Artistic choices

With writing, I receive a lot of help from my critique partners. Not only do they tell me what’s not working about a book, but they suggest how I might fix it. They also tell me what is working, so that I am careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Then I receive more help from my editor because I am lucky enough to have one! Good editing is key.

There are so many elements of writing craft: understanding and showing the characters’ goal, motivation (why they have the goal and why they think and act the way they do), and conflict (what stands between them and achieving their goal, both internal and external obstacles). Then there’s character arc (how they change and develop), and story structure, which has its own set of elements. Setting, dialog tags versus character movement, point of view, deep point of view, and so on. I think any writer who has been a member of Romance Writers of America for a while could jump on any of these when critiquing a writer’s work. With all those elements, many things can go wrong, but assuming you have those things right, well then it comes down to artistic choices among multiple right choices. Even at the sentence level, there are multiple ways of saying the same thing. One writer is going to choose to arrange a sentence one way and another will choose another way.

For me, getting to the artistic-choice stage is incredibly rewarding and exhilarating. Getting to choose is worth all the work and frustration involved in learning to write and in producing books.

I went out with a group of four photographers yesterday in New York City, all of them professional. I have been learning all kinds of technical tricks with my camera and some artistic suggestions, but ultimately the choices I make are my own. When I get home and look at my photos, which ones do I like? How do I want to develop them? I wouldn’t say I’m anywhere near mastering the craft, so some things are “wrong,” but each of us who posts photos is making choices, and even for amateurs, that is fun and interesting.

Some of the images below are not perfect, I know that, but I still like them. That’s what I find interesting–why did I choose these images?

The first one reminds me of the famous painting Nighthawks by Edward Hopper. My photo is not very much like that painting, but for some reason, the scene reminded me of it. Our brains are so individual–we are reminded of or pleased by different things. I like the people sitting inside plus I like the colors, textures, lines, curves and that the scene looks three dimensional. This is my favorite photo in today’s group.

The Oyster Bar at Grand Central
Grand Central Station
An old-fashioned info booth with modern displays, Grand Central Station
An old-fashioned info booth with modern displays, Grand Central Station
Phone booths in the public library
Phone booths in the public library
The Chrysler Building
The Chrysler Building
Grand Central Entrance
Grand Central Entrance
Bryant Park by the library
Bryant Park by the library

The next one is another favorite of mine. I like seeing people reading, looking at their smartphones, and talking, a slice-of-life moment in New York City.

Bryant Park
Bryant Park
View from Bryant Park
View from Bryant Park

Who doesn’t like a carousel? These are always so beautiful. The bunny was pointed out by two of the other photographers. It’s fun to see what artists notice. When I went up to take the photo, I was captured by the words on the horse’s saddle, Granny’s Folly, so I included that in the foreground.

Bryant Park carousel
Bryant Park carousel

I had to cut off the day early because I have a cold, but I made it out to our deck for a sunset photo.

Nightfall at the apartment, photo from the deck
Nightfall at the apartment, photo from the deck

Well those are my artistic choices for the day. Do you enjoy getting to make choices in whatever your specialty is? Whether it’s choosing a recipe, an outfit, how you will approach a work project, or choosing how you will tell a story, it all reflects your uniqueness.

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

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.


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?

Forests of light, the trials of writing, and an interview of you (and me)

I completed the book that I wanted to submit in time for The Wild Rose Press Lobster Cove series. The ball, as they say, is in the other court.

I’m so glad I finished the book, and that I like it. That’s a good first step. I’m also glad that I made it outside last week to enjoy the Tahoe National Forest. Hopefully you will enjoy this collection of images from our hikes.

Wildflower meadow, Tahoe National Forest
Wildflower meadow, Tahoe National Forest

I would love to know if you had a goal over the summer, or any time, that challenged your ability to balance other things you like to do.

Log in water
Log in water

Did you reach your goal?

Trees with moss
Trees with moss

What did it cost you and was it worth it? Why or why not?

Dry creek
Dry creek

What motivated you to pursue that goal?

