#Giveaway Monday

Good morning, and happy Monday! I have some free things for you. First off, a copy of my book or one of John Holland’s if you sign up for my newsletter. (Just leave a comment today.) I’ll give away 5 e-books today!  My newsletter will be once a month and will give updates on my writing, an original recipe, and announcements of appearances. There will also be giveaways in the newsletter. If you don’t like romance, no worries, I always offer a copy of one of the books I edited for John Holland as an alternative.

Here is some more stuff that came across my screen last week:

1. A great article on how to use Twitter well: How to be a peep not a pain on Twitter by the brilliant marketing expert Kristen Lamb

2. Leanne Cole shared how to replace a sky in a photograph. Here is a link to her video: http://leannecole.com.au/replacing-the-sky/

And here is a sky of mine that you can use, if you want to try out the technique. (Yes, I’m using it as a background on my blog now.)

Sunset lit clouds
Sunset lit clouds

Happy Giveaway Monday!

Day 3, 2015, writing musings

2015 so far is very good! We’re just three days in, but each day is a mini lifetime.

How are you faring in 2015 so far? Well, I hope.

I am busy working with John Holland to finish the middle-grade fantasy we are co-authoring. Here’s my Aussie friend and co-author:

John Holland
John Holland

Here I am right now (you can see the WordPress editor on my monitor). That is my new plant, a lucky bamboo supposed to bring prosperity, fortune and happiness.

Author at work 2
Nicci Carrera

Our middle-grade book is coming along well.

When I edited the last of John’s four novellas, Left of the Rising Sun, I realized he has a great voice for kids. One of the things I like the most is how much humor comes out in all of John’s books.

He allowed his mind to drift off into daydreams, a distraction from the danger.

When I’m grown right up into a big tall man, I’ll come back here and bring a girl. That girl will probably be Sally. I’ll show her how tough I am. She’ll be amazed by the way I catch food, and I’ll be really handsome, too!

Buck wasn’t sure he was going to be that tall or big, though. His mother was short and a little plump. Dad was average height and slim.

But maybe I’ll take after my great grandad! He was a big tall man and he was a great man, too. He used to captain a pearl lugger at Broome. Probably was a pirate as well. He certainly looked a bit like a pirate in the old photos his grandmother had shown him. A big man in a captain’s cap smoking a pipe. He looked fierce and very tough in the photos. I think I will look a bit like him when I’m big.

Or I might become a boxer or buckjump rider. Dad buys The Ring Magazine and Hoofs and Horns. The life of those people in the magazines would be great. Both are dangerous sports, but I’ll be big and tough enough not to feel danger. I’ll just laugh quietly, and everyone will cheer at how good I am. Sally will be in the crowd. She’ll be so proud of me! She’ll want me to marry her, and later on, I will. But first I’ll tell her to go away, because she used to like Reggie more than me.

She’ll cry and go on a bit about how sorry she is, and she’ll say that Reggie isn’t as big and handsome as I am. So I’ll relent and say, okay we can get married.

I didn’t have a lot of experience with kids, but when my husband and I met John Holland and his family, we were introduced to some of his grandchildren. Spending time with them made me want to write for them, and edit for them, when the material is appropriate, like Left of the Rising Sun. John’s grandchildren were thrilled to receive their granddad’s signed book as a Christmas present.

All of this led to our decision to write a middle-grade book together, using the world-building manual my husband helped us create for the book we wrote together last year. (My husband is an avid science fiction reader, and…well…just really smart. He’s a big part of our team.)


I’m really gratified and thrilled by the Amazon reviews for Left of the Rising Sun. One of the reviewers called it a “deceptively simple book.” That’s how I felt about the book, because the writing is straight-forward in style. That style allowed me to enjoy seeing Buck’s character and his growth as he was set against trials and when he found himself responsible for another person.

As a writer and as an editor, I have to tell you, that’s the real joy, when a reader says she or he saw and felt what you thought and felt about the story.

If you want to check out John’s books, please see the right frame. Click on any of the book covers that look interesting, and you will be delivered to the book’s Amazon page.

