Sunday, July 22, 2012

Getting Ready For Nationals

I’m three days away from leaving Ohio and heading for sunny California. Mentally, at least, I’m packed and ready to go. I’ve gotten my WIP to the point I wanted it to be before I left—the flash first draft is finished. Now comes the editing part, and layering in more detail while I put sentences in their proper order rather than the way they came spilling out of my head. But I can work on that once I return home.

I just got word, though, that the agent I was to pitch to had to cancel out, due to a family emergency, which leaves me in a bit of a bind. Do I troll the pitch room for hours on Friday and Saturday, waiting for someone to get cold feet so I can jump in and take her place? Or do I instead go to the many great lectures that are available—so many remarkable ones that I wish I could clone myself so I could go to more than one at a time. I guess that’s what the recordings are for.

I’ve divided the summer in my head into two parts—before Nationals and after. My book was released July 2, so I’ve been scrambling around all month, posting blogs on other sites, getting interviewed by the local paper, seizing one opportunity after another to get a book review done. All the stuff that an author in today’s market must do. As I’ve said before, it’s been a steep learning curve. And seeing the results from my various efforts translated into sales and website hits has been even more remarkable. Now, though, I get some time off to soak up the creative juices of my fellow Crimson authors, as well as those of some highly esteemed romance authors like Nora Roberts, Julia Quinn, Jayne Anne Krentz and Susan Elizabeth Phillips, to name just a few. I also get the added bonus of being able to spend time with my brother, pictured above, who happens to live in Anaheim.

Once I return from the trip, though, it’s right back into the fray. My second book is to be released sometime in December, so edits will hit my desk along about October. I’m waiting to hear on another book that I have out for consideration. They promised me they’d get back by mid-August, so, if all goes well, that one will be in production soon too. And there’s that pesky little problem of finding an agent, which I had hoped to get resolved at RWA.

When I was working in the corporate world every day, my life wasn’t this hectic. And this is way more fun. I’m finally following my dad’s advice about employment—find something you like to do and it’ll never be a job for you.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Meet modern-day storyteller Nikkie Locke

If he’d lived, Woody Guthrie would be 100 today. I know this because I attended an Arlo Guthrie and family concert honoring his father. One of the things Arlo said about his father that stuck with me was that Woody never considered himself a singer. Rather, he was a storyteller. And, in his lifetime, he wrote over 3,000 stories.

Today, I’m pleased to host Nikkie Locke on my blog. She’s a modern day storyteller, and her debut novel, Unbound, will be released July 16. Let’s find out a bit more about her, shall we?

Becky: Tell us a little about your book.

Nikkie: Unbound is a romantic suspense novel set in the small, fictional town of Hartsville. It’s a story about a couple whose relationship is just taking off when she becomes a target for a stalker. I really love both of these characters. Payten is independent, strong willed, and just a little bit unsure of herself when it comes to men, especially Dean. Dean is laid back, patient, and reliable. On the other hand, he has horrible nightmares about a past tragedy that he won’t share.

Becky: The book sounds edge-of-your-seat exciting. Is it based on any life experiences?

Nikkie: I took all those things that creep me out- a strange call with nobody on the other end, the fear of the dark outside the window, the itch at the back of your neck when you think someone’s watching- and expanded on it. Thankfully, I’ve never had a cause for those fears.

Becky: I love the names of your pets, and also the names of your characters. How do you decide on the names? Is it a long, complicated process, or do the characters (and pets) let you know their names pretty quickly?

Nikkie: Thanks! I have a post about naming characters on my blog. Usually, I hound friends and family for names and check out the baby name book until I find something that fits the growing character in my head. That usually isn’t too bad. Changing the name after the book’s written is a challenge though!
As for naming pets, it’s generally the same. For those of you who don’t know, I have a cat named Athena and a dog named Perseus. Athena (also known as Ani) arrived half-starved and bloody in the middle of winter. She was spunky and just a little bit wild. She bites. She’s also sneaky. After a week, Gramma and I decided on Athena, after the Goddess of War and Wisdom.
Perseus (also known as Percy) was not named after Percy Jackson, no matter what my little sister thinks. He’s a dog my father rescued and brought to me to take care of until “we find him a home.” Yeah right. That worked. Dad knows I’m a sucker. My younger brother and I had been watching Clash of the Titans when they arrived. We briefly considered renaming him Cerberus after the first night he barked all night long (he’s terrified of turtles), but Perseus just fits.

Becky: You indicated you have a love for action movies with vampires, werewolves and zombies. Any plans to write a paranormal? Maybe a paranormal suspense?

Nikkie: I would LOVE to write a paranormal novel. Vampires, werewolves, zombies, dragons, elves, goblins, imps, fairies, harpies… The list goes on and on. Those kinds of possibilities are endless. I’d love to create a world where they’re real. I’m working on it, but right now, my focus is my suspense novels.

PS I have a kick ass goblin scene. They freak me out!

Becky: Tell us about your process to publication. You indicated it had been a long road.

Nikkie: I queried dozens of agents and publishing companies. It’s challenging to catch the attention of someone who reads hundreds of similar letters a week with only a few short paragraphs. My last semester of college was spent working on a novel during the morning, researching/querying agents and publishers after lunch, and in class during the evening. It was brutal.
A year later, I stumbled onto a call for submissions from Crimson Romance. I talked the opportunity over with my mother and decided to submit. Less than a month later, I’d signed my contract. I spent weeks after randomly squealing in delight and babbling about my book to whoever would listen.

