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New Year, New Me!

Well, not really a new me, just a commitment to being more focused on myself as an author. Yes, you heard it here – an author! Not that my dream publishing deal has come through or anything, more that I want to expand my ‘brand’ (gosh I am not fond of that terminology but it is what it is). I need to let people know who will read my stories what to expect. And what is that? Number one, I am a historical fiction author – who loves a dash of romance. Second, although I prefer to write in that romantic historical genre, I also like to dabble in other genres – specifically science fiction and crime. Third, I also like the idea of dabbling in non-fiction spaces, specifically science related and women in science, as that is currently my day job! I have increased my hours of working, giving me a little less writing time, which means that I need to plan and organise my writing time a little better than the haphazard scribbling I’ve been doing.

Commitment wise these are my plans:

  • Organise my writing time.
  • Continue with my small mentorship group with Victoria Purman.
  • Continue attending online sprints with other authors (a great way to get words down).
  • Plan and execute my story in our next historical anthology (yes Clare, Sarah, Ava and I are going down that path again! Something a little different this time!)
  • Sending one of my completed manuscripts for a structural development analysis with a professional editor (slated and booked for this March).
  • Write a scifi short story.
  • Plan for another manuscript (that may or may not be written this year but the ideas are flowing!)
  • Submit, submit, submit!
  • I’ve also made an ongoing commitment to limit submissions to competitions – and speaking of which…

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!

That should be Finalist Finalist!

I have made the second round of the Sapphire with ‘Girls of the USO’ – but it was a last-minute entry and I wasn’t really happy with the final sub. But it’s out there and the feedback will help with the next edit I’m sure!

I came equal second in the Spicy Bites competition with my saucy WW2 Historical short ‘Khaki and Silk’ – it will be published and launched at the next RWA conference in Sydney, which I am looking forward to attending in August.

So that’s a wrap for the beginning of the year! My year of wonder is about to begin!

Fremantle Romance Writers of Australia Conference Roundup!

I was so excited to be back in person with other romance writer authors and also my wonderful writing buddies and fellow anthology lovelies Clare Griffin and Ava January! I was sad only that Sarah Fiddelaers was unable to come (baby number six needed some love and attention!)

I’d made it a whirlwind trip – one because of the (pathogen that shall not be named) and that other work and family commitments make it difficult to leave home for too long. I was worried too, given all the upheaval with the airlines – would my flight arrive on time? Or at all?? Fortunately, it did, and I managed to get there with plenty of time to spare.

I visited the shipwrecks museum, a must sea for any history or maritime buff and had a wander along Fremantle harbour before I caught up with others attending the conference.

It was a joy to share my accommodation with my writing buddy Clare (and aside from my partner Tony she’s my number one cheerleader- she gets me!) And given the time difference between Adelaide/Melbourne and Perth meant that both of us woke early and spent the hours before breakfast chatting like with were teens at a slumber party!

Friday’s workshop was with Becca Syme, from the ‘Better Faster Academy’ and author of the ‘Dear writer’ books as well as a series of popular Cozy Mysteries. We learned a lot about our strengths as individual writers, something I am still processing. I’m sure to come back to this to tell you more later.

The workshops were great and ranged from how to author TikTok to delving deep into the nitty gritty of your manuscript to make it shine. The phenomenally productive Maisy Yates gave an amazing keynote speech—both inspiring and comforting—about how hard the writing industry can be even for the most successful and determined of individuals. I love that the theme that the established writers spread was that as far as writing ‘rules’ don’t let anyone ‘shoulda’ you!!

Top left: Anne Gracie’s stand up for the Gala Dinner (done remotely). Top Right: Tanya Nellestein and me at the Cocktail Party (theme bedtime stories). Bottom Left: Cocktail party ‘Barbaras (Cartland) in pyjamas’ – Stephanie Mayne, Sue Price and Sharyn Swanepoel. Bottom righ: Louisa Duval in her nod to the classics.

The Fremantle team did a wonderful job and Dani McLean the conference organiser did an amazing job pulling her stellar team together.

In addition – I pitched my most polished manuscript – my WW2 set historical rural romance, and have today sent that off – wish me luck!!

I was downhearted to leave having reconnected with so many that have been only online for the past two years – the connections you make at conferences like these are wonderful and amazing – ones that will last a lifetime.

