Final days of the Halloween Hop and…travel photos #giveaway

Happy Friday!! Thank you to everyone who joined my newsletter, liked my Facebook page, and voted on my Monochrome Madness photos.

It seems like all-of-a-sudden I’m super busy. The truth is I know how I became so busy. I procrastinated…after all I didn’t have to go out and take photos of Lake Tahoe, but then again, I sort of did…know what I mean?

The pressure is self-imposed and comes from trying to clear the decks for National Novel Writing Month, which starts on Sunday. I (hopefully) will be writing the first draft of a new novel called…drum roll…Work in Progress! 😉 In terms of clearing the decks, so far it seems that the faster I go the further behind I get, which was not part of my project planning!

Today I thought I would share with you a few photos from an amazing place. You may have seen these before, but in a way they’re different because I processed them in Lightroom, which is new software for me.

I will start this off with a question for you as a prompt; remember comments get you into my giveaway contest (details below). Is there any place in the world you dream of visiting? Have you been there? Do you plan to go?

For me this place was Easter Island which must have been the earliest place I’ve ever dreamed of seeing. I learned about it in grade school and when I saw those giant stone heads and learned of the mystery surrounding how they were moved from the rock quarries on the mountainside down to the various shoreline positions, I thought it was the most mystical place on the planet. I was lucky enough to get to visit Easter Island in 2012.

Here are some photos of those famous statues. They are in a gallery for you. If you would like to see larger images, just click on one of the photos and you can scroll through.

By the way you can always view travel photos on my Travel page, which has a button at the top of this blog and is also here. They are grouped by place in alphabetical order.

Snarkology Halloween Blog Hop 2015Now for the Halloween hop with Melissa Snark. The giveaways on the main site are:
(1) $100 Amazon or B&N Gift Card or
(1) $50 Amazon or B&N Gift Card or
(1) $50 Amazon or B&N Gift Card or
(1) $50 Amazon or B&N Gift Card

Here is a direct link to the prizes:
Halloween Hop

Comment here on Nicci Carrera Romance to be entered for: a copy of Love Caters All by me, a copy of Left of the Rising Sun by John Holland,  or a copy of Dynamic Range, Leanne Cole’s photography magazine. (You can see this in the side bar on her blog.)

More Halloween Hop and Tahoe photos

Snarkology Halloween Blog Hop 2015I’m still doing the Halloween hop with Melissa Snark and 60 or so other authors. Thanks to all who have commented. Details below.

The giveaways on the main site are:

(1) $100 Amazon or B&N Gift Card or
(1) $50 Amazon or B&N Gift Card or
(1) $50 Amazon or B&N Gift Card or
(1) $50 Amazon or B&N Gift Card

Here is a direct link to the prizes:
Halloween Hop

Comment here on Nicci Carrera Romance to be entered for: a copy of Love Caters All, a copy of Left of the Rising Sun,  or a copy of Dynamic Range, Leanne Cole’s photography magazine. (You can see this in the side bar on her blog.)

I’m trying to decide which of these monochrome photos is best. What do you think?

A black and white image of boulders in Lake Tahoe, Sand Harblr
Sand Harbor Lake Tahoe
A black and white image of boulders in Lake Tahoe, Sand Harblr
Sand Harbor, Lake Tahoe
Sand Harbor Lake Tahoe, a yellow shrub on a granite boulder
Sand Harbor Lake Tahoe

And now for some color. These are also from Sand Harbor, one of my favorite places in the world.

Sand Harbor Lake Tahoe

Sand Harbor Lake Tahoe

Sand Harbor Lake Tahoe

Sand Harbor Lake Tahoe

Sand Harbor Lake Tahoe

Sand Harbor Lake Tahoe

Sand Harbor Lake Tahoe

Sand Harbor Lake Tahoe

Sand Harbor Lake Tahoe

Sand Harbor Lake Tahoe

Thanks, and happy hump day!

Seasonal traditions and #giveaway

I’m lucky enough to participate in this holiday tradition, Melissa Snark’s blog hop and giveaway.

