting that despite being tired, I had to press on and read to the end. The Virgin River series is small-town contemporary romance, which is the direction I might be heading with my romance writing. I say “might” because I have some romantic suspense stories planned as well. I’ll probably write both sub-genres. Anyway, I’m so glad that my Goodreads group started reading this series. I’d picked up a couple books from later in the series but they didn’t captivate me. Now that I’ve ready the first one, I know to just push through the first few chapters, and I will be rewarded. I loved the contemporary and realistic elements and was moved and riveted several times throughout the book. I ended up giving it 5 stars, highly recommended.

The reading group is a great thing because many of the long-term members had read the book and their encouragement to keep going made the difference for me. Now I have a great new (to me) author and series to enjoy and another good example to follow.

Here are my favorite photos from sight seeing on Monday.

Old Ferry Building, New York City
Old Ferry Building
Statue of Liberty, New York City
Statue of Liberty
View from Staten Island Ferry, New York City
View from Staten Island Ferry
The old Ferry Building, Detail, New York City
The old Ferry Building, Detail
New York City Architecture
New York City Architecture
New York City Architecture
New York City Architecture
New York City Architecture
New York City Architecture

Here are some other photos of my day in New York City in a gallery for you. The World Trade Center and the memorials are absolutely gorgeous. I was very impressed by and proud of the people who came up with the design and implemented it. I’m glad I went, although it’s a very hard thing to stand there and remember, to absorb. It feels good to have paid my respects.  Taking photos at the September 11 memorial is very easy because the site is beautiful from every angle. I won’t say much more because I’m starting to tear up. I really have no words, but am happy to share a few images in the gallery. The other photos are a smattering of images I enjoyed and hope you do too.

Review of THE SECRET SISTER and author interview with Brenda Novak

Today I’m reviewing THE SECRET SISTER, by Brenda Novak.

This book will have wide appeal. There’s a romantic element in the book, but anyone who wants to be consumed by a great book will love this one.

The Secret Sister Final Front
Click here to go to Brenda’s page with all links and some reviews

Nicci’s Review:

THE SECRET SISTER, by Brenda Novak, is a riveting and realistic tale of Maisie Lazarow, a children’s book author whose life is in ruins. She retreats to her hometown, an island off the coast of North Carolina. Upon her arrival she finds that the bungalows she will one day inherit and where she hopes to stay are hurricane battered. Maisie’s mother is as cruel and her brother as volatile as ever. Maisie’s mother has also sold off part of Maisie’s inheritance, the bungalows, to a construction contractor as payment for rebuilding the units.

Even as she tries to regain her balance the sands shift beneath Maisie’s feet when she discovers a secret that rewrites history and threatens to destroy the fragile remains of the very family she is trying to rebuild.

This riveting tale has pure Brenda Novak emotional immediacy, that feeling that the story is happening to you. THE SECRET SISTER will draw you in and not let go until the fully satisfying ending.

What always amazes me about Brenda Novak is the subtlety of the wrongdoers. This family story explores the complex feelings of adult children who are products of very difficult, even abusive, parents. Of particular interest to me was how Maisey’s feelings about her late father slid across the spectrum from love and grief to fear that she would lose even her belief in his kindness, which has served as the one stick she could cling to in the rough seas of her life.

I like how the book hinges on simple clues, secret pictures and letters. I like the suspense which is gripping without being a thriller. This book reminds me a little bit of The Memory Keeper’s Daughter but with the reliable story magic of Brenda Novak.

New York Times Bestselling Author Brenda Novak was kind enough to answer these interview questions for my blog. Enjoy, and read the book! You won’t be disappointed. You can get all the buy links here:

Now for the interview! Don’t worry, there are no spoilers.

Welcome, Brenda!


Brenda: Thank you for the lovely review. I’m so glad you liked the story—and it was such a pleasure to have you come to the launch party for this book.

Nicci: You’re welcome! And thank you—your launch party for THE SECRET SISTER was awesome. We had fun and love our signed books. Getting to THE SECRET SISTER, you mentioned enjoying writing a Gothic style with this book. Can you say a word or two about what you mean by a Gothic-style story, and also any tips as to creating that atmosphere? For example, I love the name, Coldiron House. You must have had fun naming the house. Is a cold and forbidding mansion an important part of a Gothic type book?

