Monday, June 29, 2015

Wedding Celebrations/Traditions

I married into a large family.  My husband is one of 8 children, a typical Irish Catholic family, a phenomenon from another era.  I’m one of 4, all of us born within 5 years, another variation of the Irish Catholic practice of the ‘50’s.  Between the two of us we have 10 siblings. 

Fast forward to the present.  My children who are in their early thirties have 25 first cousins.  My three kids are very close to all of their first cousins and even some second cousins thanks to my father-in-law who focused on what he cared about most—family.  His insistence that we get together numerous times a year resulted in my husband and I being close to all these kids as well.

We are now at the stage of weddings and new babies.  It’s a time in our lives I always figured would be intense since these 28 young people are all approximately the same age.  It’s even more intense than I expected. We are averaging three weddings a year, and now come the new babies.  All of this means showers, a lot of them.

In my younger and more self-absorbed days, despite my love for weddings (they are, after all, big extravagant parties and I love parties), I hated showers.  Such a time waster I thought, and so boring.  Now I’m not so sure.  I’m starting to think that showers, along with so many of the other rituals, including weddings, serve an important purpose.  It’s a time to come together as a family and welcome the new people, the incoming family.  An opportunity, I now realize, to also see the new person in a different light and get to know her family, learn where she’s from, how she grew up. 

It also smooths the way for the weddings.  By the time you get to the big day you’ve met these other women, and their families,.  Come the years ahead, these people should be part of each others’ families and be a support for each other. 

At the last shower I attended I sat at a table with my two sisters-in-law, one of my daughters and the bride’s three aunts.  By the end of lunch (after a couple of glasses of wine) we were warming up with “Sweet Caroline.”  You have to know this is going to be some wedding.

I know that’s not always the case.  There are families that are so diametrically opposed, say the Hatfields and McCoys or the Capulets and the Montagues, that no matter what is said or done, there will never be a meeting of the minds, much less a joint endeavor and mutual wish that the couple be happy.  Romeo & Juliet makes a great story—the classic built-in problem that will make the reader stick with your book until the end. 

But in life?  Better that there be two families that like each other and get along right from the start.  That’s the kind of scenario that will support a marriage and shore up a couple when there is sickness and trouble.

Labels:  Deborah Nolan, weddings, showers, Romeo & Juliet, Westside Story.

Deborah Nolan is the author of Suddenly Lily and Conflict of Interest, both published by Montlake, and Second Act for Carrie Armstrong, published by Desert Breeze Publishing.  She is also a lawyer, representing children in Columbia County, New York.  She divides her time between Columbia County and New York City.  Visit her at
Labels:  Irish Catholic, wedding, shower, “Sweet Caroline,” Hatfields & McCoys

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Riding the Contest Rodeo

The call came while we were stopped at a rest area off a highway in a rather deserted section of Northwestern Ohio. I was driving from Indiana to our home in North Carolina with my daughter and her three small children, who would all be visiting us for a couple of weeks.

At the rest stop, I was feeding snacks to the two older boys, aged three and a half and two, while my daughter changed the baby’s (three months) diaper. When the phone rang, I almost didn’t answer, but I don’t give out my cell phone number to many people, and it was a weekday, so it might be an important business call.

It was, but not in the way I expected. I heard a voice saying “Congratulations. The Detective’s Dilemma is a finalist in the Category/Series category of the Published Daphne Awards.” I think there was a bit of a silence and then maybe some stuttering excitement on my part. I couldn’t tell this wonderful woman that I’d completely forgotten I’d entered the contest! (To be fair to myself, I was helping to herd around three children under the age of four.  I had a few other things on my mind.)

It took a while to sink in that she meant it and it wasn’t a mistake.  I don’t think I really believed it until I saw the official list of finalists and found my name there.

I’ve been a finalist in contests before, and I’ve even won a few, but I had a long drought between books before this one so it’s been a long time before I’ve even entered one.

I don’t enter a lot of contests, usually no more than two or three per book, mostly due to the cost (entries fees plus cost of shipping books). My track record is so-so.  Looking back, I think I’ve probably made it to the finals in about one third of the contests I’ve entered. That’s probably actually a pretty good percentage, considering the number of entries most contests get.

