Category Archives: Writing Inspiraation

Snuggle & Read in This Cold Weather

One desperate young woman.
A chance meeting.
A life-changing outcome.

You might think that’s the promotional hook for one of my own novels, but you’d be wrong. It’s from Caroline Clemmons’ Amanda’s Rancher, one of eight stories on sale at Amazon and featuring strong heroines, gorgeous heroes–books full of danger, twists, cry-out-loud woe, plenty of romance, and feel-good endings. While the snow swirls and the surf pounds the shore, snuggle up with one of these delightful historical romances, on sale through January, and get lost in the lives of courageous pioneer women. The books are well-written, sweet romances set in Debra Holland’s Montana Sky Kindle World locations, Sweetwater Springs and Morgan’s Crossing, Montana Territory.

The Complete List of Engaging Titles

On Sale for Less Than a Buck The Author’s Facebook Page
Loving Matilda Elizabeth Ayers
Hope on the Horizon Cassie Hayes
Amanda’s Rancher Caroline Clemmons
Slater’s Bride Patricia Thayer Wright
Rye’s Reprieve Louella Nelson
Nolan’s Vow Linda Hubalek
Thorpe’s Mail-Order Bride Cindy Woolf
Laced by Love Linda Carroll-Bradd

News Item: All Kindle World books are now in Kindle Unlimited.

For a complete list of Debra Holland’s Montana Sky novels, click here.
For a complete list of other authors’ novels set in Debra’s Kindle World, click here.

Now, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t mention my own book on sale, Rye’s Reprieve, and its metamorphosis.

I woke up one chilly morning at four AM with a complete scene whining and begging and crying to be written. I obliged, of course.

Rye's Reprieve (3) Final - CopyWhen the scene was polished, I sent it to best-selling author Debra Holland, for whom I serve as developmental editor for all her fiction. She read the scene on the plane en route to a writers’ conference in New York and meetings with Amazon’s editorial personnel. There, they hashed out the details of launching a new Kindle World based on the many successful Montana Sky novels she’s written, and Rye’s Reprieve came into being on February 8, 2016 in the first KW launch.

The book rose to #5 in Amazon’s Top 100 Historical Romance list and for weeks was in the first two slots for KW Westerns and KW Romance. It gets even better.

Through a private Facebook group, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed meeting the authors who have joined Debra’s Kindle World. We now have a map of one of the town settings, Morgan’s Crossing, where my own Harper Ranch Series is set, and many pages of a “bible” in which we list out titles, characters, date-span, and settings to keep them straight. We often collaborate by including some of the other authors’ (or Debra’s) key characters in our own books. It’s fun, and the readers love the huge “family” we’re building and visiting with in the books.

There are now five pages of our Montana Sky Kindle World book titles on Amazon, and I’m currently working on Book Four of my Harper Ranch Series.

It’s cold outside. Get under your favorite comforter, snuggle up with a cup of tea or cocoa, and enjoy these wonderful historical romances.

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Art is Not a Thing. It is a Way.

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An Editorial by Louella Nelson

In February 2017, the New York Times cut many of its popular categories of best-seller lists—including the lists for mass market paperbacks, a bastion of the romance novel—upsetting many in the arenas of publishing and reading. “Among the lists that appear to have disappeared are the graphic novel/manga and the mass market paperback lists as well as the middle grade e-book and young adult e-book lists,” Publishers Weekly’s Calvin Reid reported on January 26.

I prefer to follow up with good news: I thought this comment by the editor and publishing manager of Romance Writers of American (RWA) based in Houston, Erin Fry, was a beacon to authors who strive so long and hard to reach a pinnacle in publishing. “Thankfully,” Fry writes, “there are a number of other ways members can achieve Honor Roll outside of the NYT list: appear on the Publishers Weekly Top Ten bestseller list or any other PW best-seller list based solely on format, genre, or region; appear in the top 50 of the USA Today bestseller list; or have sold at least 100,000 copies in a single language” (which is the category I fall into).

Fighting back, RWA National sent this open letter of objection to the Times and also posted the statement on its own website:

As a trade association representing more than 10,000 writers of romance fiction worldwide, Romance Writers of America (RWA) is deeply disappointed by the decision of the New York Times to change its bestseller criteria.