Brenda: Yes, I think a cold and forbidding mansion plays a role in most Gothic novels, and I wanted a little bit of that feeling here, so the ancestral home served nicely for those purposes. Gothic novels are a bit dark and foreboding and mysterious—all things I love as long as the story is also good, which is where the challenge came in, of course. JANE EYRE is a classic Gothic story, and it’s one of my favorites.

A Gothic designation probably has more to do with tone than anything else, so anything that adds a certain dark or mysterious feeling to a novel would help to carry it in that direction.

Nicci: I love the scene where Laney keeps wringing her dress. What amazed me about that was how you built in conflict even into that scene with this character action. Can you share a little of your experience crafting that scene (without giving anything away)?

Brenda: So much of what I do is instinctual that I’m afraid it’s difficult for me to break down my process enough to describe why I did certain things in this novel. I didn’t really intend to create conflict here (not consciously) so much as I knew a scene without some kind of tension is flat and boring. I always try to have something at stake—in every scene—which is where most tension comes from. I also had some characters who bring their own kind of tension, just because one is so difficult.

Nicci: I enjoyed the text message interactions between the characters very much, particularly the tension as the characters are surprised by them or waiting for responses. At one point you had two scenes happening around text messages, on the heroine’s side interacting with her family and on the hero’s side with him and his daughter. You use this new technology naturally and well. Can you share your experience of working with texting in your novel?

Brenda: Thank you. Texting was actually kind of difficult for me to add into my work, at first. I guess that’s because I started writing before I started texting. LOL Now I text so often with my children, husband and friends, that it’s natural for me to have my characters interact the same way.

Nicci: Your bio at the end says you have raised $2.4 million for diabetes research, but in your Author’s note, that figure increased to $2.7 million. This is an incredible achievement. So many people are affected by diabetes, so I would like to provide a link to another book of yours from which all proceeds go to this cause. My blog followers know how much I love food, and I was first in line to get this wonderful cookbook. LOVE THAT! Brenda Novak’s Every Occasion Cookbook.

Click here to help find a cure for Diabetes

Brenda: Yes, there’s a discrepancy because I turned in the manuscript for THE SECRET SISTER before I did my fundraiser for this year. I added in the amount I was hoping to raise, thinking we would get there (like we had every other year). Alas, we didn’t raise quite that much this time. We are only at $2.5 million as a cumulative total, but maybe we can push that up with sales of the cookbook, which is something I continue to push. So thank you for your efforts to help me with that.

Luke’s #1 Rule, by Cynthia Harrison

Lukes #1 Rule
Lukes #1 Rule

Releasing today, Luke’s #1 Rule is on sale this week only at The Wild Rose Press.

This book has the natural style I love so much about Brenda Novak’s work, and like Brenda’s Whiskey Creek series (see here for all my book reviews), Luke’s #1 Rule is part of a small-town series. The small town is Blue Lake, and when the main character ends up there, I could feel the relief of arriving in a community where people care about each other. But the relief doesn’t happen immediately for Chloe Richards. Oh no, she has a constant source of internal conflict: She’s moving with her kids to Seattle, very far away, and it’s ripping her apart, but she has no choice.

This book is about family and very difficult issues. It’s realistic, not at all forced, and utterly riveting as a result. Yet it is still a romance, and though I cried three times while reading it, they were good tears, and I knew it would somehow all end well. That’s a requirement for me. I dislike books that end sadly, even if I love the book, and I tend not to read those authors again, because let’s face it, who needs more bad news and sorrow when we have life, which has its share for everyone? (Although I do sometimes break this rule for literary work that makes me understand things more, like, for example, Rules of Engagement by Anita Brookner, which I really need to review one of these days! And even The Hunger Games, the ending of which infuriated me, but which is still such a profound work of allegorical literature that it informs my thoughts about various things we humans are doing to each other and the way the world works at the moment.)

But back to this wonderful book. Luke’s #1 Rule is thought provoking literature that will leave you feeling happy and satisfied as well as thoughtful and more informed.

Here are some little details from the book that I jotted down as I was reading. After that, I am posting the interview that was included at the end of the book, with the author’s permission. Cynthia is on tap to answer comments, too, so fire away!

I love it when Tommy’s smile spreads over his face like butter on toast. (Tommy is one of Chloe’s children, whom I just adored. Cynthia really captured children realistically. I love the characterization of the children; I could see and feel their excitement over meeting Luke, and over everything fun.)

