Tag Archives: Louella Nelson

Mercury retrograde could affect your writing—and more

 

moon

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.

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Rye’s Reprieve, featuring a doctor with a secret in 1886 Montana

RhysReprieve (3) 72 66 reduction

After many years as a best-selling contemporary author, developmental editor, and writing instructor, it’s a great pleasure to announce the release of my first historical novel. I hope you will enjoy the Wild West adventure storyline and find a moment to post a review on Amazon. Rye’s Reprieve falls into the category of “sweet” or G-rated historical romance. Following the synopsis of the novel, you will find how the book came to be, a map of the fictional town, and, finally, acknowledgements and research notes.

About Rye’s Reprieve (The Harper Sisters Book 1), a Montana Sky Kindle World release:

In 1886, gifted surgeon Rye Rawlins is trapped by a tragic secret so painful that he denies his profession and buries himself in a gold mine in Montana Territory. But saving people is second nature, whether it’s doctoring a man mauled by a mountain lion or battling a wolf to save a child.

Veterinarian and horse rancher Missouri Harper suffers through the worst winter in Montana history to provide for three beautiful sisters and an ailing aunt. Dangerous storms, privation, and wild predators make survival precarious.

Rye comes to Missouri’s aid, putting his life in danger and Missouri in his debt. As they fall in love, his secret and her promise to remain a spinster to protect the land for her family force them to look within to discover the cost of love.

How the story came into being:

The fictional town where the novel is set, Morgan’s Crossing, was first conceived by New York Times best-selling author and close friend Debra Holland. As her developmental  editor, familiar with her settings and characters, bringing her town and three of her characters from Mail-Order Brides of the West: Prudence into being in my book was fun. During the writing of Rye’s Reprieve, we sat at my dining table working on our separate projects, and I alternated between writing my novel and editing a novel and a novella she was releasing. Other authors writing in Debra’s Kindle World can be discovered here.

Map of Morgan’s Crossing

Map

Acknowledgements & Historical Research Notes

I would like to thank my close friend and colleague Debra Holland for inspiration, for making this novel better by her suggestions, and for the opportunity to write a book set in the world she established through her best-selling Montana Sky series. The setting for my novel, Morgan’s Crossing, Montana Territory, was first invented by Debra. Since writing is a lonely endeavor, of particular pleasure is that we spent many hours at my dining table writing together and encouraging one another on our separate projects. For more on her book titles and background visit her Amazon Author Page at: http://www.amazon.com/Debra-Holland/e/B004XXKZH8.

Thanks also go to the wonderful authors who wrote books in this Kindle World series. We shared historical research, encouragement, and character exchanges so readers could enjoy seeing their favorite characters in other books. To learn about the authors who launched books in Debra’s Kindle World series along with Rye’s Reprieve, go to: http://debraholland.com

I must thank my copy editor, Adeli Brito of FourEyesEdit.com, my formatter, Amy Atwell of Author E.M.S., both of whom came through for me at the eleventh hour, and my cover artist, Erin Dameron-Hill of EDH Graphics.

In addition, thanks go to Dr. Janis Thereault for help with the scene in which Albert is injured; Christine Ford, Integrated Resource Program Manager of the Grant-Khor’s Ranch in Southwest Montana, now a national park; Brian Geiger, PhD, MILS, Director, CBSR, University of California, Riverside; Lori Cassidy and John Dale of Orange Coast College Library; Erin Eldermire of Vet Library Reference, Cornell University; and Randy Thompson, Senior Archivist, The National Archives at Riverside, California.

Finally, I would like to thank my cheerleaders: my daughter Stacee Nelson, my sister Grace MacMillan, my sister-in-law Anna Marg Rear, my nephew and niece Ken and Debbie Rear and niece Shannon Rear, my current students, my former students now published—Alexis Lusonne Montgomery. Frances Amati, and  Janis Thereault—and my dear friend Carl Baggett, Jr.

The lyrics from “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” that open this novel are attributed in several sources to the Rev. Edmund Hamilton Sears (1810-1876).

The snap fasteners you see on the clothing of the cover model were apparently not in common use for American clothing in 1886 but were patented approximately that year by a German inventor. Other sources suggest the snap was used in stage clothing for quick changes.

“Thou art in Rome” is a quote by Samuel Rogers (1763-1855) that appears in the skating party chapter.

The origins of lyrics from “Blow the Man Down,” an English sea shanty, are obscure. The title may refer to the act of knocking a man down. “Contemporary publications and the memories of individuals, in later publications, put the existence of this shanty by the 1860s. The Syracuse Daily Courier, July 1867, quoted a lyric from the song, which was said to be used for hauling halyards on a steamship bound from New York to Glasgow.” More can be read at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blow_the_Man_Down.

The most helpful sources for weather conditions and the ravages of the worst winter in Montana history, 1886-1887, can be found at: http://www.nps.gov/grko/learn/historyculture/winter.htm; for a vivid depiction at: http://theweatherforums.com/archive/index.php?/topic/21388-the-winter-of-1886-87-in-montana/; and at: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/record-cold-and-snow-decimates-cattle-herds.

