Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

This week we welcome guest blogger Nancy Herkness! A multi-published author from New Jersey who grew up in West Virginia, Nancy has a new release hot off the press–“Take Me Home.” I personally can’t wait to read this book since I’ve read all her others and really loved them. Reading, Writing and Ruminations sat down with Nancy and asked her some questions. If you have others, let us know and she’ll answer them!
What kind of romances do you write?
I write mostly contemporary romances with one foray into romantic suspense (Music of the Night). My first three books were set in the New York metro area, but I’ve gone back to my roots in the mountains of West Virginia with my new series. (I love saying “series” since Montlake Romance bought all three of my “whisper horse” novels. It’s my first series ever!)
Do you plot out your novel or write by the seat of your pants?
How I wish I plotted out my novel! But no, I have to noodle around, go off in wrong directions, change characters’ motivations mid-book, etc. I tried very hard to plot a book once but it killed all the joy for me and I never got past the fifth chapter. It has to be a voyage of discovery or I get bored.
So I start with the two main characters, often developing the hero first for some reason. I build in at least one conflict as I flesh out those characters and add other obstacles as I write. Generally, I have an ending in mind and I write toward that.
What I love about my method are the moments of revelation. In my current WIP (nearly finished now), my heroine has led a very sheltered life before she arrives in Sanctuary, WV. I had some superficial reasons why but I was missing something profound. One day I was working on chapter seven or thereabouts when it just burst into my brain. I jumped out of my chair, leapt around my office a few times, crowing at my cleverness, then sat down to rework the prior six chapters to include it.

You have a done a lot of research for your novels—for example, researching meteorites for “Shower of Stars.” Do you do research before writing or while writing or both? Do you enjoy this aspect of the writing process?
Doesn’t every writer love to do research? It’s the best kind of procrastination because you can justify the time you spend on it by saying it’s necessary for the book. I’ve done such fun things in the name of adding authenticity to my books: walking the George Washington Bridge, spending two days in the Smithsonian’s meteorite exhibit, sitting on stage for a rehearsal at Carnegie Hall.
My West Virginia series is a different kind of research: I’m mining my memories of my childhood in the mountains—and layering in a few new additions, of course.
I also do research on the fly when I’m writing. When I decide to introduce a new element into my story, I instantly check it for accuracy before I get too far down the road in the plot. Google is my friend.
Tell us a little bit about your new series—how you got the idea, what you’re most excited about, and your plans for the series!
Oh, thank you for bringing up that word again…and I didn’t even have to pay you! My new series is set in the beautiful mountains of West Virginia where I grew up. The town of Sanctuary is fictional but it strongly resembles my real hometown of Lewisburg.
In addition, I came up with the concept of a whisper horse. A whisper horse is the special creature you can tell all your troubles to so you don’t have to carry the burden alone. You can’t talk to just any horse; there’s one meant for you. A character in each of the books finds her/his whisper horse in Sanctuary at Healing Springs Stables.
The idea came from my real pony Papoose who was my constant companion all through my younger years. When I was upset or angsty, I would pour my problems into his ears. If you know horses, you’ll know their ears are very eloquent, so I felt I had a sympathetic listener.
Right now the series is three books long: Take Me Home (Nov. 2012), Country Roads (nearly finished), and The Place I Belong (merely a germ of an idea). I hope it will continue on past those three, although I’ve nearly run out of John Denver lyrics for my titles.
I’m having a blast revisiting characters from the first book in the second book. As I reader, I’ve always enjoyed that, but I’m finding it even more exciting as a writer. I was delighted when one of my critique partners read a scene from Country Roads in which the lead characters from Take Me Home appeared and commented, “It is so great to see Claire and Tim again! Now I understand why readers get hooked on a series.” Music to my ears!


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The weekend of October 11-14th, Elizabeth John and I were at the New Jersey Romance Writers’ conference!
What a conference! It was fabulous! Truly one of the best NJ has ever done.
It started Thursday with the conference committee getting things ready and a quick lunch. Then I went on to the airport to pick up Heather Graham and her husband Dennis! Coming back to the hotel, we were stuck in rush hour traffic, but I didn’t care–they are such gracious and fascinating people and we talked and talked.
Thursday night there was a dinner with some of our keynote speakers–Heather, Sabrina Jeffries and Susan Wiggs. I got to sit next to Sabrina Jeffries and learned a lot about what an intesesting life she’s led–but it was also full of hardships.
Friday morning I helped here and there, and then Elizabteh joined me. En route to lunch we ran into Heather and she and Dennis joined us for the buffet lunch–again, the conversation just flowed and we had such fun!

Then the conference started in earnest. I moderated Christine Bush’s First timers’ workshop–always lots of laughs. then on to the Published Author’s retreat. First Mary Jo Putney spoke about the state of the publishing industry. Then we broke into Roundtable discussions. I attended Jade Lee’s roundtable on social media and Heather’s Graham’s on the things that drive us crazy in this business. Both were informative, relaxing (you get to have chocolate-covered pretzels and wine and really let your hair down) and the conversation was interesting and lively.  The roundtables give published authors a chance to talk about our industry.  NJRW was one of the first groups to offer these roundtables.
After that, we got ready for the Awards ceremony. My book “Borrowing the Bride” was nominated for a Golden Leaf award. I didn’t win, but I was so flattered to be nominated–competition is fierce for this award. And I got to hang out with some old friends I hand’t seen for a while and meet some new people!

