April Round Up

Happy April, everyone! With Risky Return just released last week and four weeks until Flight Delay releases, plus lots of news to share, I thought it was time for a round up of info.

First up, if you go to my Amazon Author page, on the right hand sidebar there’s some orange text that says Stay Up To Date. Under that you can click to subscribe to get emails about new releases from me. I do this for a couple authors, and it only ever sends me info when they have a new release. If you’re interested in getting that kind of info, feel free to sign up!

First of all, there’s a blog tour going on for Risky Return right now. Here is the schedule of posts and at each stop, there is a place to enter a giveaway for a $50 Amazon gift card.

As I mentioned above, Flight Delay comes out in FOUR WEEKS! I’m really excited for this book. I just love the Antiques in Flight world and I think Flight Delay is really sweet, and I think both books in this series are similar to the tone and feeling in my Superromances. There’s a review and an excerpt up at Fresh Fiction. And another excerpt is available on the Samhain site, if you click the excerpt tab. ALSO, if you preorder from the Samhain website, you can get Flight Delay for $3.85 instead of $4.24. That promotional price lasts through the first week of its release as well.

In Superromance news, Too Close to Resist will be in bookstores that carry Superromances in June! It’s also up on the Harlequin website, and if you buy from Harlequin, I believe you can get the book in May!

Also, my second Superromance has a title and a release day. Too Friendly to Date is one of my favorite books I’ve written and it will be out in October! Friends to lovers, fake relationship, lots of jokes, a Joe Mauer poster. I’m working on line edits right now and I’m just so pleased with it.

Lastly, in HarlequinE news, my rival farmer book, All I Have, will be appearing in the HarlequinE Contemporary Box Set Volume 2, releasing June 2nd. It’s up for preorder on Amazon and BN (Just a heads up, it’s over a dollar cheaper at Amazon, BN may lower the price closer to release day). It will also be available on its own in September, but the box set really is the better deal. Four books for under four dollars!

Also, All I Am, the next book in my farmer’s market series, is tentatively scheduled to be part of the Harlequin E Contemporary Box Set Vol 3 in September, and it would also come out alone in December.

It’s going to be a full year of Nicole Helm books! Yay! Now, I need to get to work on getting some stuff settled for NEXT year!

The Writing Process Blog Chain

The lovely Jackie Ashenden tagged me in “The Writing Process Blog Chain” where each author answers four questions about their writing process.

The questions and my answers are below, along with the people (okay person) I’m tagging.

(PS Jackie has TWO releases tomorrow. HAVING HER, which I’ve read and is amazing. Dark and sexy, Jackie just has such a way with creating these real, complicated people. Also, BILLION DOLLAR BACHELOR, which I plan on reading ASAP)

What am I working on?

Right now I’m working under two deadlines. First, is my second Superromance tentatively titled TOO TEMPTING TO IGNORE. It’s a friends-to-lovers, fake relationship story and though I’m currently stuck in the dreaded middle, I’m really enjoying writing it. This will come out at the end of this year.

I’m also intermittently working on my second HarlequinE book, ALL I AM. If you follow me on Twitter you may have heard about my wounded veteran, virgin, organic dog treat maker hero. Poor guy is a bit of a mess, luckily the heroine will help him out in a lot of different departments. 😉


How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Hm, that’s a hard question because at its core, romance is all about love. I am drawn to rural settings, realistic-feeling conflicts, sarcastic humor, and heroines in a-typical jobs. I’m not sure any of those things on their own make it different, but altogether I do think it gives me a distinct kind of voice.

Why do I write what I do?

I came to reading romance kind of late in the game, though I was always drawn to love stories. Still, when my college roommate handed me a Nora Roberts book, I knew this was what I wanted to write. Contemporary romance, the kind that it feels like it could happen to you. As a reader, I halve never gotten tired of that feeling, so it’s something I love to do as a writer too.

In the be, the characters I write are people I know and understand. I believe love has immense power, and it’s important. So, I can’t imagine writing anything else.

How does my writing process work?

It depends a little bit on the situation. Now that I’m published and agented, I can write on proposal. This means I start with a synopsis and first three chapters. Then usually I either go on submission or wait for editorial approval depending on the book/publisher/situation.