To be fair, I will answer for myself:

  • Did I have a goal over the summer that challenged my ability to balance other things I like to do.
    Yes, writing the sequel to Love Caters All in time for it to be included in the Lobster Cove setting, where it takes place.
  • Did I reach my goal?
  • What did it cost me and was it worth it? Why or why not?
    It cost me being able to relax more this summer, and it cost me anxiety, or I should say, it gave me anxiety! Yes, it was worth it because the book pushed me through to a new way of writing, one that I have dreamed of, but that I didn’t think I had in me. I feel that I became a more natural writer. It was also worth it because the book is meaningful to me, and it is amazing to create meaning. In addition to being about a romance, this book is about loving and caring for someone who is disabled. When my characters took up this meaning and told me their story, rather than letting me impose the story upon them, I was amazed and fulfilled. I was also, I think, changed as a writer. I hope it sticks! LOL
  • What motivated me to pursue that goal?
    This changed over time. First it was simply the next thing I planned to do. I set up a series with three sisters, not realizing how difficult series can be! Ah, the blind ambition of the ignorant. Then several readers wanted to know what is going to happen with the other two sisters, so the readers motivated me. I didn’t want to let down the people who took a risk and read my debut novel! Then my critique partners helped me so much that I didn’t want to let them down. I mean, they worked hard to help me pan the bits of gold out of the first draft. Finally what motivated me to push myself very hard, to push through moments of hopelessness when I was throwing out more words than I was writing with the deadline looming nearer and nearer, was my husband. He often is a bit of a writing widower. He also helped me a lot with the book as he always does. I simply couldn’t let him down. After I finished, I confessed this to him, and he said I wouldn’t have. Nice to know! One thing I learned about myself with writing this book is I care the most about my relationships with people. Oddly enough, that’s sort of what the book turned out to be about.

So now I am in waiting mode. This book might be rejected. Or it might not be loved by readers. This is what happens when we undertake to write stories for an audience. But you know what? Those things don’t matter as much as I thought. At least I hope I have the courage to remember this no matter what happens with the book. We have to look inward for our rewards. Yes, we create for others, but if we are satisfied with what we have created, then we must feel fulfilled and whole. And if we are not satisfied, then I think we need to be kind to ourselves, maybe set this aside, and try again. It is very often the case that later in our careers we will know what we need to know to bring that creation into being in a way that fulfills the vision we have, the feeling we have for it.

I’d love to hear from you if you would like to answer any of the questions or just describe a bit about an experience you’ve had of pursuing a goal.

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.

An ancient oak and a note about writing

Today I have been reading a new book about writing called Write Your Novel From The Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pantsers and Everyone in Between, by James Scott Bell. I gobbled it up during my writing session and the book is helping me with the sequel to Love Caters All. Write Your Novel From the Middle forced me to answer some questions about the characters that really helped. The book includes a slightly different take on the three-part story structure. I really love it so far!

I didn’t get out for a walk today because I hurt my back again yesterday working in the yard. It was feeling better, and I was overly ambitious, trying to pull a four-foot tall palm tree out by the fronds while my husband was crow-barring the roots. Well, tugging on an immovable object with all your strength is not a good idea when you are getting over a strained muscle in your back. I’m a slow learner, but I think I now understand that yard work is hard on the body, and I have to be careful! No worries, though, it’s getting better fast and I’ve learned my lesson.

Yesterday, before my ill-advised yard work, we took a walk at a beautiful park called Rancho San Antonio. I was an annoying walking companion because I kept stopping to take pictures, but at least I told the other two to continue without me, and I would catch up.

This oak tree is one of my favorites.


Book review, Return to Audubon Springs, RoseAnn DeFranco


Homecoming, past lovers and secret baby… this book hits a lot of romance themes that I enjoy. Brimming with passion, conflict and humor, this book made me laugh and bite my nails and brought a tear to my eyes. Emma returns to a beautiful family house left to her as an inheritance with a big catch. She has to live there for 2 weeks a year and share the house with her very sexy ex-lover, Rafe. She tries to make Rafe leave by driving him crazy. Her ruse of being on a macrobiotic diet in order to drive him crazy had me in stitches.

The secondary characters, Rafe’s family, Emma’s friends, Emma’s mother and brother and especially the love child, Elana, populate this book with a rich, vibrant and realistic community.

This book is free on Amazon Kindle from 11/5 – 11/9/13!

Today, the author is here to answer a few questions. RoseAnn, welcome! I have a lot of questions for you, so here goes.

First, my favorite of all: are you a pantser or a plotter?

RoseAnn DeFranco: Hi Nia! Thank you so much for having me here. I’m thrilled to know you enjoyed the book.  I’m a plotting pantser.  My stories start with the characters. I take my time, live with them for a while, and figure out what makes them tick. From there, I naturally see the BIG MOMENTS or Turning Points FIRST. I tend to write or at least sketch out those moments and then go back and write to those points.