I love this line:

“Then I’d say you had quite a mess to clean up before your next child arrives, don’t you?”

This was a line by a therapist talking to the drug addict in this book who makes the people around him miserable. This line is just an example of how you feel this book is written by an artistically mature author.

Speaking of artistically mature, the book is so deeply written, I was inside the character’s minds.

I love details like this, feeling the calming effect of something homey when one is in the midst of a very real life crisis.

…and the meatloaf mixture minus eggs sat in a blue bowl. Her mom had used that same mixing bowl since Chloe was a little girl.

And little offhand comments like this that communicate a setting in so few words:

Good stones, she had learned this week, were the ones that made the biggest splash when you flung them into the water.

And I love the realism of this little gem tucked into a scene:

She mentioned the price of a year of college these days. One year for one student. Her mother had been shocked at how college costs had sky-rocketed just since Chloe had finished off her degree.

And finally this, at the crisis point in the book. I felt the emotion because I was living the story with the characters.

Now she knew the rip of kin from kin, and it hurt.

Buy Luke’s #1 Rule here (on sale)

Now for the interview. I love that it was included in the book because I instantly had questions about the author’s own experiences. The book was so realistic that I thought maybe she had experiences along the lines of those of the book’s characters.

There are also excellent book group discussion questions provided.

An interview with Cynthia Harrison

Cynthia Harrison
Author Cynthia Harrison

1. You said that your husband gave you the idea for this book twenty-five years ago. Why didn’t you write your true love story?

I’m a fiction writer. I like making things up. I also wanted to protect the privacy of the real people involved in this story. Not just my husband and sons, but their father, their other mother, and their siblings.

  1. Their other mother? Why not stepmom? Do you mean the character of Bettina?

I’ve always felt, from almost the first day, great respect for the woman who would help raise my children. I feel like I can talk to her about anything and she will understand. She’s very friendly and open and nonjudgmental. I love her. She took great care of my children; she is truly their other mother. Stepmom has such negative connotations in literature. She’s the opposite of that.

  1. So the next obvious question is your ex-husband. Is he anything at all like Spence?

Not an iota. Not even close. Spence is the character I had the most trouble with, at first. I didn’t want to make the ex the bad guy. It’s such a cliché. So I did the opposite and that didn’t work. This is fiction, and I needed conflict. I’m a writer who teaches, and the first seven years of my teaching career, I taught at-risk high school children. I learned a lot about addictions and how they destroy families. Then there’s my addiction to chocolate and potato chips, which sounds funny but created serious consequences. I was recently diagnosed with pre-diabetes. So no more sugar for me. I have an addictive personality. Fortunately, I can’t drink more than a few glasses of wine without getting dizzy and then sick. So food has been my primary addiction, but I am also a binge television watcher, huge movie fan, and constant reader of novels. Aside from the food, these are all soft addictions, but they all gave me insight into Spence.

  1. What will happen to Spence? Will he be okay? How can the reader know?

As a reader, I sometimes have questions when a story ends, too. In the literature, the relapse number is very high, but Spence has a unique supportive system in Blue Lake. We will see Spence in other stories, but I don’t know if he will relapse because he hasn’t (yet). Still, it’s true what they say: addicts will always be in recovery.

  1. How many books do you plan for the Blue Lake Series?

I still have a lot of stories to tell. I like telling two thematically related stories in every novel. So Fast Eddie’s will be about the reunion of Bob and Lily, who were going off to college in Blue Heaven. They’ve graduated, and Lily comes back to Blue Lake. So does Eddie’s first love. My favorite way to write is to have a new adult storyline and a more mature romance as well.

  1. Blue Heaven was more of a traditional romance, but Luke’s #1 Rule had many more characters. There are the four adults and two children, plus the meddling mothers. Why the change?

They say every writer has a “book of her heart.” Luke’s Number #1 Rule was mine. It was not just a love story, although that’s the main plotline. Using the theme of blending a family was the book I’ve always wanted to write. It was a challenge. And it wasn’t a romance. I will always write love stories because I have a romantic soul, but the larger picture interests me, too. 7. You said you’re a reader. Who are some of your favorite authors? If you came to my house, you would look at my bookshelves and know. I use an e-reader these days, but still collect my favorites in hardback. First came Jane Austen and Erica Jong, then Alice Hoffman, Louise Erdrich, Sara Lewis, Elizabeth Berg. I also love poetry and short stories, so add Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro. Also Carol Shields.