Romance authors, most of them women, have dominated the best-seller lists in mass market and e-books for years. To dismiss these authors and the millions of readers who buy their books is to ignore what “bestseller” truly means. Each year, consumers buy more than $1.3 billion worth of romance fiction. If the New York Times eliminates the mass market and e-book lists, they are proving that they are out of touch with what consumers actually buy. Further, the dismissal of two formats dominated by women can’t help but feel sexist.

RWA strongly urges the Times to reconsider its decision.

_____________

Reid doubts they will, and that’s a shame. Literally. Art–and there IS art evident in mass market fiction–is not a thing you can toss away on a whim or a concern about a bottom line. Art is the thread that binds a culture and makes it strong, vibrant.

I believe the move to cut back lists of popular fiction signifies the ongoing killing off of creative arts in favor of the flourishing of financial interests in our culture, if “cultural” we’d be when our arts dry up.

At the end of January, one blog post on a site called The Passive Voice announced a snide headline: “Panicky NYT circles the wagons around 1%-ers, throwing the rest of traditionally published authors to the wolves.” The 1%-ers are the big-name authors who hit the best-seller lists every time they launch a new hardcover. Pretty much the entire reading world knows their name. If a publisher mostly publishes 1%-ers, they’re playing it safe and not trusting that an investment in a new author will pay off. That’s been going on for a while.

Thus, new authors flock to publish their own books. However, the NYT shut another door in their faces. If the new author does everything right and sells a ton of copies, expect no recognition from the NYT: The organization dropped e-book lists. Looks like the NYT is playing to the 1% market, cutting costs, risk, the hopes of new authors, and the pleasure of millions who seek a new voice to read.

Without data to back up my claim but with life-experience guiding my opinion, I suspect that, like other major papers, the NYT suffers its share of money woes. As is so often the case when the financial picture darkens for a corporation or a country, funding and notice for the arts get cut back. For example, following the 2008 financial meltdown, the University of California Extension in Irvine, where I was teaching beginning through advanced novel-writing courses, cut all arts classes from its catalogue. They kept the computer-related courses that filled to capacity every quarter and that strategy no doubt helped the Extension program survive the financial crisis.

The ivory tower creative writing degree program at UCI only allows in about 8-10 students from all over the world, each year. So the closing of the Extension writing courses meant a good deal of Orange County and beyond went without a place to learn to write, publish, or produce. That was 11 years ago.

Even though the economy has rebounded, not much has changed at my local Extension. A quick scan of the catalogue I checked today shows business management, instructional technology, process improvement, finance, law, leadership—a host of valuable courses that can earn my neighbors some cash flow working in the businesses in Orange County. But not one course is offered in creative writing, screen writing, play- or poetry- writing, never mind singing, painting, dance, and so on.

I try to stay positive. And most of the time I can rise above that tug of disillusion that stems from chaos at the national level, mayhem in countries that offer rich culture and rare antiquities, and a community institution that delivers “university-level learning solutions by leveraging the expertise of the  campus and community” but completely ignores the need of the human spirit to renew itself in its arts (quote from UCI website).

Instead of advertising “solutions” and “leveraging,” let’s hear them yell out loud, “Creativity encouraged here!” Creativity is a friendly animal who lives quite well alongside capitalism, as successful romance writers know well. Instead of cut-backs in national lists of the books people love, let’s add lists for the new genres birthed by creative minds. Let’s open the doors of learning once again to the singing of souls through literature, music, and art.

It’s not just the number-crunchers at the New York Times or the local college or university that pluck at my positivity, but also the surging mood in Washington to do away with funding for the arts. Greed is more ubiquitous now than it used to be. Greed kills art.

The grand opera singer Beverly Sills believed, “Art is the signature of civilizations.” In this age, what are we leaving to posterity? A narrower view of what books to read? A business-only agenda? I ask this not just as a published writer but also as a college writing teacher and as a sole proprietor, a businesswoman serving the editorial and mentoring needs of best-selling and aspiring writers. What will we teach the next generation, those fresh young minds who feel a soul-deep longing to create—not just in computer science, for example, but in computer-generated art? That their dreams are not valid? That financial and engineering professions are more important?