Once I have the okay to write a particular manuscript, I just write. I usually have a word count or a deadline, and I do my best to write every day. I write linearly, chapter by chapter, although sometimes within a chapter I might skip around if I have some dialogue I want to get down. I only plot if I’m stuck, and even then it’s fairly vague plotting. “These are the main things that need to happen.” Once I’ve finished, I set it aside and work on something else to get my mind off it. I’ll come back to it for a read through, fixing or adding anything needed. Then it’s off to the editor!

Now, I’m supposed to tag three authors to participate and post the questions and their answers to their blog next week (2/17), but I’m always useless at tagging people. Jamie Wesley, you’re it, and if you’re an author who wants to participate, consider yourself tagged!

Fiction Meet Reality

Over Labor Day weekend my family traveled up to Iowa to my grandpa’s airport and his annual fly-in. We also got to see extended family and had a great (albeit exhausting) time.

If you’ve read Flight Risk or plan on reading it, I thought I’d share some pictures that give you an idea of what Antiques in Flight looks like in its real life form as Antique Airfield.

20130902-185637.jpg

At the beginning of chapter two, Callie is driving to the airport. That’s what her drive looks a bit like.
Or you can check out this vine video.

20130902-185440.jpg

Here are my two sons looking out over the runway from the window in my grandpa’s office. In Flight Risk Em and Callie look out this window. Of course, they see something a little more interesting than planes. 🙂

20130902-185840.jpg

This is the main office.

20130902-215707.jpg

Under this overhang is where Em’s mandatory lunches take place.

20130902-215807.jpg

And a beautiful sunset, much like the night of Shelby’s graduation party.

Here’s a plane landing on the grass runway.

20130902-215848.jpg

And some planes flying over the “big house”

20130902-220343.jpg

It’s been fun to populate a real place with fictional people, and I’m so happy I get to keep doing it. Lawson’s story has just been approved and will come out next year, and I’m currently working on Em’s story. There’s even a little possibility Shelby may get a book of her own as well.

Happy Flight Risk release day!

Flight Risk has released! Yay! Confetti! Fireworks! Airplane rides for everyone!

I’ve talked ad naseum about this book, and I’m sure I could keep doing so, but I’ll keep it short and sweet today. The long awaited release day! We’ve got buy links, guest post links, and excerpts at the end.

If you read Flight Risk I’d love to hear from you! Facebook, Twitter, email, leaving a review–it’s all good.

Here’s where you can buy:

(Amazon)

(Barnes & Noble)

(Samhain Website)

(Kobo)

(iBooks)

Here’s where you can read previous excerpts: (Cubs joke) (Fabio) (Tattoos)

Here’s where you can read a guest post I did about the evolution of Flight Risk

And here’s where you can read a new excerpt. (Warning: penis joke ahead!)

Excerpt

Trevor took a deep breath and framed Callie’s face with his hands. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

She was confused for a moment and then she tried to look down, but he couldn’t let it be that easy. She deserved more, and she had to see it not just hear it. “Believe me when I say there is a part of me that would like nothing better than to finish what we started.”

“Yeah, that part is called your dick.” When he didn’t even crack a smile, she shrugged a little, tried to wriggle away. “Jeez. It was a joke.”

“I don’t want to joke. I want to be honest. I want to…” God, he wanted to kiss her again. To feel the soft expanse of her skin. He wanted to take her clothes off slowly and…

Trevor closed his eyes, tried to erase the images careening through his mind. “I want to explain because I don’t want things to be weird between us again.” He reopened his eyes. “You mean too much to me for us to go down this road. Because, bottom line, I’m leaving.”

She wiggled again, but he held firm and she stilled. “I get it, Trevor. Really.” Her eyes refused to meet his.

“That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t say this.” He waited and waited until she finally met his gaze again. “I don’t want to be the one that hurts you. Maybe that’s egotistical of me to think I could, but I don’t want to be the one who walks away and leaves you hurting. I’ll have to walk away, Callie. You know that.”

“Yes, I know.” Her voice was soft and it caused him to gentle his hold, to brush the pads of his thumbs across her jaw.

“Don’t,” she said, a slight crack to her voice, and that hint of vulnerability was the only thing that had him dropping his hands.

She took a step away from him and wrapped her arms around herself. Like magic, she pulled herself together, hiding all the little chinks in her armor, all those pockets of vulnerability, and suddenly she was Callie standing in front of him. Strong, invincible, in charge, and he wobbled in her shadow.