I’ll close with a mountain shot I took over the holiday.


I hope you enjoy the third day of the shiny new year.


Happy new year! And…I changed my blog name

I hope you had a happy new year’s eve celebration. We had champagne and went to bed early so I could get up and watch the sunrise for the first day of 2015.

First sunrise

Sometimes you have to make a decision, and that can be hard to do.

Clipart - Photo clipart/child scratching head - Free Clipart Free


But if you just remember this motto, it helps: Make a decision and then make it right. 

I made a decision to create a new pen name for my romance. Then it became really hard trying to get a new blog up and running. And it was really hard to sell any books when I kept my new pen name a secret! After all, I really need the support of friends and family. So little by little I have been making changes to make that initial decision right. Yesterday, a friend told me I could just rename this blog. Who knew? So now this is NicciCarreraRomance.com, but NiaSimoneAuthor.com will still get you here. And you can call me Nicci, Nia, or Antonia.

Anyway, you are all my friends, and I really needed you to be part of my Nicci life. Thank you for following and for sharing your photos and lives and insights in the blogosphere.

I started with a sunrise, so I thought it would be nice to close with a sunset. This was a sunset that set the clouds on fire on December 29th, near Reno, Nevada.


Nicci, AKA Nia

Pacific Beach farewell (more beer)

We loved the California Kabob restaurant so much and really thought our son and his fiancee would also like it, so we invited them to meet us there. Well … when we arrived we found out the restaurant is actually a brewery called Amplified Ale Works. If you approach it from the beach there is the kabob sign, but if you approach it from the street, Mission Boulevard, there is the Amplified sign. A tad confusing! We frantically texted our guests, but fortunately, being part of the next generation, they figured it out on their own.

So, how great is it when you love a restaurant for its food and ambiance and then find out it’s a brewery?!

I’m also celebrating receiving a contract for my second book with The Wild Rose Press today, so here’s a toast to a good vacation, family, good blog friends, good food, good beer, and a new book:


Here was the view … a wonderful farewell to PB.






Writing the Last Act, a poem by Nia Simone

Writing the Last Act

The end of the novel
looms like a new house
that felt so bright and cheery
until someone turned the lights off.

Now it is dark.
Threats invisible
in the light
lurk in the dark.

Turn the lights on!

The house is gone.
Now there is a vast desert wasteland.

Between here and
The End
a small percentage
of what’s already done
looms insurmountable.

I shade my eyes
with my hand
squint at the horizon.

Swallow dust.
Type a word.

03/04/2013 © Nia Simone


Bleak house

Bleak mountain

In Mountains of Peru, there were some GIMP tips. Turns out the part about exporting it as JPEG is easier than described. There’s a box at the top that gets filled in with what you use most, so if you use JPEG mostly, it fills in the name of the file and defaults to replacing the original with the new, enhanced file. Then you can just click Enter instead of having to scroll down in the Select File Type By Extension menu each time.

Also, in What blooms in March, there’s a tip about using the Select by Color tool. That’s great, but it’s tricky to get GIMP to release that tool, even if you close the image and open a new one. To turn it off, use the Select menu: Select->None.

Also, some of the auto enhancements get too much of a primary color in them. Still figuring that out.

The spooky version of the bleak mountain was done with Colors-Invert. The dark version of the house was made black and white by using Colors->Colorify, checking the preview box, seeing it had defaulted to black and white, and clicking Ok.

Masterpiece thriller, book review The Istanbul Puzzle, Laurence O’Bryan

This is an outstanding book that has been well reviewed elsewhere (see quotes at end of post).

Today’s post will focus on a few writer’s questions and answers.

************SPOILER ALERT************

Interview with Laurence O’Bryan, author of The Istanbul Puzzle, HarperCollins


Hello, Laurence. Thank you for taking some time to answer these writer questions about The Istanbul Puzzle.

Let me start by relaying a story that helps me provide my overall review of the book.