Let’s just stop. There is another way to live, a way that arrays our many-faceted talents like a rainbow fan.

Elbert Green Hubbard was an American writer, publisher, artist, and philosopher who was born before the Civil War and unfortunately went down with the RMS Lusitania in 1915. He said, “Art is not a thing; it is a way.”

Collaboration Between Writer Friends

In 2016 we wrote together, did speaking engagements, and supported one another through the loss of a beloved pet.

lou-deb-at-kindle-worlds-panel-rwa-2016

New York Times best-selling author Debra Holland and I spoke on a panel in July 2016 at the Romance Writers of America National Conference. The topic was writing for Amazon’s Kindle Worlds. About 100 attendees asked questions about the financial and marketing side of writers developing stories in a famous author’s fictional “world.” In the case of Debra’s Montana Sky Kindle World, authors may have their own characters interact with Debra’s already created and established characters, they may link their World books to other series the authors have created via traditional or independent (self) publishing, and they may spin off new series within Debra’s Montana Sky towns, Sweetwater Springs and Morgan’s Crossing. Other World creators have their own rules for participation. Amazon must approve World books before they are released.

In my case, as many of you know, I began a new series on a ranch  I created in the mining camp of Morgan’s Crossing. Rye’s Reprieve, set in 1886, features a doctor with a secret and a veterinarian who has come west with her sisters to make the family-owned Harper Ranch flourish. It was my first historical novel and rose in Amazon rankings to #7 in Historical Romance in August. The next in the series, due to release by Amazon December 15, 2016, features a suffragette being tracked by a federal agent and a miner with secret gift and a mysterious past–Rebel Love Song.

Debra and I will do a second panel discussion on Kindle Worlds, with other authors, at the March 24-26, 2017 California Dreamin’ Writers Conference at the Embassy Suites in Brea, CA.

On October 13 we spoke to Professor Karen Felts’ class on Sexuality and Gender at Orange Coast College and fielded questions about romance writing, the writer’s journey, publishing, and the link between imagination and life-experience in writing fiction.

These collaborations emerge from 15 years of working together.  Debra came to me in the late 90’s because she wanted to augment her work counseling stars in Hollywood; she wanted to become a published fiction writer.

I was already teaching writers through classes I developed at UCI Extension, and I was mentoring a women’s writers group on Fridays in my home. I took Debra on as a client.

After a series of one-on-one consults focused on the basics of scene and story design and character development, Debra joined the Friday group. Wild Montana Sky was the result of a prolonged association with this critique group; the book went on to win national awards and Debra spent the next ten years trying to be traditionally published. It was a disappointing ten years.

However, when she self-published Wild Montana Sky on Amazon for Kindle, over the next 11 months the book sold nearly 100,000 copies. Suddenly the big houses who had rejected her were calling to ask her to choose them to publish her Montana Sky series. She turned them down and went with Amazon, publishing several sweet historical novels in the series, self-publishing spin-off novels, collaborating with a sister romance author on a series, and releasing fantasy novels as well as a text on grief and grieving and a chapter in an anthology on self-publishing. For all her titles, visit her Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/Debra-Holland/e/B004XXKZH8

I remain Debra’s developmental editor, making suggestions on the flow of the narrative in her fiction, on the consistency of characters, on logic, on dates and weather and opening hooks and all the myriad complexity that makes a successful piece of fiction.

In 2015, to help keep each other motivated (because writing is very hard, lonely, draining work even if exciting at times), Debra and I began to write together at my dining room table. We continue to do so. She just completed An Irish Blessing, book 2 of The O’Donnell Sisters Trilogy, related to the Montana Sky novellas. It releases this month. I have been working on book 2 of the Harper Ranch series, Rebel Love Song.

The collaboration goes beyond writing, though.

lou-n-tux-9-18-16-jLast month I had to put down my 18-year-old kitty pal, Tuxedo, who was approaching kidney failure, and Debra, as both friend and a doctor of psychology, was just the right kind of support: loving, expressing condolences, backing off on the writing regimen while I grieved, and checking on me. I was grateful–as I was for all the wonderful notes I received on Facebook from my followers.