“Now, brace yourself, Trevor, because I’m going to be really honest here.” She tried to smile to lighten the mood, but it didn’t reach her eyes. It didn’t reach anything. “You could hurt me.”
She let that hang in the air for a minute, her eyes holding his, her hands clutching her arms as if that was her grip on strength.

“Callie.”

“So, you’re right. We can’t do this because I’m starting to think I’m finally getting to a point where I can heal. Finally getting to a point where I want to. I think that means letting myself have a real relationship if the right guy comes along.”

Something clutched in his heart, but was immediately gutted by her next words.

“You’re not the right guy, Trevor.”

He should nod and accept that, but he couldn’t. He had to know it wasn’t that simple. “Because I’m leaving.”

She stepped toward him and traced his hairline with her finger before she met his eyes again. “Because I’m Pilot’s Point.” She dropped her hand. “And you’re not.” Flat. Final. Sure. He wished he could feel any of those things, mostly sure.

He took her hand in his, squeezed. “Is it pathetic we’re letting addresses keep us from doing this?”
She shook her head almost vehemently. “No. They aren’t just addresses. You’re FBI through and through, and without AIF, I’m nothing. It’s more to us than just. It’s who we are.”

He swallowed and when she pulled her hand away, he let it fall, let the connection end. For the first time in his whole life, he wished he could be Pilot’s Point. He wished he could stay.

Seven-Night Stand versus Flight Risk

Flight Risk releases next week (EIGHT DAYS! WEEE) and I am so, so very excited. Callie and Trevor are one of my favorite couples I’ve ever written.

To avoid confusion between Flight Risk (set on a small private antique airport in Iowa) and Seven-Night Stand (set on a small private modern airport in Kansas) I created a handy dandy Venn Diagram with some similarities and differences highlighted.

Even though the settings are similar, the books are quite different. From the tropes to the people to the role of the airport, these are two VERY different books. Like quick and sexy? Seven-Night Stand is your book. Prefer darker longer reads? Flight Risk is your man.

And if you like all of the above, by all means check out both!

(Seven Night Stand) (Flight Risk)

Seven-Night Stand versus Flight Risk

Who doesn’t love a good Venn Diagram?

Lastly, if you’re interested in a quick look at what Flight Risk is all about:

20130812-185249.jpg

Next week I’ll be back on Tuesday with lots and lots of Release Day goodness!

The Grandparent Connection

I’m fairly youngish in terms of life expectancy and all, but over the course of three decades, I have written a lot of words, and quite a few of those words made up books. Not all fit for human consumption, but some are, and yay for that.

Of the almost twenty books I’ve written to completion, over half of them feature a main character very positively and very directly affected by their grandparent’s influence, whether living or dead.

The first book I ever finished, the hero’s grandfather passes away and this is sort of the turning point for his choices. The next two books featured the hero’s brothers, who were also affected in some deep way by their grandfather. This is a pretty consistent theme throughout many of my books. You’ll see it in the Harrington Airfield series, the Antiques in Flight series, and likely again and again.

I don’t do this intentionally. I don’t set out to write about people influenced by grandparents. It evolves in these stories because I cannot imagine who I’d be if I did not have my grandparent’s influence. It is hard for me to imagine people who don’t have these shining beacons of amazingness in their lives.

This is not to take away from my parents. My parents are awesome too. I am very lucky when it comes to family members and the people I come from, but I think there is something about the grandparent-grandchild relationship that makes it that much more special, especially in your childhood/early adulthood…when you are constantly under your parents’ feet. When they are trying to shape you into a decent person and you are all NO LEAVE ME ALONE, GOD.

My maternal grandmother made me feel like I mattered during those adolescent years you feel like you don’t.

20130811-214307.jpg

(Feel free to be jealous of my Harry Potter-esque glasses).

My paternal grandmother works harder than anyone I’ve ever met.

20130811-215116.jpg

My paternal grandfather is the kindest person in the world.

20130811-215125.jpg

My maternal grandfather has pursued his passion for decades.

20130811-215135.jpg

My son’s both have pieces of my grandfather’s names in theirs. My maternal grandmother’s death was one of the defining moments of my adulthood.