For the rest of the year I’ll be focussing on polishing my ‘Girls of the USO’ manuscript and maybe see where that gets me when I push that one out to the world. I’ve also signed up to do two anthology novella contributions: a regency one (my first!) and another one with my anthology lovelies.

I offered my services as a cover designer for the silent auction and I’ll also be working with the talented and lovely Fiona McArthur – whose rural romance series are a lovely slice of the outback (complete with babies – given Fiona is a former midwife!) I always have so much fun creating covers (I did our Paris anthology cover and ones for other writing friends who were self-publishing). I guess if I don’t make it as a writer I could always do that as a side business!

I am looking forward to seeing where my writing journey takes me next (as well as looking forward to the next RWA meetup in Sydney next year! I have some outfit planning to do…)

Bye for now!

N xx

Competition News!

Part of being an aspiring writer is doing the scariest thing you can do – start putting your writing out there. I’ve talked about this on numerous occasions but I think it’s important to remind everyone that yes, it’s scary, but yes you will benefit.

The Ink and Insights competition was a great competition as the feedback was both bolstering, timely and incredibly useful. This is the second time I have entered this comp and it was wonderful to both score in the top ten entrants (out of 125 entries) but also be put forward as one of the judges’ faves (this is separate to the score.)

You can see the Ink and Insights placings and other great up and coming authors manuscripts here:

https://inkandinsights.com/apprentice-novels-winners-page.php

https://inkandinsights.com/judges-favorites.php

Some of the great feedback I recieved included:

  • “The characters had a lot of personality. This was especially evident in the care the author took to make their voices unique in dialogue.”
  • “The emphasis on the emotional aspects of these characters lives, the feeling of a fully fleshed out setting, and the streamlined fast-moving pace stick true to the chosen genre.”
  • “The hook has the perfect amount of drama and emotion to make the MC and her struggles feel real while providing key setting clues.”
  • “The element of mystery to these characters’ stories is what I found truly appealing. “
  • “Your characterization is excellent.”
  • “Your descriptions were absolutely magical. I loved reading them and they really immersed me into the story.”

But also on the useful side of feedback came these comments:

  • “I believe that there is room to improve the emotional depth of the story and include more complex emotions.”
  • “There is a good presentation of backstory, however, I believe the story could benefit from a bit more backstory.”
  • “While details are adequate to enable a reader to follow the story, the setting and world-building aspect is a bit sparse in details that would truly immerse the reader into the setting, time frame, and uncertainties of the time, just prior to the Pearl Harbor attack that propelled the U.S. into the Second World War.”
  • “I would have also liked to have read more details in scenery and clothing of the times, as well as hair styles so that I could truly feel as if I had stepped back in time and am living live through your three primary characters: CeCe, Ruby, and Peaches.”
  • “There are a couple areas where I spot room to add more descriptions.”

All these comments have useful and workable solutions and I know that my manuscript will be richer for having taken this feedback and worked on improving my story, characters and dialogue. There is much to do going forward!

It was also great that the Romance Writers of New Zealand Great Beginnings Contest I was the editors pick and their comments were especially warming to hear.

“This WWII era historical was really captivating. I really enjoyed the introduction to the women who are destined to become friends during the war.

Editors comment on Girls of the USO for Great Beginnings Competition

So now what? I have a lot of work to do, but I’m hoping that this manuscript may be in workable order by the time the RWA conference comes up in August! Until then, it’s head down, backside up!

Writerly news 2022

Wrangling with my manuscripts!

Emerging from my writer’s nook (okay that’s not ME but it’s definitely a mood!)

Hi everyone! Apologies for my sporadic posting – but I’ve been very busy working on one of my manuscripts for submission! Last year I was asked to submit one of my stories to major publisher, but as I hadn’t worked on it for some time I asked if I might submit it this year instead. And I’ve only just finished! I had a serious soggy middle that needed some beefing up and wasn’t confident about the overall pace. Some beta reading from some lovely writers from the RWAs aspiring group and my lovely talented writer friend Clare (as well as some sound advice from Writers SA manuscript Incubator mentor Victoria Purman) the time working on it before submission has paid off to the point where I was happy with this current draft. So after some encouragement (because I spook easy) off it went! Not only to the editor that requested it – but a couple of comps too!

THE SOGGY MIDDLE (indicated by yellow and orange post-its!)