For The Detective’s Dilemma, I only entered three – the Rita, which was more pro forma than anything since I knew I had zero chance of even being a finalist, and two other chapter contests. I didn’t final in the other one.  I didn’t expect to final in any of them.

To me, that’s the key to making the whole contest thing work. I look on it as a gamble that sometimes pays off, but more often than not doesn’t. Readers’ tastes differ and they’re not all going to like my books. In most contests it takes only one judge not liking your book to sink its chances. It may not be fair, but it’s reality and you always have to take that into consideration when entering. So I choose my contests carefully, and I build up no expectations of anything good happening, other than getting my book into the hands of a few new readers.

I enter the contest, send off the books, and then put it totally out of my mind. I move onto the next project, usually the book I have in progress and concentrate on that. Occasionally I’ll get one of those great phone calls or an email letting me know I made it to the finals. More often, I hear nothing or get an email saying “I’m sorry to have to tell you…”  There was a time when that could send me into a tailspin of depression. Not anymore.

Now, I’m more than happy to celebrate when good things do happen, and I’m always excited to congratulate my friends’ good news as well. But I shrug off the routine. But if it doesn’t happen, I shrug and move on. I’ll try to make the next book the very best work I can. But not to win contests. I want to win readers.

And because I don't want to lose my Good Grandma credentials, here are pictures of the daughter and three grandchildren who were visiting us:
Cassian (age two) is the redhead; Liam is three and a half.

Sarah with Liam and the baby, Henry (three months).
The Detective's Dilemma was published by Kensington/Lyrical Press in November, 2014, and is still available in trade paperback and ebook formats.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Getting To Know Us With Fran McNabb

Yes, we all have bios on this website, but there is so much MORE to know about our Classic and Cozy bloggers. So the 2nd Friday of each month is dedicated to getting to know us better.  This month I'd like to introduce you to Fran McNabb.

Okay, inquiring minds want to know…why a writer? Certainly not for the fame and fortune…or maybe it is?

Writing books was a natural progression for me. I taught high school English and journalism until I took an early retirement. After raising two sons and teaching for twenty-three years, I was totally bored sitting at home. That’s when I got serious about writing. I had written a few pieces earlier, but after joining RWA, I knew what I wanted to do.

When did you first put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to create your classic and cozy characters?
My attempts at writing books was way back in the early 1980’s. I wrote a couple of books, but after getting several rejections for them, I put away the idea of being an author. I knew nothing about publishing and didn’t realize that everyone got rejections! I had a lot to learn!

Do you have a set writing schedule?
 I’m a morning person so when I’m in the middle of a manuscript, I like to write after my two cups of coffee and my email check. I have a bad habit of getting so involved that I forget to change out of my pj’s until I have to leave the house. 

Is there a certain routine, food/drink, or location that summons forth the muses for you?
I have a chase lounge in my sunroom that overlooks a bayou harbor. If I don’t get too distracted with the activity on the water, I can write for hours.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I have always lived on the Gulf Coast and I love the water. From spring until late fall my husband and I love being on a boat. I love to fish and my favorite type is wade fishing at the nearby islands or “floating the grass beds” along the islands. The boat floats with the tide and with no motors running, the time is wonderfully quiet. I also like to paint.

I imagine you’ve been reading all of your life (all great writers have.)  What was your favorite book as a child?
This might seem strange to most people, but I don’t remember reading as a child or seeing books in my house. I don’t think I started reading until junior high when I could walk to the city library. 

Do you re-read books?  If so, which one have you re-read the most?
My all-time favorite book is Exodus by Leon Uris. I read it in my early 30’s and was so amazed with the author’s ability to pull me into the story, that I think it’s the first time I fell in love with a character, and I think I write a little bit of Ari into all of my heroes.

But there’s more to life than reading, writing (and arithmetic)…what is your most memorable adventure in your life?
I’m not a very adventurous person. I like safe and peaceful!! I guess my most memorable adventure wasn’t by choice. I was a child living on Ship Island, a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico.  My parents worked with my mom’s family, and my brother and I lived the “island life.” One day we were caught in a tropical storm and had to spend the night in Fort Massachusetts, a Civil War fort. I can still remember the feelings I had that night and have used the setting in several of my books.