Everything I am is because of so many people, but they are the base of me, and so it is hard for me not to write characters who have that same base.

I dedicated Flight Risk to my maternal grandparents. My grandfather’s antique airport was the inspiration for Antiques in Flight. His passion for making what he loved a career inspired me to seek publication years ago. In the book, the heroine goes through a scrapbook her grandmother made her. In my mind’s eye, it is the scrapbook my grandmother made me.

I don’t put a lot of myself into the books I write. No heroine is a direct representation of me, no hero some weird amalgamation of words to make up my husband. These stories are not my life, but in every character there is some seed of myself, some thread of understanding between us.

Oftentimes, that thread is grandparents, and it always makes me so grateful for mine.

Heroine Week Roundup

I hope you all had a chance to look at the amazing Heroine Week posts at Romance Around the Corner. Such a great discussion about women in romance in both the posts and the comments.

My post was on the unlikable heroine, and the discussion in the comments and Rebecca’s post on the same subject were like little light bulbs all over the place helping me realize why it is I like the “unlikable” so much,

Also fitting for heroine week was reading Mary Ann River’s novella The Story Guy, which if you’re a part of the romance community at all you’ve probably already seen the gushing reviews. And they’re all right on the money, because this novella was fantastic.

What really struck me with this novella though was the heroine. She is not unlikable in the least, and yet she entered my list of favorite heroines. A list which is populated mostly by prickly, kick ass, “unlikable” types. Carrie is kick ass in her own way, but it’s a very different way.

Carrie is nice. She loves her job. She loves her parents and friends and is relatively content. She has no terrible tragedy marring her life. She’s not hugely flawed or unbelievably perfect. She is very real. More so than perhaps any other character I’ve read in romance Carrie was someone I personally related to. I understood her because she was so much like me.

And so heroine week and reading The Story Guy kind of came together to put this bright shining point on why it is I like the “unlikable” heroine so much.

She feels real. Flaws are real. Selfishness is real. I see my flaws in giant blazing 3D, so heroines that are flawed and not always good at being around people are heroines that strike the “real” chord for me more so than uber sophisticated, sleek, successful or meek, dewy-eyed, self-sacrificing Cinderella types.

But, in Carrie, despite her general likeableness, I found pieces of myself in such clarity, she was real and 3D and all I look for in a heroine. A crap way with people is going to be the thing I relate to the most, but just being an average, doing-the-best-I-can person is also incredibly real and awesome.

I’m off to the RWA conference on Wednesday. I’ll be going to workshops, pitching to agents/editors, participating in Samhain’s book signing, going to a few parties. I’m nervous and uncertain and a million other emotions I can’t even name, but I am so excited to be a part of this community, even if only on the fringes.

Romance is awesome. Writers are awesome. Heroines are super awesome.

A Writer’s Start

While I was procrastinating cleaning the other day, I decided to sit down and look at what I’ve accomplished since I wrote my first complete novel. It was 2002. I was 20. I’d spent the previous seven years trying to write novels and never finishing. In fact, from the age of 13 to 20 I started over 50 novels. Some spanned 50+ pages, some never survived chapter one.

In November of 2002, I was a junior in college. I was supposed to have been working on my twenty-five-page research paper for my Old West class. Instead, I signed up for NaNoWriMo and wrote a complete 50k contemporary romance. (Still managed to get a B+ on the research paper. Procrastination works, kids!)

So, from 2002-today, this is what I’ve done (though I don’t have stats on amount of unfinished novels from ’02-’10. If I ventured a guess? 20ish).

20130414-223652.jpg

I had my son in December of ’09. In March of 2010 I got serious about publishing. August of 2010 was the first time I submitted, and despite a rejection (probably because it was a revise & resubmit), it was the first time i truly believed writing could be my career. I started with my critique partner in February of 2011. March of 2011 is the last time I held an outside-the-home job. October of 2011 I signed my first publishing contract. Followed by one in July 2012, December 2012, then my two-book contract a few weeks ago.

From the time I started working with my CP, only two finished books remain unsold/not currently submitted.

It has not been a swift or quick road. My list doesn’t include the number of times I completely rewrote a novel either. Both All’s Fair and Flight Risk had numerous versions before they sold. At some point I’ll have to compile my rejection data.