In addition to this I recieved some feedback on another manuscript (that currently only has six chapters) but I’ll take small wins where I can – Girls of the USO is garnering interest (from the Ink and Inksights competition) I scored 11th out of 125 unpublished manuscripts! The same manuscript has finaled in a Romance Writers of New Zealand competion and I placed third in the Valerie Parv competition last year! So after some advice – I think I’ll focus on that story and rework my other full ms (that has been rejected) for submission to an agent. Around everything work related I’m not sure where I find the time (oh and my poor kiddo got covid too!!)

I will keep you all posted on any news!


In other news, my short story ‘An Easter Lily on the Somme’ is available for 99c! HERE!

New Release

Hi Everyone! I hope 2021 is treating you much better than last year. I’ve got some exciting news coming out next month, but until then you can read my short novella ‘An Easter Lily on the Somme’ right now (from the Historical Anthology ‘Easter Promises’) Available here.

Mid-Year Round up

Wowza! the last six months have been intense. A pandemic has certainly stuck a blow for my creativity and despite the working from home and supposed all the free time we allegedly had, find myself running out of time to do much at all! Where do I start?

  1. Worked on my first contribution to an anthology
  2. Finaled in several competitions
  3. Won two competitions
  4. Had my second story appear in anthology
  5. Had a short story accepted by a science fiction magazine
  6. Have the interest of an overseas agent for one of my manuscripts
  7. Attended an intense online conference
  8. Turned 50

That isn’t all – I’m sure there is more but I am still swamped by life (and work!)

The language of the Afghan men congregating on the busy wharf had drifted in the breeze. Their words song-like, as if they were preparing for choir.

killing my darlings

And now I find as we are on the slide into Christmas and the end of the year I am heavily editing and crying at having to kill all my darlings that I lovingly crafted over the year.

But, we must move on, bring on Spring!

Cover Reveal!

I have another short story coming out in August – it’s part of the Romance Writers of Australia Sweet Treats Anthology. I’m really excited to see my name amongst some of the other wonderful aspiring and emerging writers. This years theme is ‘Cupcakes’ and my story ‘Miss Minnie’s Courage and Cupcakes’ is one of 15 sweet romance stories!

About Miss Minnie’s Courage and Cupcakes

“The best protection any woman can have… is courage.” ~Elizabeth Cady Stanton

When Minnie Cranston is faced with her childhood friend Tom heading off to war, there is only one thing she can do – show courage and bake her heart out. When the winds of war change them both, can they reconcile their ideals and find true love?

Available as ebook and paperback – details TBA!

Post Isolation, Pre-birthday Roundup!

For the majority of us, I suspect the last 6 months has been spent in upheaval, with worry and strife afflicting our daily lives. For me personally its been up and down but its nothing in comparison to the upturned lives of so many others.

On the writerly front its been an amazing six months – the last few months has been planning and plotting and mulling over strategies for the next six months. However, creativity has been like retrieving the dregs of a slowly drying well. And one of the biggest disappointments for me has been that I’ve been unable to celebrate the launch of our historical anthology ‘Easter Promises’ in the manner befitting our glorious cover girl. Luckily though, its reception has still been very positive! And I love the stories and heroines my anthology co-authors have created– from beautiful and evocative ‘Easter Dawn’ and the sweetest Minnie, to the mystery of a snow bound hotel in ‘Le Malin Renard’ and the hilarious and vivaciously sexy Ariadne, and then onto the little told history of the WASPS, the female pilots of WW2 in ‘EOS’ with the beautiful and glamourous Rosamund. I had such a ball creating this with my fellow authors I was saddened only that I couldn’t celebrate our achievement with everyone else too!

I’ve been eagerly editing my second manuscript and am now being mentored by the wonderful Libby Iriks who has been giving me some great feedback, helping me to set goals and answering my silly questions. My first manuscript has also had a bit of workout after a manuscript assessment has me thinking a complete re-write despite the fact its finaled in several writing competitions (and won one too!) I had shelved it since a rejection I received earlier this year and I’ve not wanted to send it out on submission to anyone else until I can pummel it into better shape—which I believe I can do, but as with everything, it takes time and I don’t have a lot of that!

CYA conference competition 2020

I won the aspiring category for Adult fiction at the recent CYA conference for my novel ‘The Bridge’ – which resulted in an amazing conversation with Clive Hebard – Managing Editor of Penguin Random House in Melbourne, he gave me some great feedback and I was so happy to hear that my writing and the story is very reminiscent of Joy Rhoades work (The Woolgrowers Companion, The Burnt Country) and I was so thrilled (and overwhelmed) to hear that! I also had a consult with Queensland Writer’s Centre and I think I can go into this next draft feeling more confident about the choices I am making with the story.

