Updates on Health, Life, Books and Everything

I know, I know, it’s been a minute since I’ve posted anything about writing or life. I’m even late with my August newsletter. But I have reasons.

Health Update
First, some of you may have seen on social that I was in the hospital about a week and a half ago. I went in via ambulance thinking I was having a heart attack (shortness of breath, dull pain in my left arm). My heart was fine, but in the course of testing they found I had three small blot clots in my lungs. I would never have known had I not gone in. (Listen to your body! It could save your life.)

They admitted me and pumped me full of blood thinners and now I’m home, back to work and taking blood thinners at home. (Which I will likely be on for the rest of my life.) They couldn’t find a reason for the clots; all my tests came back normal, so that is really scary. I’m paranoid about making sure I don’t sit in one place for too long at a time now.

As a result, I’m stepping back from some of the volunteer things I’ve been doing. I had a potential book project going on, but that fell through, and as much as I would have loved to have worked on it, I’m kind of glad. This situation forced me to look at the manic pace at which I’ve been working for at least two years now and settle down a bit. That is one weight off my shoulders.

Book Announcement – August 15
I’ve been sitting on this one for about a month and a half, but soon I will finally be able to tell you about a historical fiction book I have under contract! I’m really excited about it and I hope you will be, too. It’s a tight turnaround, but I know I can do it. And we have a cover to reveal at the same time! So please mark your calendars!

I’ve Joined TikTok
I finally gave in and went to the dark side. I’m on TikTok. (Find me here.) I’ve been lurking for a few months and realized its really not that bad when you find people of like mind. I’m going to try to make videos a few times a week. Right now it is just me trying to get used to how it works, but eventually you’ll see more book stuff on there too. So if you’re on, please follow me and feel free to like or comment on my videos. And if you have suggestions for improvement or things you’d like to see, I’m all ears.

Book Updates

  • We are just about three months out from the release of Sex and the City: A Cultural History! It is at the printer and I should be getting advanced copies within a few weeks. You’ll be seeing more and more about it as we ramp up marketing efforts.
  • The League of Women Voters book has a title: Raising Our Voices: The League of Women Voters in St. Louis 1690-2022. It is being sent to the publisher as we speak. More to come.
  • America’s Forgotten Suffragists is still in copy editing, but they say I should get those files back next week sometime. I’ll have a week to go through everything and then in late September I’ll see the book laid out for the first time in page proofs.
  • The Arthurian non-fiction book I wrote a chapter for is getting closer to publication. I completed edits that the potential publisher wanted a few weeks ago. Now we wait.
  • And yes, the Fierce Females on Television book is still happening, but it’s on the back burner right now with everything else that is going on. It’s due January 13. Plenty of time, right?

Chanticleer Conference Summary
I was planning on doing a full write up of the Chanticleer Conference but time got away from me and I don’t have the energy. Short version: It was one of the best conferences I’ve ever been to! I made so many amazing new friends and it was great reconnecting with old friends. America’s Forgotten Suffragists and The Guinevere’s Tale Trilogy both won Grand Prizes! And I got to speak something like four times. It was amazing.

T-minus Two Years (or less) to the Windy City
At the Chanticleer Conference, I made a promise to my Chicago friends that I will move there within the next two years. And life, as it usually does to everyone, promptly gave me a leak in my basement, a hospital stay, and car bills, which takes away from paying off debt and being able to move. Whatever. It will still happen.

I think that’s everything outside of the day job. Oh, my birthday is coming up later this month. Maybe I should update my Amazon wishlist!

New Facebook and Instagram Accounts

You may remember that a little over a month ago, my Facebook and Instagram accounts were suspended for no reason that I can guess. It could have been that someone reported me, that something I posted tripped a bot/algorithm or they found out I write under a pen name, which is against their TOS for a profile (but not a page, a famous person or a drag queen, go figure).

Anywho, today they disabled them completely, so I started new profiles and pages: Facebook and Instagram. It’s going to take me a while to catch up on all the news that happened while I was away. So please be patient as I rebuild.