  1. Do you read male authors?

I do. Raymond Carver is a personal favorite. I also admire TC Boyle and Richard Ford. There is not a book by David Lodge I have not laughed through. Richard Russo is in there, too. I don’t collect any of them except Carver. I think taking two degrees in English literature filled me up with male authors. The classics. After college, I started my own education of contemporary female writers.

  1. Do you read contemporary romance?

I do. I never miss a novel by Barbara Delinsky, Pamela Morsi, or Rachel Gibson. I’m also a fan of romantic suspense and several of my fellow TWRP authors write in that line. Mysteries! Sue Grafton and Anne Perry. Lee Childs. Every book.

  1. How do you find the time to teach, read, and write? Are your little boys grown up now?

Yes, my boys are grown with families of their own. When they were young, I wrote less and read less. I enjoyed my time with them. More recently, I’ve been teaching less, which gives me time to read and write. I’ve found you can do it all, but you can’t do it all at the same time. I’m also dedicated (again, I could say addicted) to Twitter and my blog. My older son suggested I start a blog in 2002. He set it up for me, and I’m still there at For ten years, I wrote about my efforts to publish my novels. Then it happened and I decided to write about other things, the concerns in my novels, but also the love and joy in everyday life.

  1. Do you ever speak to book clubs?

I adore meeting people I’ve only known on the Internet. In real life, I’ve met friends from New York, San Diego, Los Angeles, and Seattle. I live north of Detroit, but, time permitting, I’d be happy to Skype with a book group from anywhere.

Where to find Cynthia Harrison:

Blog :

Facebook :

Twitter :

Pinterest :

Google+ :

Goodreads :

Amazon Author Page :

Left of the Rising Sun, by John Holland, 5 star review

Editing John Holland’s novellas was an honor and an achievement I’m very proud of this year. Today I’d like to share a review of Left of the Rising Sun, his latest novella, which is on sale in ebook format for .99,  free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers and also available as a paperback for $7.99. This book is appropriate for children over the age of 10, and will appeal to adults as well.

Left Cover 2

Here is the latest Amazon review, by reader Mehreen Ahmed:

If any one knows the Northern Territory in Australia, the red continent, then they will know how hostile the landscape is here, If a plane is crashed in the middle of nowhere, it is anybody’s guess how the survivors will fare. Ten year old Buck Brown, one such unlucky person was once taking a ride in a mail plane to the outback where his family lived, until this plane had to make an emergency landing on a biillabong, a long way away from home.

Left of the Rising Sun is an extremely well written book, which extrapolates vivid outback images of the dry and hot Savannah to be precise. Each detail has been attended to and has been crafted superbly in accordance with all literary measure. The sun covered in the warmth of a blanket as the morning’s heat gradually rises through the day is only one such example. Minute descriptions throughout shapes the character of the outline in geographic perfection to give the feel of a place, vastly void and dangerous. One has to know the outback only too well to conjure the typical scenario of the anthills, the termites, honeycomb, sparse wild berries, and mussel meat. All too familiar bush tucker captured in gripping writing technique.

Portrayal of human behavior is exceptional as well. A ten year old boy having a crush with a girl similar to his age is also not unheard of. Passenger’s well founded fears and anxieties in the grips of a near fatal situation has been accounted for.

Reading will not stall even for a moment through each paragraph, as the ten year old grapples with his fate in this unfavorable situation. Buck’s adventures in the outback in search of food and water have reached a high point of romanticism, as the boy finds himself alone in a cave camping in the darkest of nights kindled by the fire he manages to light.

I definitely recommend this to all adventure loving people of various ages. Admittedly, getting lost or a plane crash in Buck’s case and surviving an Australian outback of the Northern Territory is not particularly congenial; more so, if the protagonist happens to be ten years of age.


Kindle edition:


Aussie novella, Heartland series book 2, a mystery

Thank you for the great support for Somewhere Far from Iris. John and I appreciate your interest and efforts.

The second installment in John Holland‘s Heartland series, a novella length mystery, is now available.