NS: That sounds like a great technique. I noticed you made effective use of a realistic and emotional device: the special kiss shared between mom and daughter. Did this come to you as you wrote it, did you layer it in later, or did you plan it ahead of time?

RDF: It came to me naturally in the first draft. I loved reading the book The Kissing Hand to my daughter. The exchanges you see between Emma and Elana are right out of my own history with my daughter.

NS: Wow, no wonder the mother/daughter relationship was so tender and realistic. You’ve lived it. Tell us, what came first with the idea for this book – setting, conflict or characters?

RDF: Setting definitely. Audubon Springs is based on my personal favorite Jersey Shore town. A couple of people that hail from Jersey already correctly guessed the town! Emma and Rafe’s house is actually a combination of my two favorite homes on Ocean Ave in the town.

NS: That’s wonderful. I used to spend summers in Manasquan with my family growing up. Those summers are favorite memories for my sister and me so your book was especially enjoyable.

Let’s talk about the conflict. The conflict is pretty explosive. I was biting my nails wondering if I could forgive Emma! You did it, though! It was a bold plot. Were you nervous about handling the secret baby, being able to redeem the heroine after keeping such an important relationship from the child’s paternal family?

RDF: It was definitely a concern of mine! I once attended a seminar about conflict with Eloisa James.  She said that it is the Author’s job to make the conflict so horrible that you can’t imagine how the H/H will work it out. At the start of the book, Emma feels very justified in her previous decisions.  As the story progresses, this secret creates a lot of internal conflict for her.

NS: Wow, that’s a great tip. Thanks for sharing it. How long have you been writing?

RDF: I’ve been writing for about seven years, seriously for about four.

NS: What other books have you written?

RDF: Return to Audubon Springs is the first in a three book Contemporary Romance series scheduled for release in 2014. The Series is called the Brothers of Audubon Springs.  I wrote two other Contemporary Romances prior to starting this series. I pretty much got my feet wet and worked out my writing chops on those stories.  In addition I have a Young Adult Fantasy, Forbidden Signs, which is the first in a planned three book series.  It was a finalist in two writing competitions in 2012. I’m currently seeking the right home for it in traditional publishing, but if that doesn’t happen, I have plans to self-publish it.

NS: I am in awe. What are your goals and dreams with writing?

RDF: Ultimately I’d love to be one of those Authors who can give up my day job to focus exclusively on my writing.  I have plans for a lot of stories, and as you know, writing takes time. Something I always seem to be short on!

NS: Wow, you are this prolific and you don’t write full time. I am so happy for you… you will get there. Thank you for joining us here today. We look forward to having you back as you publish more books.

RDF: Thank you! It was my pleasure to chat with you about Return to Audubon Springs.

Amazon Link (free today through 11/9!):

Goodreads Link:


RoseAnn DeFranco

RoseAnn DeFranco grew up in upstate NY with her nose in a book and a song in her heart. Following the pursuit of a musical theatre career in NYC, she turned her creative energy to writing funny, steamy romance with heart. A NJ shore transplant, she enjoys time spent at the beach with her family and would love to one day live in a quaint shore town like the fictional town from her BROTHERS OF AUDUBON SPRINGS series.  More information about these Contemporary Romantic Comedies can be found at


When Emma Grant returns to her family’s Audubon Springs beach house to fulfill the stipulations of her father’s will, she has every intention of forcing her former lover out of the house for good. She’s never fit into her wealthy family and would prefer avoiding her past, but with her brother threatening to reveal her young daughter, she has no choice.

Rafe Iuliano has other plans. The wealthy Grants tried to bribe him out of Emma’s life years ago, but he’s determined to prove once and for all that a master carpenter is worthy of Emma and the house.

Their ridiculous and steamy battle for the house reignites the love and passion that bloomed between them years ago. But when Rafe discovers she’s kept their daughter a secret for two years, can he overcome anger and pride to claim his family and the love of his life, or will the deception drive a final wedge between them?


“This is your fault!” Emma shouted.

“My fault?” Rafe blinked through the thick coat of flour. “You’re the one who started this.”


“Yeah, you—Miss Macrobiotic Princess!” They used the barstools for support, and pulled themselves up from the slippery floor. “You’re immovable just like your mother.”

“And you’ve got about as much depth as a toenail. For the life of me, I can’t remember why I was ever with you.”