So what else have I been doing? Like most people – baking bread, making preserves from a mountain of quinces and reading, playing video games and binge watching Netflix!

I have another story coming out in the Romance Writers of Australia Sweet Treats Anthology – so keep an eye out for ‘Miss Minnie’s Courage and Cupcakes’!! I’ll talk about it and my inspiration for the story on the release date which is only a few weeks away!

Let’s hope the last half of the year isn’t fraught with fear and that we can resume our normal lives as best we can!

Oh yeah, next week it’s my birthday – I’ll be… a lady of a certain age…

If you want to help me celebrate – I’m doing Dry July in support of Cancer research and in memory of my wonderful mum, Jessie and my mother-in-law Peggy.

Nancy’s Dry July fundraiser

Currently reading: The Golden Hour: A Novel by Beatriz Williams

Release Day is here!

Hi Everyone! Release day for Easter Promises is here!

I’d like to thank my fabulous co-authors Sarah Fiddelaers, Ava January and Clare Griffin for being great collaborators. I’d also like to thank Kerry Wagoner and Lou Greene for editing/beta’ing and to the amazing Jayne Kingsley who helped out with questions and guided us newbies through the formatting process.

I recieved this marvelloous art of Ivy and Maurice from ‘An Easter Lily on the Somme’ by my friend Anna – currently on lockdown in Italy. Anna and I met online fawning over our mutual adoration of fictional characters. Anna is a talented artist who also loves drawing fanart!

Ivy and Maurice from ‘An Easter Lily on the Somme’
Art by Anna Usai

Easter Lily on the Somme is in the historical anthology ‘Easter Promises’ available now from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo or direct from authors!

Please everyone have a safe and happy Easter xxx

Writing Historical Fiction

One of my favourite things about writing is the research needed to write a factually correct story. This is especially the case when writing historical fiction. When I read historical fiction, I am often thrown out of a story if the fact presented doesn’t feel quite right. Same goes for anachronistic language (language out of place/time).

In an effort to appeal to modern readers, I’ve seen writers use anachronistic language for the sake of ease of explanation. Certain words, although anachronistic have been around long enough that the use of them in a historical setting wouldn’t feel out of place–for example, ‘silhouette’ has its origins in the 18th century–yet using it as a descriptive word for something set in say, Tudor England, would likely go over most readers’ heads. (You noticed I said ‘most’ there!)

Anachronistic language I’ve seen in particular with regard to romance and sex. Is it easier for a reader to understand my character when they say ‘I took a turn amongst the cabbages’ or to say ‘I had sex’?  But I guess write what feels right to you or your character–go with your gut, I say!

So how do I go about research? Even though they are only short stories, when I was writing ‘An Easter Lily on the Somme’ coming out this week, and ‘Miss Minnie’s Courage and Cupcakes’ (coming out in the RWA short story anthology in July/August) I felt an obligation to know more about women’s work in WW1؅–the setting for both stories. For Ivy’s story in An Easter Lily on the Somme, I needed to find out how a British Army casualty clearing station (a military medical facility behind the front lines, but not quite a hospital) operated near the front. I needed to know how an army nurse differed to a Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD and more commonly depicted) nurse. I needed to know about the Irish Easter Rebellion and I needed to know about the flora of the region. For Minnie’s story I needed to know about the suffragette movement during WW1, and how their tactics changed in order to evoke sympathy for their cause.

Army Nurse (left) and Voluntary Nurse (Right)
Source: Anon (2019)

It was so joyous to do this research and find out more about how women fared during the war years, how the war affected women’s work during this time. But not only that, I was able to find out what plants grew on the landscape of Belgium and France (Wearn et al, 2017), how the landscape reflected the trauma of people and how it could recover. A great methaphor for people’s own recovery from trauma.

Keep an eye open for Easter Promises, coming out April 9! And for the Cupcake anthology from RWA in July/August!

References

Anonymous (2019). Women in War: Voluntary Aid Detachments or nurse?https://anzac100.initiatives.qld.gov.au/remember/women-in-war/index.aspx. Queensland Government Website.

Wearn, J. A., Budden, A. P., Veniard, S. C., & Richardson, D. (2017). The flora of the Somme battlefield: A botanical perspective on a post-conflict landscape. First World War Studies8(1), 63-77.

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