For sources on the American land grants of the 1880s—most of which conflict as to acreage—which nonetheless are interesting reading, go to: http://history.nd.gov/lincoln/land8.html; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desert_Land_Act; and to pour through the various codes of the Desert Land Act of 1877, which modified the Homestead Act to allow more land to homesteaders in the west, go to Cornell Law and with great patience consult their archives. Here is a start to your investigation: https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/43/1303

A non-traditional medical technique for lowering heart rate by massage is found here: http://www.wikihow.com/Slow-Your-Heart-Rate-Down

For early veterinarian practices, see Vets in 1880s: http://www.commercevillagevet.com/historic-hospitals-veterinarians-share-stories-of-three-practices/. Although I’ve owned horses, I needed to reacquaint myself with the parts of a horse and used this site: http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/identifying-horse-parts-and-markings.html

A truly excellent source for lists of items pioneers often brought with them in wagons crossing the territories is here: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/frontierhouse/frontierlife/essay2.html

I took Rye’s middle name from a Civil War hero and claimed the man as his uncle:

John Aaron Rawlins (February 13, 1831 – September 6, 1869) was an officer in the Union Army during the American Civil War. A confidant of Ulysses S. Grant, Rawlins served on Grant’s staff throughout the war, rising to the rank of brevet major general, and was Grant’s chief defender against allegations of insobriety. After the war, he was appointed Secretary of War when Grant was elected President of the United States, but died of advanced tuberculosis five months into his term. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Aaron_Rawlins.

Books I consulted from my library are listed here by title and author and are available currently online:
Days on the Road: Crossing the Plains in 1865, the diary of Sarah Raymond Herndon
Bright Star in the Big Sky by Mary Barmeyer O’Brien
Doc Susie: The True Story of a Country Physician in the Colorado Rockies by Virginia Cornell
Pioneer Doctor: The Story of a Woman’s Work by Mari Grana
Doctors of the Old West by Robert F. Karolevitz
Medicine: A History of Healing, Ancient Traditions to Modern Practice, consulting editor Roy Porter (lent to me by Colleen Fliedner, a member of my plot group)

If you would like further information, contact me through my website: www.LouellaNelson.com

Keeping the Love Alive (in your writing career)

christmas advice

 

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

 

Launch Your Next Book From NaNoWriMo

M81 Galaxy is Pretty in Pink

M81 Galaxy is Pretty in Pink

Update to my earlier post: I’m entered in Nanowrimo again this November. If you are too, please find me and be my writing buddy. My project this time around is Mail-Order Mom: Serena.

Nanowrimo sounds like a navigational command from StarTrek but it’s actually code for Sit Butt In Chair and Write With a Vengeance. Beginning November 1, writers from all over the world gather electronically and challenge themselves to write a novel, 50,000 words,  in 30 days.  The gathering spot: http://www.nanowrimo.org/.  There are chat rooms if you get down on yourself, and a whole cheerleading squad in The Office.* You can even buy a Nanowrimo coffee mug and fill it with your fave java so you can launch yourself into fictional orbit.  It’s totally zen. Is it odd that my maiden project for NaNoWriMo will be a writing text instead of a novel?  To answer your question—no.  It’s not odd because for a published author to use NaNoWriMo to get up and running on a long-overdue project simply means NaNoWriMo is working.  It’s working to get me motivated; it’s working to get me organized for the Big Day, the first day in November.  I have the flutter in my gut writers get from time to time when they are eager to begin.  It’s been a long time since I felt that flutter (about writing, anyway), and it’s all good. Too many years have gone by in which my students have reminded, hounded, and bullied me about writing a book they can share with their writing friends and peruse for any nitpicky trick or tip their tired-from-sitting-in-the-chair-writing-all-day brains cannot recall.  I feel duty-bound to get the danged text written so they will quit pestering me; and so aspiring writers will have something to lean on in the scary predawn hours of their novel-writing career. Courage is an illusive thing.  I used to see a poster that fascinated me in the cafeteria at Chapman University.  It pictured a sailboat and featured a misquoted quotation by Andre Gide, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1947, which I adapt here: You cannot discover new galaxies unless you have the courage to lose sight of the earth. Do you dream of being published?  Does that goal seem a far galaxy?  Why not carpe-diem yourself on over to the Nanowrimo website and, Hey-oh!  We will do this together, all you princes of prose, and it will not be odd.

Louella Nelson blastoffblastoffblastoffblastoffblastoffblastoffblastoffblastoffblastoffblastoffblastoffblastoffblast

To show you that the all-volunteer launch team at The Office of Letters and Light (Support & HQ for Nanowrimo) is behind you all the way, I give you my own personal message from Captain Kim: Hi again Louella, Thanks so much for sharing your story! I am totally invigorated. I’m so glad that you are taking on this challenge of writing a guidebook this November. You are a NaNo Rebel of the highest order: you’re giving back to the writers who are coming after you. We’re rooting you on. Best of luck this November! Tim Kim Office Captain *The Office of Letters and Light You can make a tax-deductible donation to the Office of Letters and Light at http://store.lettersandlight.org

Debra Holland’s Starry Montana Sky honored

book cover

Holland’s winner

The second in Debra Holland’s sweet historical romance Montana Sky Series has been named for Amazon’s Top 50 Best Love Stories list. Among the other honorees are Pulitzer-winning Michael Chabon and Margaret Mitchell for Gone With the Wind.
“I’m over the moon, disbelieving, humbled by being included in such impressive company, and very, very grateful,” says Debra. “Amazon picked a book per state, and Starry obviously represents Montana. Wow! What a wonderful early Valentine’s Day present!”
I am Debra’s writing teacher, editor, and mentor and couldn’t be more proud.
Read Debra’s blog to find out the juicy details on the development, launch, and success of Starry Montana Sky: http://drdebraholland.blogspot.com/