With a predatory look in his eyes and gait, Rafe advanced. In two long strides he pinned her to the counter, his hands grasping her hips. “Don’t!” His voice, low and dangerous, and his near proximity overwhelmed, charging her body with a jolt of electricity rendering breathing impossible. His gaze locked on hers for an eternity, then without warning, he dipped his head and licked lavishly at the syrup on her chest and neck.

Need and heat consumed her at his touch, fraying what was left of her nerves. She dropped her head back, shivered, and her knees buckled. He held her steady, fully pinned against the counter and continued to feast on her neck. Then with a shake as if waking from a dream, he stepped away, taking his heat with him.

Emma swayed and gripped the counter. Goose bumps rose on her flesh at the storm brewing in his eyes.

“Say or do anything you want to push me out of this house, but don’t ever say you don’t remember.”

Author interview Barb Han

Barb, welcome! Caught in the Crosshair was a terrific romance. The hurricane sequence was fantastic. Have you ever been through a hurricane or was it all research?

Barb Han:

Thank you so much for hosting me. It’s such a pleasure to be here. I’ve cruised around three hurricanes, all at a safe distance. Even so, the swells were large enough to make the ship sway. The captain joked that if we wanted to talk straight, we should drink.

NS: Can you tell us a little about your writing journey? How long have you been writing?

BH: Thank you so much. I’ve been seriously writing fiction for nine years. Before that, I worked as a journalist and a freelance writer for a number of years.

NS: No wonder you’re so good. That’s a terrific background. What made you want to write fiction? Romance?

BH: Great question. I love romance because it’s fundamentally about love. Love heals. If you want to see the effect of the absence of love in people’s lives, visit a prison. It’s filled with people who grew up without it. Love is powerful.

NS: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

BH: I’m a hybrid. Now that I’m writing under contract with Harlequin Intrigue, I pretty much have to plot my stories. But then, as I’m writing, the story takes over and doesn’t always stick to the plan.

NS: Congratulations on writing for Harlequin Intrigue. What is the hardest part about the craft of writing?

BH: Letting go.

NS: What is your favorite part about writing?

BH: When I first started out, I used to love the creating part of writing. I didn’t plot, so I’d just run with an idea and let it take me where it wanted. Editing was a nightmare and I’d end up cutting quite a bit later. That was painful. As I’ve matured, I actually began to appreciate the revision process. I accept the fact my first draft is going to be awful because I’m getting the big ideas out. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Once I get through that, I get to play with language, sentences, create nuance, etc. That’s what I love doing. That’s when the story really comes alive.

NS: That describes me as well. Do you have any tips about the writer’s life or craft that you’d like to share with us?

BH: I once heard an author say, “Discipline is more important than talent.”

I wrote it down and taped it next to my computer. It’s my mantra.


Barb loves to connect with readers. Connect with her at: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest.

Her newsletter has prizes and cool things just for subscribers.


Inside the Artist’s Mind: interview series 1, Marie Tuhart

I have had the pleasure of getting to know some authors and artists in both my physical and virtual lives.

As someone with a lot of curiosity about such things, I’ve asked these artists about their processes. Today I’m going to start a new series and my first subject is Marie Tuhart, who writes erotic romance.

Marie, thank you for joining me and the readers of this blog today and sharing a bit about your process. I call you and the next author I plan to feature in this series “open spigot writers.”

Marie: Thanks for having me, Nia! Open spigot writer – I never thought of it that way.

Nia: Well, I have, because I’m more of the “Sit at the keyboard until beads of blood form on my forehead” type of writer! And over the years in conversations I’ve had with you I’ve marveled at how you can take a premise and spin out a story. In fact, readers, Marie helped me retool an old suspense story I had into a straight contemporary (with a touch of suspense) and that became my first published story, The Last Straw.

Marie: I used to be like that, Nia. It takes time to cultivate your writer’s mind.

Nia: That’s good news! Actually, I’m having a lot more spigot moments with my work in progress. So that is encouraging.

Marie: Because you know how to put a story together.

Nia: It’s starting to come together for me. My learning process is… somewhat… slow… but that’s okay. I usually eventually get there. But back to you. Do you have a process and if so, how did you develop your process?

Marie: In a way, it helped me not to have published until I was almost ready to retire because it gave me time to learn what really worked for me.

Nia: Where do you get your ideas?

Marie: Oh geeze, I have no clue where I get my ideas. Actually I do know how More Than One Night came about.

Nia: Do tell!

Marie: Basically, I was trying to write for Harlequin Desire and they wanted flirty fun with friends books.