While it sucks to lose all my friends and followers, if they are true friends or fans, they will find me again. I am choosing to look at this as an opportunity to start over and have more control over who I friend and what I see. I was in way too many groups anyway. 😉

What I Have Learned from This Experience

  • Build your email list as much as you can. Social media can be taken away from you at any time. (Have you signed up for my newsletter? If not, please do so now in case this happens again–I don’t want to lose you twice! It just might.)
  • Tighten your security as much as possible. FB lets you designate three to five people who can help you recover your account if something happens and I’m sure there are other ways of locking it down. You bet I will investigate every one of them.
  • If you have a page, set someone you trust as an administrator. Any way you can have other people will access to your account (within reason, of course) will help you if you ever get in trouble with our social media overlords.
  • Don’t accept friend requests from people you can’t trust. I don’t want to believe it, but it could have been a friend, family member or fellow author who reported me. So I’m going to be extra careful who I friend. There’s no guarantee it won’t happen with the new accounts. If we know each other well, you are welcome on my profile. If not, everyone is welcome on my page!
  • Be careful what you post. I’m not saying to not have opinions or censor yourself- I certainly won’t because it isn’t who I am. But just to give one example of the world we live in, apparently you can’t use the word “suicide” on any social media anymore. I had the word in a poem. That could be what got flagged. I don’t know how one is supposed to keep up with banned terms, but they do exist.
  • Think twice if you write under a pen name. FB allows drag queens and famous actors/authors to use pen names, but not the rest of us. Just go in knowing this may happen to you. One of my fairly famous author friends has been banned from FB four times for that exact reason. She just keeps coming back.
  • These companies don’t respond to their users. I spent a month and at least a dozen email and form exchanges with them to no avail. I provided multiple forms of ID and proof that [insert legal name here] really is Nicole Evelina. I sent them a “proof of life” photo with things they requested visible on a piece of paper. Yet this morning FB was still claiming I never protested my suspension. FB has no real person you can call and most of FB/Insta’s emails are no reply. Even if you do get an email that looks like it is from a real person and reply back, you won’t hear anything. Plus, the emails you do get will contradict each other. Or at least that was my experience.

So, anyway, here we are. I hope you will follow me on my new accounts. And have you signed up for my newsletter yet?

Just to be clear – I am only calling out drag queens in this post because they are a rare (and hard-fought) exception to the rules. I really like drag as an art form and would never want to disrespect anyone.

2015 Goals

Goal-Setting-2015-1024x1024Last year I was pretty darn ambitious with my writing goals and it nearly did me in. So this year, I’m keeping it simple:

  1. Write at least one book – I’m planning on writing another historical fiction after I get this one edited and finished. As I’ve found another woman no one has written fiction about (that I can tell), I’m not revealing who she is until the book is done. But I can tell you this: she survived the French Revolution and went on to run a business empire in an age when women did not dare set foot in the work force. Her name survives on her product today and chances are good if I said it, you’d recognize it right away. I’ve also got two contemporary stories fighting for prominence in my head, so if I get the time, I’ll write one of those.
  2. Write a short story to submit to an RWA anthology – I never thought I’d do this since I generally can’t write short, but there’s a historical romance that’s been slowly piecing itself together in my mind and I think I know the plot now. I wrote the first part a few weeks ago. It’s set in 1920s Chicago smack bad in the middle of Al Capone’s mob. The story guidelines are 5,000-7,000 words, so we’ll see if I can get it done in time for the March deadline (along with editing and going on vacation).
  3. Continue to blog once a week – That’s here, plus my monthly post over at Spellbound Scribes and posts over at Femina Aequalitas whenever I can (I have to get to doing those more regularly!) Oh, and we’ll have a special guest here at Through the Mists of Time later this month. I’m very excited because she’s a pretty well-known historical fiction writer.
  4. Attend conferences and speak as possible – I’m planning to attend the 2015 Historical Novel Society Conference in Denver in June, as well as Sirens (also in Denver) in October. Right now I also have a tentative speaking engagement at Webster Groves High School in February.
  5. Continue social media – I’m on Twitter and Pinterest all the time, just found Instagram (follow me as Nicole Evelina), and I’m on Facebook about once a week. That’s about all I have time for. I may add some more, but that’s good for now.

Is there anything you’d like to see on this blog this year? Anyone want to guest post? I’m up for suggestions!