I won’t go into details, but I was able to support Debra through a house-move and a personal challenge or two.

When I was ill this summer and unable to write, Debra graciously released me from a pending Montana Sky release date and kept in touch on a friend level.

That’s what we do as friends: encourage, support, guide. Communicate, even on the tough issues. Defend. And above all, create. We create both a friendship and our own rich life,  like close sisters.

Mercury retrograde could affect your writing—and more

 

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2000mm exposure in Florida in March 2016 by Steve Matchett

If writing is more challenging recently, it may be the fault of the planets. And things may  get dicier if you blunder forward without considering the influences hurtling by at 465 meters per second or 1000 mph (or thereabouts) above your head. To whit: Currently (September 2016), as the planet was April 28-May 22, Mercury is in retrograde. Other planets have been retrograding since January. You know how the moon and sun affect the tides? It stands to reason the other orbs affect different aspects of life-as-we-prefer-it. Some of the back-spin may actually be positive!

“Retrograde” doesn’t mean the planets are actually moving backward in orbit, although that’s a convenient image. They appear to regress because of their relative positions in relation to Earth and how all of them are moving around the sun. So sayeth NASA.

I can only attest to the magnetic pull of the planets-in-retro by saying I’ve spent the last two weeks avoiding any serious research or writing on my next historical novel, Rebel Love Song, by bingeing on Netflix series, and by pretending I have nothing to do with the outside world. Yes, even the first in my historical series, Rye’s Reprieve, featuring a doctor with a tragic secret in 1880s Montana Territory, has been waging war in the marketplace without my leadership.

But can I blame myself for the absenteeism? Really?

How influential are those planets? I think of the twenty-foot-plus sweep between high and low tides at certain phases of the moon, and I wonder. I don’t make this stuff up. The largest vertical tidal sweep in the world is, arguably, in the Bay of Fundy, edging Nova Scotia, natal home of my grandmother, with tides ranging 47 to 53 feet.  If our most well-known planets could make tides run like that, nipping at your front steps and flooding your garden, what could a bunch of retro planets do to your psyche? Your writing plans?

Of course, being a story-teller, I may exaggerate a tad. Today in nearby Laguna Beach, the tidal sweep is about four feet. However, the up-coming Mercury retrograde is a notorious relationship trouble-maker and project-discombobulator, made worse by the planetary chaos that began earlier this year. Thus I can blame the heavenly bodies for my procrastination. So there.

The good news? Now that I’m back in writing mode, I can move forward without concern for the plethora of planetary pulls, because I started the current project several weeks ago.

Getting stalled isn’t the end of the world. Never getting back to writing is, in a writer’s universe. Forward, ho! Meanwhile noting a few cautions:

With Mercury regressing (so to speak), sages say communications may be glitchy, so be extra clear and gentle in your disagreements.  If you have a new project to start or finish between April 28-May 22, at least write a few words or pound a few nails now—get a start on the work before April 28.

Those with more wisdom than I (soooo many people!) recommend you don’t sign contracts or start new projects during Mercury retrograde. Just sayin. It’s a time for contemplation and review. And for making headway on an in-progress writing project. Maybe getting in a little word-polishing, too.

Here are some upbeat thoughts on all the retrograding, with more available via the link, written by writer-teacher-bookseller Maddy Foley  a day ago on Bustle:

Recently, I was talking with a co-worker about planets going retrograde, and we both agreed that while, ha ha, we are strong, independent women who don’t need the planets to tell us what to do, we also, like, just mark our calendars just to be, um, careful and cover our bases. Well, my sweets, five planets will be retrograde in April 2016, so here’s how to celebrate — because the only thing to do in the face of topsy-turvy-ness is to dance. Duh.

Jupiter was the first planet to turn retrograde this year on Jan. 7, followed by Saturn on March 25 and Mars on April 17. Pluto turns retrograde today, actually (April 18), and on April 28, Mercury, the retrograde-iest of all planets, will turn as well. Hardcore, am I right?