Snarkology Halloween Blog Hop 2015

You can do simple things to help authors that also enter you in a giveaway. Follow the hop for more fun, great books, and these awesome prizes:

(1) $100 Amazon or B&N Gift Card or
(1) $50 Amazon or B&N Gift Card or
(1) $50 Amazon or B&N Gift Card or
(1) $50 Amazon or B&N Gift Card

Here is a direct link to the prizes:
Halloween Hop

You’ll have to scroll down for a while to find the Nicci Carrera giveaways. If you already like my Facebook page and subscribe to the newsletter, just enter your name anyway, and you will be entered into the raffle for the prizes. On your way, you can enter as many other authors’ giveaways as you like. Each sign-up equals another entry in the raffle. To find out about the authors, click on their name in the alphabetical list at the top. If you want to skip the list of authors and go straight to the giveaway list, click here:

URL: http://goo.gl/forms/C8m0B2NQ3d

In addition to the blog hop, on my blog, I’m giving away a copy of Love Caters All, a copy of Left of the Rising Sun, (which has a new cover)

Love Caters All cover
Love Caters All cover
Left of the Rising Sun cover
Left of the Rising Sun cover

or, since I know a lot of you are photography buffs, a copy of Dynamic Range, Leanne Cole and company’s really nice photography magazine. You can see information about this magazine on the sidebar of Leanne’s blog. The magazine is gorgeous and really informative. You can have either the one that is out or the next one that is coming out in November. dynamic-range_aug15-1To be entered in my giveaway, please leave a comment. If you cannot leave a comment, shoot me an email. My contact form is here. If you want my monthly newsletter let me know. All my newsletter subscribers will be entered twice in my giveaway.

Seasonal traditions–I hope to make this Halloween blog hop a new tradition. An old one I like to do every year is give out candy. I would say making homemade pumpkin cake in October is a new autumn tradition, invented since my husband the gardener knows how to grow enough awesome pumpkins to outpace the hungry squirrels in our yard.  I want to bake and cook with pumpkin every fall now. It’s really fun. I am going to have a pumpkin cooking theme in this month’s newsletter.

Do you have any seasonal routines or traditions that you enjoy?

Waiting for a contract for my new novel…and New York life

It has been very convenient not to have a contract in September because I’ve been vacationing like mad.

I have some scenery shots from the New York portion of my September vacation, plus some photos of New Yorkers living their lives. You can see that despite the stresses of the city and the crowding, that people here live normally, exercising, walking their dogs, playing with their children, and going grocery shopping. I didn’t take photos of all of these activities, but I’ve seen them. The parks are what make the city livable for people. Because I grew up in the mountains, I didn’t appreciate the value of parks until I came to New York City.

Exercising at Riverside Park
Exercising at Riverside Park
Exercising at Riverside Park
Exercising at Riverside Park
Exercising at Riverside Park
Jogging on a pier in Riverside Park

Even while on vacation, I’ve been checking email 10 times a day, hoping for one from my publisher saying they’d like to offer me a contract for Third Strike’s the Charm. So far, nothing.

I did get up early to take photos at Riverside Park. The rewards for crawling out of bed so early were there, and I have to ask myself why I’m not doing the same for writing. I have to think about that. I bet I could get some good creative thoughts first thing in the morning (and then go back to bed for a nap later.)

Heading to work
Morning by Riverside Park
Old railway ties with New Jersey in the backgroun
Old railway ties with New Jersey in the backgroun

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Early morning on the Hudson River
Early morning on the Hudson River
Early morning on the Hudson River
Early morning view from Riverside Park
Riverside Park
Riverside Park

In the middle of the day, I could do your standard kind of work, the editing, research, promo, and networking, just like I took an amble through Central Park and snapped a few good travel shots.

The Bow Bridge, Central Park
The Bow Bridge, Central Park
View from Central Park
View from Central Park

Around lunch I could enjoy some time with friends like this man with his best friend.

Walking with your bestie in Central Park
Walking with your bestie in Central Park

In the afternoon it’s important to have some refreshments,

Having some refreshments
Having something to drink

Finally, evenings after dinner can be left for:

John Lennon memorial in Central Park
John Lennon memorial in Central Park

For the rest of today, I’m going to imagine receiving the email that says something like, Dear Nicci Carrera, The Wild Rose Press would like to offer you a contract for THIRD STRIKE’S THE CHARM.