Pinterest, Pandora and Inspiration

My Pinterest board for Guinevere-related pins.

My Pinterest board for Guinevere-related pins.

I had the good fortune to attend Deb Harkness’ book signing last week at my local library. During her Q&A session, someone asked who she pictured as the main characters. She gave a very PR-positive answer that she drew bits and pieces from different people and wouldn’t reveal who they were until such time as one or more of the component people are cast. Her reasoning was that she didn’t want any actor have to face the “but Deb said she envisioned so and so” question.

I get that and I totally respect that. I think Deb is doing the exact right thing. The only thing is, I don’t function that way. As many of you know, I tend to write my characters with a certain actor or actress in mind because it helps me envision the specifics of vocal inflection, facial expression or gestures. These things in turn, help me craft more layered, realistic characters. I can certainly write a character without an actor in mind (I was in book 3 of the Guinevere trilogy before I finally found a Guinevere), but when I do find that right person, there’s a special little extra “click” in my brain. It’s hard to explain.

I know not everyone works this way. And I certainly want my readers to envision the characters however they like. The people I “cast” are just the inspiration; sometimes it’s the way they look or a certain quality to their acting that I’ve seen that helps me unlock or convey a quality of a character. That they helped me in no way means that they are the only person who could ever play the role. But I also don’t think I can be cagey about who inspires the characters. Heck, I have whole Pinterest boards dedicated to my characters, so it’s not something I try to hide.

My point is that I don’t know how well I would write without Pinterest or Pandora for inspiration. On Pinterest I have boards for books I’ve written, am writing and have yet to truly conceive beyond the most basic notion. Some are secret if they would make the topic too obvious, but most are public because I believe we draw inspiration from one another. For example, some of my favorite bits of He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, were inspired by objects or quotes I found on Pinterest. Annabeth’s boyfriend, Victor, came to life thanks to a photo of a model whose identity I still don’t know.  I never know where I will find inspiration, and truly look forward to a daily trolling of the boards, just waiting for something to tug at my subconscious and say “Hey, I’m going to be important.”

As I write this, I’m listening to a station I created on Pandora while I was writing He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not. Because I listen to audio books in the car, I very rarely listen to the radio. That means Pandora is my way of being exposed to new music, whether it’s at home while I’m writing or at work. While I was cleaning out the freezer earlier (I lead such a glamorous life), it served up a song I’ve never heard before that is perfect for the wedding scene if when HLMHMN gets a sequel (it’s a standalone, but I have ideas for two possible sequels). Then a few minutes later, it handed me “Glitter in the Air” by Pink, which is totally perfect for Annabeth’s POV where the next book would start. Some of my favorite scenes from the first book were inspired by or complemented by music that Pandora gave me.

I really don’t know what I would do without these two resources. Obviously, I have an imagination and I use it, but getting the little nudges from the muse through electronic means is something unique to this period in history and I intend to use them to the fullest. As a reader, I know I love being able to see what an author was imagining/listening to when he or she wrote a book. Even if it doesn’t match what I envisioned, it gives me an insight to the story that I otherwise wouldn’t have. And that’s my goal in being candid about my visual and musical picks with all of you. If I someday am advised to change that, I guess I’ll do what I have to, but until then, you have an all-access pass into my creative brain, which I hope you enjoy and I hope it makes you all the more excited for the day the books are released.

What do you think about authors sharing their inspirations online? Do you want to know who they cast as characters or do you prefer to make your own choices? What about playlists – do you find them interesting or helpful? What else would you like to know about my books? I’m open to any suggestions you have for seeing into my world (although I can’t usually share excerpts).

Six Articles for Readers, Writers and History Buffs

This 5th century ring, recently discovered in Britian, will important in book 2. (Photo credit: Mail Online)

This 5th century ring, recently discovered in Britian, will important in book 2. (Photo credit: Mail Online)

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed I spent almost my entire 3-day weekend making edits to the rough draft of Book 2 (working title: Camelot’s Queen). This means I didn’t have time for a proper blog post. So instead, here are a handful of news items and blog posts that have made my author’s heart sing over the last few weeks. I hope you enjoy them as well.

