Writing

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I’m going to admit that I haven’t done many things that are “typical”. I didn’t pretend not to be smart just to impress a boy. I didn’t sneak makeup in my book bag and put it on at school. And I never pilfered romance novels from my mother’s nightstand.

The first one no doubt had to do with being a middle child and always trying to prove myself to my older siblings. There was no way I was ever going to look dumb in front of them. And the second two things on the list were definitely influenced by Mom herself. My mom’s really pretty and I don’t remember her wearing makeup. So the whole thing was a non-issue in my house. There was no one saying I could or I couldn’t, so why rebel? The whole makeup thing seemed like a huge hassle in my opinion. And then there are the books. My mom was a reader. She took 4 and 5 books out of our little library every week and carried them home. She was pleased as punch when we picked one up and thumbed through it. I can’t say for sure when my love of reading began, but by the time I hit middle school I was reading adult books … including romances.
 
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supportI’ve been thinking a lot about my support systems of late. Both personal and writing. Mostly because Mr. Nina is spending his weeks 2 hours north of me and I’m alone so much of the time. All I can say is … thank goodness for the Internet!!

I was once asked what the most difficult part of my writing journey has been and by far it had to be the period time when I was alone before I found other writers to share my celebrations and disappointments. My family has been a steadfast cornerstone of my career, believing in me even when I stumbled. I love them for that, but they don’t really understand the kick-in-the-gut feeling of getting a rejection, tumbling sales or the inability to find your writing mojo. Only another writer totally comprehends how difficult this stay-at-home-I’m-having-an-amazing-time-making-things-up-and-killing-bad-guys writing career can be.
 
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With the changing face of publishing it seems books are going through fewer and fewer edits these days. Print publishing houses are cutting back on staff to save costs from submission to publication. Some digital publishing houses are pushing books through to keep up with the high demand of their readers. And authors are now going the self-publishing route and may not have the financial resources to send a book through several sets of edits.

So what does this mean for a reader? That more and more books are making it to publication with errors. No one is immune. From the USA Bestseller to the self-pubbed author, more and more books we pick up have at least one error. And let me just tell you from an author’s perspective … it’s not at all because we don’t care. Unfortunately, even several pairs of eyes on the same manuscript can miss an error.
 
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circuitsI’ve been at this crazy business of writing for awhile now. As you know by now, it didn’t start out as a hobby for me… I jumped in with both feet. Put all my pens in one container and started.

Easy… nope.

Worth it… oh yeah!

Often the first question asked of a writer… “Where do the stories come from?”

For a long time I couldn’t answer that question. Mostly because I felt silly telling people that I simply wrote romances I’d like to read. It wasn’t the book of my dreams or a story that had been nagging me to be told. It just was…
 
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One of the things I love about self-publishing is the freedom to design my own book covers. Making the decision of how to present my books to the public is HUGE! Though my publishers have been good, there have been several of my covers over the years that have disappointed me. Those are the covers where I felt the publisher wasn’t considering the marketing of my book when they sent me the final draft. And unfortunately, after the initial paperwork, there is no changing a cover once the design department has finished with it. :(

So now, I’d like to share with you how I go about creating a book cover … or more accurately … how I share my vision with my cover artist.
 
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Shame on you … get your mind out of the gutter. I’m actually talking about something lots of authors wonder. Does the size of the STORY matter? (Didn’t see that coming from a romance author now did you?)

I’ve written all lengths of stories. From a short novella to a several full length novels and many in between. Now, if you’re looking for my opinion on the matter (which of course I’m going to offer since this is my blog) I think size makes a huge difference in a story.

But here’s ny caveat–but it depends on the genre.

I really enjoy reading erotic romance. But when push comes to shove or pull comes to … yeah, I won’t go there … anyway, I read for the other parts of the story. Like the paranormal or suspense thread. Yes, of course I want the heroine to save the hero and for them to fall into bed and hopelessly in love, but sometimes, if an erotic story goes on too long … I skip the nookie. LOL! Should I be admitting that? It’s not that I don’t dog-ear the pages for perusal later, it’s just that I’m really enthralled with how these two are going to get out of trouble or bring down the villain or make it to their happy-ever-after. So when it comes to erotic romance I prefer the short and sweaty … er, sweet. 😉
 
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Life has been a little hectic as of late. But Mr. Nina and I are trying to settle into what we affectionately call “our new normal”. Which means my muse is a little off-kilter and not ready to jump into anything new. The best I can do for her at the moment is update a book which I’ve just received the rights back and now we’re spit-polishing it for re-release. Hopefully, before the end of the year, I’ll be re-releasing my SHIFTING BONDS series (including a new book)!

In the meantime, I thought I’d share how I came about finding the names of my main characters in this sexy erotic suspense novel.

Being the visual person that I am, I can’t even get one sentence down without knowing exactly who my characters are. And it’s not so much who they are and where they came from, as a pantser that stuff just sort of unravels itself while I write. Nope, I’m talking about their names.
 