Each planet has its own characteristics; as such, they’re all supposed to have an effect on a different aspect of your life. Honestly, this particular retrograde season is just like one giant tough love seminar: Jupiter, for example, deals with personal growth and expansion, so when Jupiter turns retrograde, a lot of your support systems and crutches have a habit of disappearing. This sucks and is the worst and makes it seem like you’re stalled out, but it also forces you to find your internal strength. See? Tough love.

Kind of makes you want to yell, “Oh my God, FINE, I GET IT” at the universe, doesn’t it?

The other areas of your life that may be affected by this retrograde-tastic period are communication (Mercury), love and relationships (Pluto), emotions, particularly anger and aggression (Mars), and karma (Saturn), so… yeah. Things may be a little weird, and some self-care amazingness is definitely in order. Here are some ways to celebrate all the learnin’ you will be doing about yourself, because rewards are important. I’m going to be the best parent.

For more, click on the Bustle link. And Maddy—love love love your perky “voice.” Thanks for the insights.

Keeping the Love Alive (in your writing career)

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This article first appeared in the December 2015 issue of The Romance Insider. To subscribe, please scroll to the end of the article.

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season can stop creativity dead in its tracks. With such busy lives, how do writers keep the goal in front of them? How do they sustain momentum?

If you’re the writer’s bestie, a romance reader, I’m guessing you wonder, too. How do writers overcome injury, death of a loved one, switching careers, jobs, or passions, committing to a major project, moving house, or raising a family—all this to stay on track with the dream? My own writing went underground from my mother’s death in 1991 to about four or five years ago. I met my then-contract obligation to Harlequin Books in summer 1992, but it was a struggle. So I can talk about loss, trauma, staying the course (or not) and coming back to writing when the brain isn’t as young. But let’s be positive.

How do we overcome all hesitation and crisis to sustain that haunting dream of being a published writer?

“Learning to write in a world where I am the sole provider and have multiple demanding obligations is a huge challenge,” says Frances Amati (“Heart Hound” in the anthology Romancing the Pages).  “I had to learn to carve out niches of opportunity and to quiet my mind to listen when the universe speaks to me.  It’s about being organized and effective with the little time I have. I can’t feel guilty about what I didn’t do; it is a waste of energy. I need to focus on what I can/did do, no matter how small.”

Here’s a list of focus aids (must be done regularly to keep up the spirit):

  • Frequent walks on the beach or in the woods, prayer, or listening to music.
  • Luxurious weekly bubble baths, with or without the drinkable bubbly.
  • Writing daily positive statements such as “I’m writing and loving it every day!” “I’m paying for my house on the Pacific with my writing!” “I’m expressing my misery through my writing—and loving it!” or “I’m writing. How can it get better than this?”
  • Counseling therapy. Chocolate therapy. Shopping therapy. All three, once a week!
  • Writing out your woes in a diary or to a fictitious person; mine is a letter to grandma, though both grandmas are gone.
  • Long showers. Meditation. Creative cooking. Working with animals.
  • Setting an “easy” writing schedule. A realistic one, even if it’s a half-hour a week.
  • Doing timed writings, sequential 15-minute blaze-writing sessions to get the juices flowing.
  • Allowing yourself to write crap. Every day. Thanks for the tip, Anne Lamott.

Although there’s no sure answer, the most powerful insider trick to staying motivated is to belong to a positive, driven, professionally-oriented support or critique group, even it’s one other writer. Although I was teaching and mentoring authors back in ’91-92, I did not have a critique group that I could go to for criticism, support, and encouragement. If I had, perhaps I’d be onto my 40th book instead of my 7th.

Thankfully today I have best-selling author Debra Holland (the Montana Sky series and others) as well as several other of my brightest students available for feedback. The Brontë sisters, Charles Dickens, in fact many in the literary cannon had critique groups—letter-writing, home visits, luncheons in London, and periodic discussion/critiquing get-togethers. Famously, the Algonquin Roundtable in New York in the 1920s featured meetings with writers, artists, and critics who played cribbage and poker and enjoyed daily luncheons and discussions. We have an offshoot today called the writer’s conference, where we learn craft techniques, stay up on market trends, and network with our fellows.