So I thought about what if four girlfriends went out to celebrate a birthday and one of them went off with a handsome stranger for one night. The story just took off from there.

Nia: Wow. You’re kind of a “What if…” author. See, that’s super interesting because I’m not.

Marie: Sometimes. When something comes to me, it’s not always a “what if” question. Like with Theirs Forever, I just thought what fun it would be to have two guys and a gal come back together after seven years. The story came from that thought.  I really don’t think “what if”, my brain supplies it.

Nia: (Note: Theirs Forever is a work in progress. To learn more about Marie’s WIPs, click here.) So a thought comes out of the blue?

Marie: Yes, out of left and right fields, so to speak. Silver Screen Dom was sort of the same way. Michael is a secondary character in Movie Magic and I thought it would be fun to give him his own story. No plot, no what if.

Nia: When do the ideas come to you? While washing dishes, driving, showering?

Marie: Ideas come to me at all different times.

Nia: Do you have some examples?

Marie: Walking, sleeping, just sitting and people watching.  In the doctor’s office, waiting in line. Those are some examples.

Nia: With your work in progress, did you get the idea first, the heroine first or the first scene first?

Marie: Actually the hero was first, then I found a heroine that fit him. The first scene was kind of organic, the hero was supposed to be one way and the heroine the other, but she didn’t like that, so the hero and I let her have her way!

Nia: That’s really interesting. So the characters have free will, a little or a lot!

Marie: Oh yes, my characters act on their own a lot of times.  They tell me what they will and will not do, LOL!

Nia: Do you write up character sheets about them or are they just born and developed in your mind and on the manuscript page?

Marie: It depends.  Sometimes I do character sheets, but at least 75% of the time they’re just born and developed in my mind and in the book. This approach can create a lot of re-writing, but it’s more fun to let the characters reveal themselves.

Nia: Did that change? Like when you started you did more sheets and then you changed to repeat drafting and organic writing?

Marie: Yes, when I first started writing, I did a lot of character sheets, plotting, etc. Now it is more organic, as I learned what works for me as a writer. But the more complicated a book is the more I need to keep track of stuff.

Nia: Thank you, Marie! I have a lot of wonder about the magic behind the book, so thank you for sharing today!

Marie: You’re welcome! It’s hard sometimes to figure out what the creative process actually is. And it’s important to remember there’s no “right” way. Everybody is different. Discovering your own process is a large part of the work.

Nia: Thanks for your closing comment and for all your reassurance and encouragement. B

I’ve also interviewed New York Times Bestselling author Brenda Novak, and although the interview didn’t focus on process, the topic did come up. So if you’d like to check that out, it’s on my Book Reviews page or here’s a direct link: When Summer Comes, Brenda Novak.

The cover is here!

My first published story is getting closer to being on the virtual shelves. The cover came in a couple days ago.

My first book cover
My first book cover

The cover artists were one of the biggest reasons I went with The Wild Rose Press. During the publishing process, you fill out a form called Cover Art Sheets. In this you explain the premise, give links to covers you like, any design suggestions, and you say what the most important element is. I detailed out two alternate covers with a lot of instructions and even did a mock up of a cover. My critique partner (CP) asked with some amusement (she’s pubb’d with WRP), how much of my suggestions were used. Answer: none. Ha ha! Except for “the most important element,” which I said was the hot FBI agent.

The heroine on the cover looks contemporary. At first I was like, “Wait! I didn’t describe that outfit.” The intelligent people I surround myself with quickly pointed out the obvious. Yeah, Angela Anderson saved me from myself. I’m so happy with the cover.

You know, for a long time, I didn’t want to be published. When I announced this to one of my writing friends, she said, “I don’t know what to do with that.”  She had already fixed me up by helping me see my slump-du-jour might be because I didn’t like the story I was working on, letting me know I could just set it aside and move on. We don’t have to finish everything we start. But then I came out with that comment.

Not wanting to be published sounds crazy, but to me, when I looked at people who were published, it didn’t look fun to me. At the time, I had a demanding job, and being a published author looked like a lot more pressure and work and no fun. But I watched my CP’s experience with The Wild Rose Press for a couple years. Her experience looked SO FUN!!!! She even went to an author retreat at a ranch in Texas! (I get to go to the next one, next year. Very excited.) Her editor was nice. Tough but nice, encouraging. They got back to her. They were organized. Then she received her first cover and wow. Now it’s happening to me.

In conclusion, getting published with The Wild Rose Press is FUN!