A lovely English governess goes missing from the homestead on a local cattle station in the Australian outback. The local people think the mysterious Min Min light has something to do with her disappearance. Senior Police Constable Mick Creedy doesn’t buy into paranormal explanations and is exploring foul play. However, when the young woman’s mother, Eveling, arrives from England wanting a full investigation, including the possibility of a paranormal event, Mick needs to balance his methods with a grieving parent’s needs. Eveling’s inclinations further complicate matters as they might lead her into a danger Mick does not yet understand. Pressure mounts as unexpected feelings for the victim’s mother raise the stakes in this case that seems to have no leads.

Editor’s note:

I suggested to John, “Hey, you should write a mystery.” We were on Google Hangout, so I could see his sly smile. A few days later he sent me The Light at the Bottom of the Garden. Once again I was drawn into his straightforward style and was delighted by finding John’s humor in the story. I still laugh every time I read the scene between Mick and Bessie.

We hope you enjoy the story! If you do get a chance to read this installment in the series, a review at your favorite online book review forum will help other readers discover John’s unique voice.

Nia Simone

You can read the first 20% of this fun book at these outlets.

Kindle electronic book: Amazon

and Smashwords (electronic book formats: epub, mobi, PDF, lrf)

You can also check out this nice interview with John at Smashwords. There’s another really good interview I just found out about here: Patti Roberts and Guests.



I edited an Aussie novella…


My friend John Holland let me edit his Heartland novella series. I love his work! We released the first installment, Somewhere Far from Iris a couple days ago.

A man struggling with depression travels back to his Australian outback hometown to reconstruct himself and walks into an explosive situation that is somehow entangled with the secret of his origin.

Here is the longer blurb. I also included my editor’s note for some background on how this project started.

Clinically depressed Shane Morris is trying to learn how to cope with his condition and find balance within the turmoil of his mind. He embarks on a mission to reconstruct himself by going back to his roots in the Australian outback town of his childhood. In Iris, this man who thinks he is nothing discovers at its extreme, life has two poles, the tender and the brutal. In the fires of the worst and best expressions of man, Shane learns he’s far from nothing and just where he fits into humanity’s broad spectrum.

Editor’s note:

When I first opened this file, I was sitting in our friends’ house in Sydney. We had left Townsville just days before. My husband and I spent three weeks with John and his family so John and I could collaborate on a novel. John sent me an email saying this story idea had poured out of him after we flew out. But, he said, he didn’t know where it was going and wasn’t planning to finish! No fair. I was riveted. So I demanded he finish. And when I received the finished draft, I was thoroughly satisfied with the story.

I never know what John’s going to come up with next for his stories. I found Somewhere Far from Iris to be twisty and intense.

I am pleased and honored to be John’s editor and thrilled to help bring this book to you.

Your reviews will really help other people find John’s work, so please post your review at your favorite online book review forum. Your support is very much appreciated.

Nia Simone

Available at Amazon: Somewhere Far from Iris

Smashwords: Somewhere Far from Iris




Happy Valentine’s Day, two Romance authors talk about writing and love

Today in honor of Valentine’s Day, I am doing very brief interviews with two romance authors.

Welcome back, Melinda Di Lorenzo! Thank you for joining us today. Can you share with us a bit about your experience with either the Romance genre or romance in life?

Melinda: Sure! On writing romance, until about four years ago, I didn’t even realize that I was writing romance! It came as a big surprise to me when I found the common thread in all of my stories – LOVE. I’m a sucker for it. If it makes your heart pound, or makes you sigh a little breathlessly, I’m hooked.

Nia: You definitely have the hang of this genre. I loved Tattoos and Tangles.

Find Melinda on the web here:, on Twitter: @melindawrites and on Facebook:

Next up we have RoseAnne DeFranco.

RoseAnn DeFranco

I reviewed her book Return to Audubon Springs here. Welcome, RoseAnne! Can you give us a tidbit about romance or Romance from your life?

RoseAnn: Sure! People always ask if the men in the Brothers of Audubon Springs are based on someone I know. While they are not, they all possess some of my husband’s characteristics – a love of nature, fishing and family (See: MAMA’S BOY). Fishing, nature and beach excursions were a large part of how I fell in love with my husband. The series is an expression of that love.

Nia: Thank you, RoseAnn!

Find RoseAnn on the web here:, on Twitter: @radefranco, and on Facebook:!/roseanndefrancoauthor