The recently late Barnaby Conrad (1922 – 2013) (New York Times obit), had a book published called Last Boat to Cadiz (Capra Press, 2003). On the book jacket is written an endorsement of the sincerest kind, “I wish I had written this book – Ole!” That was Ray Bradbury. Since I cannot improve upon this man, I am borrowing and paraphrasing his words for my endorsement of The Istanbul Puzzle. I wish I had written it. Bravo!

This will be a writer’s interview as I don’t really think it’s possible for me to read as “just a reader” any more.

First of all, your excellent article, Writing with Emotional Hooks, http://www.writing.ie/resources/laurence-obryan-on-writing-with-emotional-hooks/ covers a great deal of craft, very well. One of the things I struggle with in writing emotion is physical reaction. I’ve taken some classes, study other authors, and hence am aware there are specific, predictable physical reactions to strong emotions. Unfortunately, to come up with fresh writing for these, is very difficult. I’d like to call out some of your prime examples and ask you if you started with the basis of knowing what the physical reactions were and then went deeper, if you collected them from close observation of people, were struck by the muse, all of the above or something else entirely?


“…your colleague Mr Zegliwski is…” He hesitated. “… dead.”
A void opened beneath me. That was the one word he wasn’t supposed to say. (Page 15)

Something around me seemed to be changing, as if a hidden door had opened somewhere and a breeze had begun blowing. (Page 16)

I stared, unblinking. I was watching what was happening, but from far away. (Page 36)

The reality of being shot at was like being at a fairground in a nightmare: everything seemed brighter, people were smiling, but way too much. (Page 248)


I desperately wanted to leave. There was something pressing into my chest. (Page 36)

“Mr. Ryan?” It was the receptionist who’d given me that envelope. I sat on the bed, cradling the telephone against my bare shoulder. The gossamer breeze from the window felt like water running over my skin. (Page 48)


Tragedy warps everything. (Page 47)


Adrenaline pumped through me, tingling every muscle. The hair on my body stood up straight. My scalp felt tight. (Page 50)

(Nice word choice there, tingling as a verb.)

She tried to wriggle free. He held her tighter. Icy lumps of fear passed through her veins. (Page 297)


…the expression on Peter’s face was that of a wine waiter who’d just been asked for plum juice. (Page 71)


And I’d been grateful to come and that he wanted to see me. In the end though, the words he told me felt like knives plunging into my heart. (Page 82)


“If things go as expected, we will all have a lot to thank you for.” Arap smiled, like a pike in front of its prey. (Page 126)


But there was a softness in her eyes, as if she was happy I pressed hard to go with her. She wasn’t going to make things easy, but she wanted me to come along. (Page 276)

LOB:  Hi all! Thanks for all your kind comments. There are two key drivers behind getting emotion right in your writing.

1.     Imagine what you would feel if you were in your character’s shoes. Close your eyes, feel it in your body, then show us what it’s like.

2.     Don’t ever use a cliché. A pike in front of his prey for instance is simply me looking for a new way to tell readers what a malicious smile is like.

You also handle character motivation very carefully, thoroughly and constantly:

I had nothing to lose anymore — no family, and my best friend was dead. “I’ll be going to Hagia Eirene this afternoon….” (Page 122)

Did you spend a lot of time in your apprenticeship learning and getting feedback on handling of character motivation?

LOB: I believe it is important to provide motivation clues. I spent twelve years writing every day before I was published. Motivation, I learned, should be either obvious – someone is trying to kill the character and they have to do something – or made clear in some way.

Now to delve into a few other corners I observed while enjoying the experience of my first read of The Istanbul Puzzle:

I like the way you used the principles of the hero’s journey as the devices to prove the falling in love. Test, Allies, Enemies, Approach to the Inmost Cave and The Ordeal. Momentary digression on the idea of “proving” the characters are falling in love, Ray Bradbury once said, during his opening speech at one of the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conferences, “Don’t just tell me they fell in love. Prove it to me!” He paced back and forth across the stage in his fabulous baggy shorts waving his arms and giving us examples. I will say that the memory bloomed in full color when I read the tunnel scene in The Istanbul Puzzle. You probably can’t answer this, but I need to ask, how long did it take you to write that scene? It is perfect and awesome. In this the love proof takes a leap and you prove it again and again through the other major plot points until the end is just a deeply satisfyingly, resonantly true finale. In summary, my questions are:

NS: Have you read and did you think about The Writer’s Journey, by Christopher Vogler when writing The Istanbul Puzzle?