Everyone’s story is different. Some people’s journeys are fast. Some people have luck or connections or just amazing talent on their side.

Sometimes for me it feels like this journey is molasses slow. Even though I haven’t been trying to get published for that long in the grand scheme of things, I’ve been writing since I can remember. Writing stories of people falling in love. It’s what I’ve always done.

Whether you’re a veteran or just starting out, your journey will be unique and your own, but if it’s going a little slow sometimes it helps to see other people’s inching journey and know you’re not alone.

The 2013 Goal Machine

Happy 2013!

I always like starting a new year, making new goals, and getting back to “normal” after the craziness of the holidays.

Of course, with two little boys (three if you count the husband), things are always crazy around here.

I have two main focuses for 2013. Ideas as much as goals I want to work toward.

First, career. In 2011 I sold my first book, in 2012 I sold two more, so I’m hoping 2013 continues to yield more success. I had one release last year and I’m guessing/hoping I’ll have two releases this year.

So, writing wise, career wise, my goals are pretty specific.

1. Write 4-5 books.
2. Sell 3 books.
3. Go to the RWA conference.

Just three goals, which leads me to my second focus for 2013. Simplicity.

In December, I had a long list of writing goals, but most of my problems come from excess. Too much sugar, too many things cluttering my house, too much time on Twitter, etc. So, 2013 is all about simplicity. No long lists, no going overboard. Streamline, cut back, simplify.

So, my life goals are kind of broad.

1. Cut back on processed foods.
2. Cut back on things/clutter. Don’t be afraid to toss things we don’t need.
3. Focus on one thing at a time. (In other words don’t be making dinner, organizing papers, checking twitter, and talking on the phone all at the same time).

So, those are my goals as we enter a new year. What are some of yours?

New Sale! And a Motivational Speech of Sorts

Since I signed the contract this morning, I’m sharing my news! My novel, now titled Flight Risk will be published with Samhain Publishing.

I am so excited about this for many reasons, but mainly it is a testament to the age old advice to never give up.

Every book I’ve had contracted has both been rejected and not finaled in contests before it was finally accepted. Sometimes that meant self-imposed revisions, sometimes it meant believing that particular story just wasn’t right for that particular editor/publisher/agent. Flight Risk is no different.

Prior to submitting this book to Samhain, I had previously submitted two manuscripts to them over the course of the past few years. Both were rejected. (One of them being the story I later sold to Entangled Indulgence). I didn’t stop submitting to Samhain because they were a publisher with whom I wanted to work. I simply kept trying to get better, and when I felt I had a good story, submitted it.

Flight Risk first entered the world with a first chapter for the inaugural New Voices competition. In this scene, my heroine got into a bar fight and the hero broke it up. The feedback was not good. I guess a lot of people don’t like heroines getting into bar fights right off the bat?

I rewrote the story, took out the bar fight, then entered it in the inaugural So You Think You Can Write competition. It got nowhere, but I did receive some feedback, which led me to rewrite the entire thing again.

Then, I let it sit. I’d come back to it, fiddle with it, occasionally entering it in pitch competitions or little contests, but mainly I loved the story so much and wasn’t sure it was a rejection I could handle well, so I didn’t submit.

After a few months of that, a publisher with whom I’d wanted to work had a submissions call and my story fit the bill. I submitted. And waited. And waited. Weeks after their submission window ended. My hopes were getting high.

And then I got a form rejection.

It was gutting. After the amount of time that had passed I was sure–SURE–I would at least get some feedback, but I didn’t, and it was hard to swallow. I was ready to throw the manuscript back in the bowels of my computer, except I couldn’t.

I’d rewritten this story completely three times. I’d revised and agonized and worked with my CP and had friends read it. I knew in my bones this was a good story. Perhaps it didn’t fit that publisher, but I believed it was good and it had to fit somewhere.

So, I subbed to Samhain that same week of the rejection. And waited and waited and waited, and then got the email they wanted to contract it early this month and was so glad I hadn’t given up. Not on the story, not on subbing to Samhain.

When people tell you rejection isn’t personal, it’s true. When people say rejection doesn’t always mean your story is bad, it’s true. If you’re continually striving to be a better writer, if you’re willing to work hard and make changes and not always get your way, keep writing. Keep submitting.

Don’t Give Up. Rejection is not the end.