Becky: How long have you been writing?

Nikkie: I’ve been working on one novel or another since I was thirteen years old. I just turned twenty-three.

Becky: Is this your first book sale? Do you have others under the bed, waiting to come to light?

Nikkie: Unbound is the first book I’ve completed. The first book I wrote, at thirteen, will never see the light of day. It no longer even exists on paper, thank goodness. It was very, very awful.
The novel I worked on before Unbound is almost completed with less than twenty pages at the end unfinished. I stopped though. The story felt wrong. The characters from that novel actually appear in Unbound, and I hope to write their story one day. Unfortunately, there’s nothing to be saved from that first book except the characters.

Becky: Who is your sexiest man alive, other than your own Prince Charming?

Nikkie: Like many of the ladies who have answered this question for my blog, I’m having trouble picking just one… If I can’t choose my own, I think I’m going with Gerard Butler. He acts, he sings, he’s funny, and he’s drop dead gorgeous. Have you seen him in a kilt? Have you heard that voice? That accent? Whew. Yeah, I’m going with Gerard.

Becky: You refer on your website to your mother, in rather humorous, loving terms. Tell us about your relationship with her.

Nikkie: My mom is awesome. She rocks. She’s the glue that holds my family together. She is incredibly supportive of my father, my young siblings, me, and even my Prince Charming. On occasion, she has been known to brag more about Prince Charming in conversation than me. I let it slide though. I know I’m her favorite. I think… She pushes us to do our best and reach for our dreams. She also calls on my days off fifteen times “just to chat.” You cannot sleep in around that woman.

Becky: You went to school at Missouri State University. Did you grow up in Missouri? Have you ever lived in any other state? Done any traveling outside the US?

Nikkie: I attended Missouri State University for my Bachelor’s degree. After less than a year out of college, I’m back. Please hold the perpetual student jokes. I’ve heard them. :)
I was born in Missouri and grew up here in a small town. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Becky: How does one connect with you?

Here’s a picture of Nikkie. A lovely young lady, wouldn’t you agree? And, at 23, she’s one of the youngest of the Crimson Romance authors. Which gives her plenty of time to catch up to Woody. Only 2,999 more to go, Nikkie!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Mary's Alter Ego

Most of you by now know that I have a puppy-mill rescue dog named Mary. She’s been very slow to reveal herself to me—she has trust issues, as you can well imagine. But sometime around the anniversary of the day she came into my life, something clicked between us, and she’s been allowing me to see more and more of what makes her tick.

A few months ago, I made the transition from writer to author when I signed with Crimson Romance. The following weeks were intense and hectic, between setting up a website and other social media, plus all the rounds of edits. Oh yeah, and then there was that pesky day job. I’d find myself sitting in front of my computer for hours on end. Mary often had to use her outside voice to break through the writer’s fog and make me realize it had been four hours since I’d let her outside.

The other day, I was working on my WIP. Finally able to be creative again, I was eager to work, but a bit rusty, since I’d been doing everything but writing for a couple weeks. I’d write a chapter and print it out, curious to see if it became any less sucky when I looked at it in print rather than on the screen. I read through the work out loud, with Mary as my audience. No, if anything, it sucked even more. I balled up the pages one at a time, and tossed them in the direction of the wastebasket. Finally, I got back in the groove, and the next few hours were blissfully spent with my heroine, whom I love dearly, in 1856 St. Louis.

When I finally came back to the present and went looking for Mary, I found a trail of paper in the living room. While I wasn’t looking, she came into my study and grabbed the sheets of my dismal chapter one by one, and shredded them on my rug. I smiled as I realized Mary had torn my work apart, just like an editor would have done. I decided to experiment with something.

I have pens all over my house, since you never know when inspiration will strike. On an almost daily basis, one or more pens will crash to the floor from an overloaded table. If I’m not quick to pick them up, Mary will grab them and start chewing. This time, I intentionally laid three pens on the floor—two with blue ink and one with red. Without hesitation, Mary picked up the red one triumphantly and returned to her blanket with her prize. Which was all the proof I needed. In a former life, Mary was an editor with a publishing house!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Release Day--The Reluctant Debutante

It's finally here. The release of my debut novel. After the first rush of giddiness as I signed my first-ever contract with Crimson Romance, I settled into round after round of edits, scurried to get this website up and running, not to mention all the other social media, arranged my own blog tour, and had interviews with the local paper. It was such a whirlwind that I despaired of ever catching up.

I gave myself the luxury of a day off from the job that helps me buy groceries (I wouldn't be able to concentrate on it anyway), worked a bit on my WIP, and keep checking hits to my website and my Amazon ranking (wildly inaccurate, according to everyone, but I check anyway.) The WIP is languishing due to my lack of concentration, so I think I'll pull on my work gloves and chain saw up the large oak branch that fell into my yard last night. At least I'll be able to see some productivity that way.

I'll pretend the fireworks on the Fourth are in honor of my release. And I'm being taken out to dinner tonight by two of my favorite people. Oh, and I have a book on Amazon, sandwiched between Julia Quinn and Nora Roberts. Life doesn't get much sweeter.