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As a writer all I have is my words. Words to bring the reader into the setting. Words to convey danger or passion. Words to make the reader fall in love with the characters even as they fall in love with each other. It’s not like a movie where a well orchestrated soundtrack strokes the viewer’s emotions, carrying them … biting their nails into the epic battle … or sighing with satisfaction into the first kiss.

Each word and phrase should create a visceral reaction in the reader. A reader whose emotions are involved in your story is a reader who continues to turn the page. No needy pet, ringing phone or burning dinner will pull a readers who’s emersed in your story from finishing the chapter. Hell, if you’ve done it really well … finishing the book. (Oh, come on, it’s happened to all of us. Raise your hand if you stayed up all night just to finish a book … yeah, I see you out there.)

As authors we have all kinds of tools in our writing kits to create our story and bring our characters to life. Dialogue, both spoken and internal is an immediate way to portray a character. The words they choose and how they’re spoken take a two dimensional character and give them depth. Are the words strong and bold or nervous and tentative? Are they quick to respond or thoughtful and use few words? We must think about all of that. A CIA agent might see the sun setting and think only of the convenience of night’s arrival and how that will help them hide their actions. An artist type would take time to notice the colors, how they mix with the clouds and take a moment to enjoy the scene.

What the characters are saying and what they’re thinking is important. But you can add another layer by including how your characters act and what their body language communicates. Especially if what they’re saying isn’t really how they’re feeling. Let’s look at some body parts and actions and the emotions it conveys.


HEAD
Lifted and tilted back = arrogance
Ducking head = submission
Head in hand = boredom

MOUTH
A smile quirked to the left = lying
Tight-lipped smile = keeping a secret
Licking lips = nervousness or attraction
Biting lip = shyness, insecurity
Trembling lip = sadness

EYES
Long, hard stare = anger
Furrowed brows = confusion
Slow blinks = hiding, avoiding scrutiny
Rubbing finger over eyelids = working to deceive
Wide eyes = surprise

ARMS AND HANDS
Clenched fist = anger
White knuckles = strong negative emotion (nerves, anger)
Steepled fingers = confidence

LEGS AND FEET
Dragging toes = reluctant
Tightly crossed legs = in a woman it’s protection
Crossed ankles = won’t compromise in an argument
Shifting weight from foot to foot = lying

Everything your characters do, every thought you share with the readers creates memorable characters. From the dating dance to the first kiss to the ultimate night of passion we offer our readers cues to the emotions of our characters. Skip the body details and you miss the opportunity to make your characters jump off the page and into the hearts of your readers.

So are there any body language moves I’ve missed that you really enjoy in a story? Any that are overused? And tell me some of your most memorable characters and why you just can’t get them out of your head and heart.

Whew, life has been throwing me some interesting curve balls as of late and truthfully … I haven’t handled them well.

Just about 2 1/2 years ago Mr. Nina was downsized from a job he’d had for over 20 years. Despite the blow to his ego, the change had been one that needed to happen. I was ECSTATIC to finally move out of the wilds of northern Maine. We finally sold our house in the spring of 2010 and I put all of our worldly possessions in storage and joined Mr. Nina in Rhode Island in a two-bedroom furnished apartment. I was soooo happy! We were finally only 2.5 hours from southern Maine where our families live! Life was an adventure! By late fall 5 offers on houses had fallen through FIVE! Even our realtor couldn’t figure out what was going on. In this house market you’d think we could have a couple of those for a steal. Hmmm …

Anyway, we rolled into the holidays blissfully unaware our life was going to take another turn. Right after the first of the year, Mr. Nina lost his job. (Which made me grateful someone was looking out for us and we hadn’t bought a house.) A week of unemployment turned into a month of unemployment turned into a winter then spring then a summer of unemployment turned into 10 months of unemployment. It was rough going to say the least, but we managed.

Then in October Mr. Nina landed a job in Vermont and off we went back into the wild woods. Not quite off the beaten path, bet definitely not the quick-paced life of Rhode Island I’d come to enjoy. (Hey, 20 years in the middle of nowhere of northern Maine had left me with a lot of civilization to catch up on!)

I’m sitting now in a rented home with all of my things out of storage, but still in boxes as we’re in the process of building a handicapped accessible home a couple of towns over from where we are living. All of this is great, but it’s left me in a little bit of a tailspin without the ability to plant my feet on solid ground.

Hence the lack of blogging. Lack of keeping up with social media. Lack of writing.

But there seems to be light shining from somewhere. I’m hoping within the next couple of months as we get settled in our new home in our new state, that life will once again find a comfortable rhythm and words will begin to flow. I can already feel them swelling and story ideas coalescing with the warming temperatures of a January thaw.

So keep an eye out for me. I might have been down for the count, but I was never out. Thanks so much for sticking with me and continuing to read my books in 2012. I’m looking for bigger and better things in 2013!

That phrase conjurs a certain image … but it amazes me how in just a short time that image has changed.