  1. Unique sapphire ring found in Yorkshire field may have been owned by 5th century European royalty Hmmm….considering the time period and location, it was likely to have been owned by a post-Roman Briton. Can we say King Arthur or Guinevere? Look for this ring to make several appearances in Book 2.
  2. Social Media for Writers – My agent extraordinaire, Jen Karsbaek, wrote this insightful piece on the Foreword Literary blog last week. She makes some great points I didn’t even think of when I wrote mine. (PS – Did you know you can get Foreword shirts/hoodies online?)
  3. Why I Love Novels in First Person – HF author Nancy Bilyeau (whose first book, The Crown, I am currently loving!) wrote a fantastic post over at Historical Tapestry on the merits of writing in first person. This POV has its limitations, but I have to admit I love it. I’m not sure I’ll switch third in the future.
  4. Let Your Characters Live and Breathe – James Scott Bell wrote a lovely post on what to do when your characters won’t do what you want them to do. My favorite tip: go with them; they’re usually right. The surprises in writing are actually my favorite part. They are what tell me this particular story has taken on a life of it’s own – and when it does that, it’ll be successful.
  5. An Interview with Ashley Barron – I don’t know any of this writer’s work, but I LOVED her interview. Worth reading for writers and readers alike.
  6. Think You Ought be in Pictures? – In case you’ve ever wondered about how books get turned into movies, here’s  a great post from agent Rachelle Gardener that spells it all out. (I don’t know about you, but I’m still crossing my fingers!)

And for my fellow history lovers, don’t worry, I’ll get back to the Celtic history and Arthurian legend posts soon. I still owe you posts on divorce and children in the Celtic world and I have two DVD series from the Great Courses to load me up with new material as soon as I get a chance to watch them.

What about you? What articles/blog posts have you enjoyed lately? Please share them in the comments so we can all read them.

Social Media Rule #1 for Writers: Be Social!

So many social media choices... (Base image modified by me. "stick figure - choosing" By Obsidian Soul (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

So many social media choices… (Base image modified by me. “stick figure – choosing” By Obsidian Soul (Own work)) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Social media is an interesting part of modern life, especially for a writer. We’re constantly told to use it to build a platform and connect with possible fans, who will hopefully buy our books. I get the logic behind that, but not the way some people go about it. Some people blast links to their books or reviews all day long. But you know what I’ve found it most useful for? Making friends!

Yes, just like everyone else, social media should first and foremost for writers be about making connections. To give you an example, last December on Twitter, I met up with a wonderful group of writers from across the world. I’m not exactly sure how it happened. I was off work (day job) for Christmas break and was participating in a few writing contests, while working feverishly to finish the first draft of my second book. Somewhere in there, we just came together, like it was meant to be. Soon @dyingechoes and @adrianaryansc called us Team Awesome (#TeamAwesome) and @EmmieMears was declaring 2013 would be our year.

Now we do writing/editing/researching sprints together and we just held our first virtual happy hour. An agent among our group came to represent one of our writers and we’re up to about a dozen or so members. I can’t speak for the rest of Team Awesome, but I feel like we’re really friends and I can’t imagine life without them. None of us try to sell our books to each other, but we have read each other’s work and in some cases have become critique partners and collaborators. Most of all, we’re support for each other in a profession that can be both isolating and lonely.

And that’s not to mention how much Twitter influenced NaNoWriMo for me, or how it helped me get my agent – but those are stories for another day.

I’m slowly figuring out the Facebook page/profile thing. For me, the biggest advantage there has been to connect with groups of other Arthurian/Celtic enthusiasts who I can learn from. Some are even historians whose work I’ve used in my research or authors I’ve long admired. Without social media, I wouldn’t have had the chance to interact with them, ask questions or meet with people of like mind. Sometimes through our interactions we naturally end up subscribing to each other’s blogs or buying each other’s books, but very few are overtly selling, which is the key.

Now I’m trying out a new form of social media called PushPages. I found out about it from my favorite actress and muse, Rachelle Lefevre, who tweeted about it. The thing I like about PushPages, besides being really easy to use, is that the whole point of it is a giant Q&A. It’s like an ongoing interview that allows you to get to know people. It seems to be very new, and could possibly be a rival for Tumblr (which I cannot for the life of me figure out.)  If you have any questions for me, drop by and ask. I’ll answer as long as they aren’t proposals of marriage or anything obscene. 🙂 What its long-term benefits are remain to be seen, but I like the idea of being able to interact with people spontaneously.