LOB: Yes. I have read The Writer’s Journey and I am familiar with the mythic structure of story. The Istanbul Puzzle is a modern myth, a fable about the search for the one thing that will save us from damnation.

What is it? Look inside your heart.

NS: How long did it take you to write the tunnel scene?

LOB: Not sure. The whole book was seven years in the making. Probably six months on that scene.

Regarding your journey as a writer, have you read The Career Novelist by Donald Maass? If so, did you choose a genre because of his advice and do you plan to do straight literary ever? If so, will you go back and forth or depart from genre? Explore another genre, perhaps? Or do you even know?

LOB: I read Donald’s The Breakout Novel workbook and really found it helpful. I went to the conspiracy genre because that is what I like to read. I hope to publish psychological thrillers too, if my publisher will let me!

I also wanted to just commend you on your expertise on the back-story weave. Example:

I’d learned in the past few years to disdain pity, to look ahead, to act strong, to not think too much. I needed every one of those lessons now. (Page 36)

Did you learn this at a writer’s conference, a book, reading others, or do you even know?

LOB: Weaving backstory is a basic lesson for all writers. If you can also show character at the same time all the better.

Who are your major influences for this novel? And who for your writing in general?

LOB: The Da Vinci Code, The Lord of the Rings and I, Cladius are all influences on The Istanbul Puzzle.

And on a final note, the only problem I had with the book was that it was scary. Can you write a thriller that isn’t scary? (Kidding.)

Sorry – the next one is more scary!

I was at a 10 year anniversary celebration of a club I (recently joined) of avid romance readers. One of the questions in our getting-to-know-each-other game was, what is your favorite kind of heroine?

Fairly universal answer: “Kick ass!” “Strong!” “Competent!” “Brave!” And boy did you ever achieve that with Isabel Sharp:

“Do you have any idea  what a bitch this car is to park?” she said. (Page 51)

That was one of Isabel’s first lines in the novel, spoken after narrowly escaping with their lives, fleeing bullets. Which reminds me, the humor in your hero and heroine make them even more realistic and likeable.

 Isabel spoke at length, without giving anything away. She’d make a good politician. (Page 262:)

Competent, and especially nice since he is admiring this trait in her.

She was dressed in a tight-fitting black trouser suit. Under her jacket she wore a lacy black bra, which revealed itself when she leaned forward, which she was doing right now. Page 256

(Ha ha! Very competent!)

There are many examples of her staying very cool under pressure while still feeling things strongly, being very human. Isabel Sharp is a wonderful heroine.

And The Istanbul Puzzle is a wonderful book.


Buy the book: http://www.viewBook.at/TheIstanbulPuzzle

Author Blog: http://www.lpobryan.com

Follow on Twitter: @LPOBryan

Here are some highlighted reviews from Mr. O’Bryan’s blog (lpobryan.wordpress.com):

The Telegraph had this to say about The Istanbul Puzzle:  “A brisk plot . . . which draws the reader into a conspiratorial rapport. He’s come late to fiction. Clearly he means to enjoy it.”

The Lancashire Evening Post had this to say: “An impressive debut; well written, beautifully descriptive, and with a smart dialogue and a compelling air of menace throughout.”

The Irish Independent said: “This stylish conspiracy thriller is a Turkish delight. O’Bryan’s compelling debut thriller combines plenty of stirring action with fascinating historical detail.”

Norma Britton, a reviewer on Amazon had this to say about The Jerusalem Puzzle: “I really enjoyed The Istanbul Puzzle but O’Bryan’s follow-up The Jerusalem Puzzle is far superior.”