I love technology. The devolopement of the Internet has been nothing short of amazing. I’m just awed at how quickly my story can go from a nugget of an idea to a full blown ebook novel that people can buy from all kinds of retailers. What used to take years can now take only as long as it takes me to write the book (if I’m self-publishing).

When I first began writing, I submitted manuscripts and contest entries through the mail, printing and collating them, packaging them and running them to the post office. But emailing them is so much easier. And editing? I never had to go through the process of mailing a full manuscript and receiving it back with red marks I was supposed to fix. To be honest, I can’t even imagine how it used to be done without the ease of computers sending them through cyberspace in the matter of seconds.

That being said I think this wonderful technology has robbed my children and their whole generation of the thrill of letter writing. They don’t know the fun of receiving a handwritten envelope in the mail only to open it up and find pages of words lovingly written, bringing news of home or a loved one far away. And remember when you used to go on vacation and write out postcards and actually mail them? Now it’s wireless internet and digital pictures posted on facebook that are shared with family left at home. It’s just not the same thing.

My love affair for the written word began at an early age. I moved from my very best friend when I was in second grade and for years we wrote to each other. I missed her terribly. When I was a kid I wrote stories and plays that my friends would help me perform. Late in elementary school I got my first diary. I filled that one and started another. I kept this going into early high school. I have no idea what I wrote in them because I wisely destroyed them decades ago. (No, really… it was a good decision. I was a wild child. I didn’t want anyone to know the “real” me. 😉 ) In middle school I found a penpal in Japan and wrote to her for over a year. We exchanged currency because they were so different. We sent each other pictures of ourselves, our homes and our families, allowing each other glimpses of our daily lives.

It was wonderful.

Children can do that today more easily over the internet or sheesh, on their phones. Communication is not only instanteous, it also seems to be continuously streaming. Heck, let’s face it, we can now have live interactions with anyone anywhere through Skype. But they can’t take that conversation and glue it into scrapbook like I did with the letters from my friend. I saved all of them. My children will be able to read the words of a little girl from Japan, penned by her own hand about her life in a foreign land. That’s hands-on history.

My husband and I began dating when I was a freshman in high school. When I was a junior he went to college 11 hours from home. I didn’t see him for months at a time. But during our separation we wrote. A couple of letters a week. Phone calls were so expensive we agreed to call each other only once a month. The only connection I had with him was our letters. Nothing like today where cellphones and internet keep us a moment away from each other.

But I love those letters. We both saved every single one we wrote to each other. Letters of love that speak of innocent youthful cravings and tiny drawings, some marred with tears I shed while looking at them. We wrote for the two full years he was so far away. He eventually decided to go to school closer to home so our letter writing stopped. But what lovely memories we have saved in those shoeboxes in the top of my closet. I’m not sure how appropriate some of them are, but someday I will sit and pore through them and save those fit for our children to read without blushing. Our words, scripted in our own hand (or hen scratch in the case of Mr. Nina) will remind them how much their parents loved each other.

When I went to college my mother wrote to me once a week. It was my lifeline to home. Every Friday without fail her letter arrived in my mailbox. It became a tradition for me to read it outloud to my roommate and several close friends. It was like having home right there in the dorm and sharing it with those around me. My mother had an incredible talent for painting pictures with words. So my family history is recorded in those letters I saved.

As my children came along I began keeping diaries again. I wrote letters to them on the pages before they were even born. I also kept calendars for them and recorded daily activities. I journaled in baby books (written in first person as if they made the entries), tucking in little mementos like napkins from birthday parties and locks of hair.

It’s all a wonderful written history of who we were and how we got to this point. My children love reading their baby books and the antecdotes I recorded. But in the early 90’s I got a computer. I continued to write letters to my mom, but now they were printed off rather than in my own handwriting. Eventually we got the internet and my emails and phone calls took the place of the letter writing. When my children were in college, I rarely sent them mail, but spoke to them a couple of times a week and texted them nearly every day.

But it’s not the same and I know it.

It makes me sad to lose this wonderful tradition. My children won’t have the words of love and concern we shared through their college years, because let’s face it, I don’t print out their emails and I know they don’t print out mine.

It’s such a sad thing. I guess every new technology comes with its downside.

I can say that I have passed on one tradition to my children. Without fail they sit and write thank you notes for gifts they receive at birthday, Christmas, or graduation. We started it when all they could write was their name. It’s something Beautiful Girl and Baby Girl continue to do and Little Boy Blue does when I niggle him. So they’re not long newsy letters, but at least they’re handwritten.

I’d like to tell you this has inspired me to write a letter, but I’m afraid my own letter writing days are over. I have the ability to type, but writing for any length of time is nearly impossible with my MS. I do however manage to type a letter or two now and again. But every once in awhile, like now, I pine for the days when a letter I sent in the mail meant that in another few days I’d get one back.

So what about you? Do you write letters? How do you feel when you receive a letter (even if it’s just a thank you note or a card)? You know me, I’m curious about stuff like that.

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