What dream of yours are you imagining into reality?

The writing life, our characters, ourselves..

I’m still at the stage, and perhaps I will always be at the stage, when I don’t know for sure if a book will appeal to other people. I submitted Third Strike’s the Charm and crossed my fingers. The first email I received from my editor was, “It’s not like your first book. It seems like your heart wasn’t in it or you were rushed.”

I can laugh about this now, but this statement was like an arrow shot into my worst fear. One of the bits of advice to fiction writers is to figure out what is your character’s worst fear? Then do that to them. Now I was having a turn-the-camera-around experience. As a writer you are trying to figure out characters, and then suddenly you are looking at yourself.

In fact I find this happening a lot. At first when I heard the advice to understand why a character acts and feels the way he does, I thought, “Oh brother, people really aren’t like that.” I thought assigning reasons to why characters are the way they are was artificial and forced. People think, therefore we can think our way out of being affected by our experiences. Of course, that reasoning is an interesting reflection of me…but that’s a topic for another day. I started paying attention and can see not only are my characters formed by experience, but so am I.

Actually I cried when I wrote the ending scenes, and I even teared up when I started writing the synopsis! I fell in love with the hero…finally. He gave me a lot of trouble. Jason Ward is a quiet type. He took a long time to open up to me. When I finally stopped trying to force him to a plot outline, he started to whisper his truth to me, and what a secret it was. I was very moved by this character.

In addition to putting my whole heart into this book, I took some risks and wrote very differently. (I will explain my process evolution in a different post.) I was excited about my new process. When I read that statement from the editor, because I tend to doubt myself when it comes to fiction, I assumed that she had pronounced that my new process was a total failure.

I sent out an SOS to my critique partners and then sent a message to my editor explaining that while the book may be horrible, I did put my heart into it. I said if the book is really bad we need to kill it, because the most important thing is to put out a good book. Obviously, I never want to publish something bad.

My editor wrote back immediately and said, oh no, I haven’t read the whole book. I’m sure it’s publishable. It’s just the beginning. Don’t worry, a lot of authors make the mistake of thinking with a sequel that they have to rehash the whole beginning. Don’t do that. Make it stand alone. Go ahead and rewrite the beginning before I send it to the reviewers, if you want to.

Of course I wanted to! I took her advice and did that. Well, actually, I was flat out. Despite the relief of finding out her comment just pertained to the beginning, I was too close to the project. I retreated to bed with a bowl of Trader Joe’s Belgian chocolate while one of my beloved critique partners took my editor’s comments, the manuscript, and the previous version, and redid the beginning for me, using my words, but cutting and splicing. While she did that, I set the chocolate aside and had a mental health day taking photos with friends.

Golden Gate Bridge

Note to self: get some distance. Writing a novel leaves you vulnerable and over-sensitive.

Last Friday, I was wading through email, and there was a message from my editor. “I’m going to request we go to contract. I really enjoyed it.”

Needless to say, I am ecstatic. I guess you could say the writing life is one of these:

Santa Cruz Boarddwalk
Santa Cruz Boardwalk, wooden roller coaster

The beginning of the book was a bit mechanical, as I over-worked to show how the characters came to this point. This slowed down the pace because the scenes were about the past. The beginning has to grab the reader.

Note to self: when it comes to the beginning, CUT.

Beginnings are tough. They get rewritten a lot and can end up lacking voice.

Third Strike’s the Charm isn’t over the hump. The senior editor also has to like it, but I’m 95% sure she will. I think if the book can get through the first round, it will make it through the second.

So, like my characters, Third Strike’s the Charm and I have made it through our big black moment (BBM) and just might make it to our Happily Ever After (HEA).

Do you ever find yourself watching a movie, or reading or writing something and realize what is happening on the page or screen is also happening to you?

Golden Gate Bridge at sunset
Golden Gate Bridge at sunset
Monterey
Monterey

Nurturing the writer’s soul, visiting Yosemite.