Saturday started bright and early with breakfast and Sabrina Jeffries’ motivating speech. Then on to the special workshop given by Nikoo and Jim McGoldrick. Then I had an editor and an agent appointment, both of which went well.
Lunch was great fun. I sat at a table with other Golden Leaf finalists and we got to hear Heather Graham’s fascinating and inspirational speech. Then, more workshops, the literacy booksigning, and dinner with friends! And of course there was the after party at night with dancing and karaoke. So much fun!
I came home from the conference totally inspired, exhausted but energized at the same time.
Since then I have been writing every day!
I’m looking forward to next year’s conference already!
With enthusiasm,
Roni Denholtz

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Every year I attend the NJ Romance Writers’ Conference. It’s my very favorite. And, as usual, I just can’t wait!
Writing conference are wonderful and this one–which I anticipate each year–is the best. It’s not just that we get stellar speakers (and this year one of the keynote speakers is Heather Graham, one of my favorite authors). And it’s not just the terrific workshops which feature presentations on the writing craft and the business of writing. There is so much more.
NJRW was one of the first conferences to feature roundtables just for published authors. We can sit back and frankly discuss everything from agents to writing frustrations to time management issues.
NJRW gets almost as many editors and agents as the national conference, so there’s always the chance to meet with an editor and/or agent and pitch your newest manuscript.
There’s also the chance to be involved and give back to an organization that has set so many on the path to success–including me! I enjoy volunteering a lot. This year I’m going to be moderating the “First Timers'” workshop being given by Christine Bush.
Another highlight of the conference is networking. You never know who you will meet. You might be seated next to a big name agent at one of the meals–or help an editor find their way around the hotel. You might hear about a new line of books that a publishing house is opening up.
Most of all, there’s the chance to connect with old friends and make new ones. There are some writing friends I only get to see once a year, since they live far away; but we try to get together at the conference even if it’s just for a few minutes over coffee. There have been times I started chatting with someone, we found out we had a lot in common, and then we’ve stayed in touch and become good friends.
This year, Kate Davison and Christina Lynn Whited will be unable to attend the conference; but I will be spending time with Elizabeth John, and I am looking forward to that!
The conference is officially Oct. 12-13, but I will be there on the 11th to help. I can’t wait!
With eager anticipation,

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Yes, I’ll admit it, I’m addicted to television.  Not all television, mind you, mostly just reality shows, crime dramas, true crime shows, and a sprinkle of others.  In fact, I’m a big fan of several reality TV shows, including Survivor, the Bachelor/Bachelorette, and Jerseylicious.  I’m particularly obsessed with the Real Housewives shows.  Which one, you ask?  All of them.  Now I imagine many people are rolling their eyes at me.

First, you say, reality? Puh-lease!  Then, you say, why, when there are so many other great shows out there?

True, there are, and yes, I do watch some of them like Once Upon A Time and Downton Abbey.  I’m also known to be a movie junkie.  I write romantic suspense, so crime shows draw me in for obvious reasons.

But it’s the “reality shows” I find fascinating.  It amazes me how people allow cameras to follow them in their daily lives and reveal intimate details.  Back in college, sociology was one of my favorite courses.  How groups of people react and live together always fascinated me.  So when I watch reality shows, it’s not to see who wins the prize, if there is one, but how they plan, manipulate, lie, befriend, and make alliances to get their goals.

All this television watching helps me with my writing.  Similar to people-watching in restaurants or at the park, studying how people behave in certain situations, whether it’s true reality or a manufactured set-up, still makes for interesting conflict.  And let’s not forget all the various characters!  It’s a candy store for writers!  My creative juices flow and I jot down my own ideas in a journal.  We writers all get our ideas from somewhere, and something about these shows keeps my mind sharp on remembering motivation, goal, and conflict.

I don’t believe in writer’s block.  I feel if I’m stuck, it’s because something’s not working, and my TV obsession sometimes helps.  Not only can it trigger ideas for a new novel, it can help with current projects.  The other day I was watching one of the true crime shows and the situation described was similar to a situation in the latest book I’m working on.  I was questioning my character’s motivation and back story, and there it was on one of those ID shows—a woman had experienced a comparable circumstance.  It validated my storyline and increased my confidence in pursuing the direction my character was heading.

The new fall line up has begun.  I have to be diligent in my selection because television watching can be a major time suck.  And it can cause one to become a couch potato.  So the DVR is my friend.  I pick, choose, and limit my time in front of the screen.

I had a stressful day at work yesterday, and on the drive home a little burst of excitement brightened my otherwise miserable day.  I had not one, but two Real Housewives shows to watch that evening.  I had the NJ Housewives taped on my DVR and a new NYC episode was airing that night.  From the teaser clips I knew I was in for a treat!

So when people scoff at my choice of television shows, I just smile and skim through my journal full of ideas and character sketches.  Hmm, I think it’s time to buy another journal.




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When I was not yet a published romance writer, I didn’t enter many contests. I felt I had to spend my limited time on writing and submitting books to editors.
But that changed once I became published. I started sending my novels to contests sponsored by different Romance Writers of America chapters. I had several reasons: to see how my books did; to garner some new readers, who, if they liked the book they judged, might purchase some of my others; and to hopefully win a few contests.
In the eleven years since my first romance novel (“Lights of Love”) was published, I have entered each book in several contests–usually 3 or 4.
I have been fortunate to have finalled in both the National Readers’ Choice Awards and the New Jersey Romance Writers’ Golden Leaf awards several times. And I won the Golden Leaf in 2007 for Best Regency (for “Marquis in a Minute”).
Last week, I was rushing around doing some housework when I got a call saying my newest romance, “Borrowing the Bride” was a finalist for the NJ Golden Leaf contest!  My thoughts hadn’t been on the contest and I was astonished to get the call.
I was really  thrilled!  Not only because this is such a prestigious contest; but because, having been chairman of the contest years ago, I know how much competition there is.
The winners will be announced on Oct. 12 at the N J Romance Writers’ conference.
But whether I win or not I feel like a winner already. Because to final in this contest is truly very special!


Roni Denholtz

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