In year-round writing courses and critique groups, I do as much as humanly possible to keep writers motivated, but ultimately the drive has to come from within. “The support will help but the drive must be there no matter what,” asserts Alexis Montgomery (Seducing Susan). “I always think back to Karen Robards saying she wrote her first book during bathroom breaks at work, balancing a yellow legal pad on her lap…it doesn’t get more driven than that.”

One of my Wednesday-night-group writers has been in the group since the 1990’s; Dennis Phinney has written six books, has a top agent, and hasn’t sold. A full-time engineer, he’s still producing amazing work, coming to meetings, and submitting his novels and stories to criticism. It keeps him motivated; it keeps him constantly improving.

There are lots of ways to stay on course. Setting butt in chair is the first step. But like Frances Amati and so many of us, quitting the day job isn’t an option. “Thomas Hardy was an architect,” Phinney points out. “Herman Melville worked in a customs office. Today many work as teachers.” As babysitters, physicians, homemakers, scientists, therapists. As pilots, stage directors, managers, and singers. As explorers and tinkerers.

“So the dream becomes to share epiphanies and to create a work or two of excellence, or maybe even just one really great short story,” Phinney adds. “The goal is to help [readers] to think, to ask questions, to laugh, to love, to see the miracles in everyday existence; it’s also to set forth your own truth in all its damnable ambiguity.”

I couldn’t say it better.

Two closing pieces of advice: 1) Don’t do it for the money. (It may well come.)  2) Quitting is not an option.


Best-selling author Louella Nelson is an award-winning writing instructor in Orange County, CA. Her next novel, Rye’s Reprieve, will release in February 2016. www.LouellaNelson.com Graphic image by the author.

This article first appeared in the December 2015 issue of The Romance Insider.

Romance Insider MastheadTo subscribe to The Romance Insider, click here: http://lararwa.us9.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=29cb9d556d4c84408d2f70843&id=7d8372aba9

 

An Exciting, Atmospheric New Mystery

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Cameron Harvey’s first novel

The Evidence Room is a debut police procedural mystery by my former student Cameron Harvey. Her prose is rich, evocative, and full of the nuances and subtexts we expect from someone who loves the written word and has the prodigious brainpower to raise language, image, and character above the mundane and into the realm of great fiction. The author is particularly bold in her characterizations, especially of the scratchy workaholic medical examiner who opens the book but also in the cherry supporting roles that linger in memory like a fine Bordeaux. Readers who anticipate being swept into a maze of unexpected twists and turns in pursuit of whodunit won’t be disappointed. Above all, setting is where the author deploys her paint box of metaphor and atmospherics, making the bayou a place where terror and the sublime coexist and where the artist’s brush plumbs the depths of our emotions. My prediction: If Ms. Harvey keeps on the way she has begun, she will end up in the ranks of the finest mystery writers of our time.

“This atmospheric and beautifully written police procedural is set in Florida where a murder of a young mother shook a small bayou town to its core,” reads a description of the work on Amazon. “Twenty years later, the victim’s daughter returns to the scene of the crime and learns that the tragedy of her past has very real consequences for her future.”

Cameron graduated from Stanford University and UCLA Law School. She completed novel-writing coursework with me at UCI, was a long-time member of my Tuesday night critique group, and not that long ago, she won the Editor’s Choice Award at the San Diego State University Writer’s Conference. The awarding editor from Minotaur Books (a division of St. Martin’s), Kat Brzozowski, saw the book into print-and-release today in both hardcover and electronic editions. P.S., Ms. Brzozowski, the cover art is stunning!

I wish Cameron phenomenal success with this book and many more. I’m exceedingly proud of her accomplishment.

Inspiration for writers who aspire to be published

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Debra Holland is a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author.

My student and developmental editing client, close friend Debra Holland, inspires us all with her talk for authors in the Kindle Direct Publishing January 2015 newsletter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y17orcCg_Cg&list=UUNrC87LRD8yAuhU0pw90QwQ&ref_=72

If you want to learn from Debra’s mentor and writing teacher, sign up for Intermediate Novel & Memoir Writing, an intensive 10-week series beginning February 19 at 6pm in Lake Forest, CA. Email: lounelson@cox.net