As you know I’ve submitted a manuscript recently to my publisher. I have to wait a while to see if they say they want this book, which is a bit different from the first book. The tone is more serious because of what is going on in the characters’ lives. At first I started the book with a humorous first chapter. I was trying to make the main character a reformed party animal, but she is pretty serious. I mean, she’s getting her MBA. I have three close writing friends (we call each other critique partners) and they let me know that Cara wasn’t really what I was trying to make her be. Isn’t that strange?

Do you write stories and do you sometimes find that the characters evolve into something completely different than how you conceived of them? Although the departure from my plans resulted in a lot of work, I loved how the book came together in the end.

I’m really hoping that the publishing house (The Wild Rose Press) agrees and offers me a contract. The themes are more serious in this book, and I really like it.

The great thing is that I had a vacation scheduled for September, and the timing worked out well, at least so far. I’m actually hoping not to hear back until I’m done with my vacation! Because I had the vacation planned, I am not sitting around stressing about the book, which is great. This morning I was in Yosemite and took these photos around sunup. I won’t say sunrise because you can’t really see the sunrise in Yosemite Valley, but you can get up early and take photos of the changing light.

The whole experience was thrilling.

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This is Stoneman Bridge, which is right near Curry Village, where we stayed.DSC04983

I have to say that some of these woodsy shots were the most enjoyable, just standing in the woods being in nature.DSC04989

You’ll notice smoke in some of these photos. There was a sign at the entrance to Yosemite saying there was a controlled lightning fire and not to report it.DSC04995

I thought the smoke was interesting to photograph.DSC05002

While I was taking this photo there was a squirrel making a racket in one of the trees across the stream. I think he was fighting for territory against a blue jay or something. Things would fall out of the tree and fall in the water. I never saw the animals, but it was fun to be part of their world for a moment.DSC05009 DSC05050

This is a picture I took of my lens cap. I thought it came out kind of well.DSC05061 DSC05068 DSC05074 DSC05077 DSC05080 DSC05084 DSC05088 P1090149 DSC05023

Coming home tonight and working on these photos, especially choosing my favorites, was a lot of fun and a great way to end a very nurturing day.

I’d love to know if you write, whether fiction or nonfiction, and if you have had the experience of the work going in a different direction than you expected it to go?

Also, what do you do to nurture yourself?

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:

http://brendanovak.com/books/posts/secret-sister/

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

Welcome, Brenda!

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.

BrendaNovakCookbook_CoverFront-3
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.

My love of food

Food is so important to me, that it plays a major role in my first two novels. My husband also loves food and loves cooking (triple bonus points). When my husband retired, he started (no pun intended) making all our bread, using a hybrid starter based on the stuff floating around in the air at our house and a “starter kit” purchased from an online purveyor of San Francisco sourdough culture. (Loving the age of the Internet.)

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Sourdough

I’ve collected some of the food pictures I’ve posted in my Food tab, if you’d like to have a look. There are more pictures to add, but it’s a start.

Happy hump day. May you enjoy a nice dinner with good company today.

The problem with social media

When I get together with people, I have all these stories saved up to tell them. The only problem is, they already read all about it on my blog or Facebook! (Somehow, I forget people are reading that stuff.)

Image courtesy of Tina Phillips at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Tina Phillips at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

They’ve read all my stories, saw all the pictures, and are like…so, what else is new? Uh…nothing. That stuff you’re reading is my life lived out loud. You really don’t want to hear about the headaches, the dirty laundry piling up and that annoying person on the road who flipped me off, do you? Yes? Okay, I’ll blog about that then! Oh wait, then we’re back where we started.

#Giveaway and a new review for Love Caters All

Sorry for the long quiet spell! Things have been hectic in my household, and I have a deadline. Those are my excuses, but not to worry, starting next week, I’m going to post some amazing travel photos, live from the field. I can’t wait.

Today I want to let you know about the start of a book review blog tour. You can comment and be eligible to win a copy of Love Caters All.

Review_TourBanner_LoveCatersAll (2)

The first blog stop is today on Unabridged Anna. I love that blog name. She did a great review there.