The Istanbul Puzzle, the first novel in the series, has been sold for translation into 10 languages. It was also, for a number of weeks in 2012, a No 1 Bestseller on Amazon. Each book in this series stands alone as a complete novel. The Istanbul Puzzle was shortlisted for the Irish crime novel of the year 2012.

Writing craft musings and Brenda Novak

Deep point of view (POV) reflects life as we actually experience it, I think.

Deep POV was the last big hurdle for me before being able to write what I consider to be effective stories. (Whether other people consider them effective remains to be seen, but hope is on the horizon.) It took me years to get deep POV. I still struggle with it.

I recognize deep POV excellence in others. Brenda Novak is extremely good at it. In studying her and thinking about this craft issue this morning, going back over yesterday’s pages to get back into the story, and inevitably starting editing, I find myself mostly fixing non-deep-POV issues. On a micro level.

I think there are a few levels to deep POV. One is the avoidance of distancing words like “feel,” “think.” But even “look.” “He looked at the thing.” Deep POV just describes the thing.

Similarly, as a writer who had to make absolutely every possible mistake known to fiction writing, never learning anything the easy way like from a teacher or book of which I have many, I can say one of the things I struggled with in my early days and still do, is the idea that I have to describe the events of a novel sequentially.

He gets in the car, he gets out of the car, he walks across the driveway, he opens the door, he closes the door, he goes inside, he sits down, and finally he gets to have his thought.

When in reality what happens is, he doesn’t even think about all of those transitions. Who really thinks about what they’re actually doing while driving? This is how it is, sometimes unfortunately, like when somebody almost ran into us head-on in a parking lot the other day. Only leaning on the horn continuously for several seconds snapped the driver back to attention in time to  prevent an accident.

One goes through the motions of life, even those among us who aspire to be in the moment, lost in thought.

Begin the telling with the character in the thought, not in all the transitions through space of getting him into the scene where he will have the thought. This is what I’m learning.

On a philosophical level, I assert by being in deep POV, we’re actually reflecting more accurately the human experience. We live a psychological life.

Enough shoptalk. Back to the novel. Thanks for visiting.

Love Abides “…as soon as there’s light in the morning, I go outside…” and Other Words to Live By

Note: My brother died of suicide a little less than two years ago. The man in these photos was one of his best friends. That makes us suicide survivors. This post is dedicated to suicide survivors everywhere and is intended to show you that you can feel good again. It takes love to get there. Let it in.

Note: All quotes in this post are things my friend said today.

Squaw Valley, USA, January 9, 2013:

Temp: cold. Windy, storm coming in from Alaska.

  1. Lift: KT22; Run: Horse Trails.
  2. Lift: Headwall, closed, wind hold.
  3. Lift: Funitel, ride to the top, meet another local. Friend introduces me as late brother’s sister.
  4. Lift: Shirley Lake; Run: tree runs on the main slope (multiple). Sweet.
  5. Lift: Broken Arrow, CLOSED:


From top of Shirley Lake, ski across Links, cross land bridge, hike to top of Broken Arrow lift.



  • Quote: “I thank [Nia’s late brother] every day for giving me this friendship with you.”
  • Quote: “You can’t be creative unless your spirit is at peace.
    Being out here with you puts my spirit at peace.”


Love abides.

Can Skiing with Family Fix a Pain in the Backside?

Problem: Twisting to look over shoulder while taking a step up stairs causes sudden pain in lower back that shoots down to… ahem… gluteus maximus… into back of leg.
Cure: Relaxed skiing with family.

Alpine Meadows yesterday: Temp high 40s, sunny.

  • Roundhouse chair, Charity run
  • Scott Peak chair, Ridge Run
  • Lakeview chair, main run, skier’s right
  • Sherwood chair, pause for picture
    Pause for picmain run.
  • Return to condo.
  • Back all better.
  • Share Gordon Bierschs.
  • Visit from old family friend.

    Old friend
    He’s shy
  • Many laughs.
  • Not only better, new high.

How do you fix a pain in the back side?