There are so many types of social media, I could go on for another 1,000 words. (If you want to read another great article visit Andy Rane’s page.) I guess my point is this: if you’re going to use social media as a writer, or a purveyor of goods of any sort, get to know people and transactions will naturally follow. Shouting about your books or shoving them in people’s faces is just going to annoy them. Be a friend first and if anything else is meant to come of it, it will. And you’ll be enriched in the meantime. Who knows what friendships or future business connections you may make?

What about you? How do you use social media? Which ones do you prefer? What have your experiences with writers, celebrities or anyone else with a product to sell been like? Who do you think does social media particularly well? Do you have any tips on using it successfully?

Pinterest for Authors: A New Form of Creative Expression

Before Pinterest, this is how we gathered images. Photo by mboverload. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

So, I have a confession to make. I’m addicted to Pinterest. It’s like therapy for me.

The funny this is, I never understood the point of it until I approached it from a writer’s perspective. I decided that since I can’t tell you about the plot until the books get published (querying agents right now, in case you were wondering), I can at least show you a little of what’s going on in my head through some of my Pinterest boards.

What I didn’t anticipate was how much the boards would help with my writing. Many of my pins are like someone went into my head and pulled out exactly what I pictured. So when I’m working on a particularly stubborn scene, all I have to do is go pull up a pin that reminds me of it to get re-inspired all over again.

So what boards do I have? These are the ones that are book-related:

  • Characters – I want everyone to be able to picture my characters however they like, but this is a board of my dream cast. If you want to know who I’m thinking of as I write these characters, look no further. Basically, this is an electronic version of my casting book.
  • Guinevere/Isolde book inspiration – These are images that remind me in some way of this series of books. They can be models who remind me of the characters, objects I don’t want to forget, or even places that have relevance to the book, but aren’t exactly settings. If I see an image and it makes my author’s heart flutter, it goes here.
  • Inspirations for future booksThis is your sneak-peek into the other plots that are floating around in my head.
  • SettingsExactly what it sounds like, only these could be for any of the current novels or something I’m planning in the future. If it’s a locale I want to remember, I pin it to this board.
  • Writers and bookworms uniteAdmit it. We writers and readers are a strange bunch. Sometimes it’s fun to make fun of that. I also have lots of pictures of libraries and other things of interest to writers and readers.
  • Books worth readingA collection of books I’ve liked. I haven’t spent as much time with this board as I’d like.
  • Traditional Arthurian artArt from the masters of yore that depicts scenes from or inspired by Arthurian legend.
  • Ideal places to write – I just started this board last night. A few pins have struck me as places that would provide ample inspiration for any writer, so I’m collecting them here.

I’ve seen other authors (and fans) do page-by-page walk-throughs of their books on Pinterest, which is a really neat way to immerse yourself in the books. The possibilities are endless. If you have suggestions for other things, please let me know.

And because there’s more to my life than just writing (well, not during NaNoWriMo!) I also have boards that reflect my other interests, like travel, religion/mythology, art, tattoos, nature, castles, home design, food, jokes, and yes, even wedding stuff (I think every woman is required to have one of those boards – some sort of universal rule).

The thing that makes Pinterest fun is following others who share your passions. That way, when Pinterest shows you what others have pinned, you’ll be seeing things you like and can relate to. It’s social media with all the fun and none of the pressure. Plus, who doesn’t like to look at pretty pictures?

I’ve been toying with the idea of featuring a Pin of the Week on this blog, but I’m afraid that may violate copyright law, so I haven’t acted on it. (Some people say that using Pinterest at all is a violation of copyright law, but that’s not my area of expertise, so I have no comment.)

If you’re interested in following me, you can click the little red “P” in the upper right corner of this site or visit my Pinterest profile. If you have a profile and would like me to follow you, please leave the URL in the comments.

Do you use Pinterest? Why or why not? How have you seen it effectively used by other writers? What would you like to see on my boards that you don’t see now? Did you see any pin that makes you want to read the Guinevere books?