If you were on American Idol, what song would you sing to WOW! the judges? 
First, singing in front of anyone would never happen, but if a miracle happened and I found a voice, I would have to sing an old classic, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

What are you currently working on? What can we readers look forward to seeing from you?
I’m working on a book whose hero was introduced in my new book SAVING THE CHILDREN, the first in what I hope will be a series. SAVING THE CHILDREN was released on April 29 by The Wild Rose Press and is set in South America. I loved writing that book because I love having children in my stories. The first book has orphans, the second related book has troubled teens, and third one being worked on now has seniors in a nursing home. (Okay, they’re not children, but I love them too!)

Last question…movie rights…who’ll play your current main characters when Hollywood comes knocking on your door? 
I worried a long time over this answer because I don’t watch many movies so I asked my Facebook friends to comment and, wow, did I have a lot of gorgeous guys to check out. I couldn’t pick one, but if I had to choose, I’d have to have a sit-down meeting with these three guys: Jim Caviezel, Bradley Cooper, and Channing Tatum. I couldn’t go wrong with any of them!

Catch more of Fran McNabb the fourth Monday of every month here on the Classic and Cozy Blog.  

For a complete list of Fran’s books click on over to her website

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Pitching to an Editor

The Romance Writers of America conference (RWA) might be over a month away, but it's never too soon to start working on my pitch for my editor appointment. Publishing has changed drastically since the first time I made a pitch - so has my attitude. I'm relaxed and view the experience as an opportunity to have a conversation with someone who I want to read my book.  It goes with out saying that there is motive behind this face to face.

I have found that most editors will tell you to send them the manuscript. This doesn't mean that you've made the sale. That's not what a pitch is for. A pitch gives you the best opportunity to sit across from an editor and get them to agree to read your manuscript.

Making an appointment is the easy part. RWA requires you sign a statement that you are published or have a full manuscript. This rule came about because many writers who pitch never send in the requested material. Remember, editors and agents are there to find new stories. Hopefully, your story will be one of them.

Where to start

After the introductions, describe your story as a combination of two movies, books, or TV shows.  Something like - Sex in the City meets Bones. Make sure it fits your story. Elaborate and tell the editor a short version of your book. Remember you only have ten minutes.
A good pitch is a conversation. Make it interesting. Add a personal tibit related to the story. Does the setting or theme have a personal connection? 

Include the title

Don't forget to mention the title. The description of the book should make it clear why you chose the title. You can always add that it is only a working title.

Throw the ball back

You aren't expected to do all the talking. Ask if the story is something the editor is interested in for the genre/line you are pitching to. Give the editor the opportunity to ask questions. These questions will often be specific to your characters goals and conflicts. Give answers that will leave an impression.

Be professional

Have a business card handy. After a full morning of pitches, editors will need a physical memento of your chat. Dress professionally. I have seen authors dressed in character costumes. Definitely memorable, but more appropriate for Comic Con.

Take a breath. It's over. Enjoy the rest of the conference. When you get home - polish your manuscript. Send a letter mentioning your meeting when you submit.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Celebrate With Me.

What am I celebrating? The tenth anniversary of the publication of my first novel, Put Out the Light. Maybe not an event on a par with Independence Day or Thanksgiving, but a very big deal for me. I'll never forget the day I got that life-changing call from Avalon. No need to go into that here. I've already talked about it on my personal blog, Birth of a Novel .

For me, June is the anniversary of the realization of a dream. I was a published author. The story that I'd poured my heart into was a book, sitting on a shelf in bookstores and libraries with all those other mysteries that I'd been devouring for most of my life. I remember saying at the time that I was rubbing shoulders (covers?) with Agatha Christie and Raymond Chandler - a thought almost as intimidating as it was exhilarating. It was a little like leaving my first child in school for the first time. I had to step aside, let  go a little, and trust that the world would treat him kindly.

Fortunately, the world has been kind to me and to my books. Readers have been nice enough to tell me that they enjoy the books and like the characters. They've supported me and encouraged me as the characters introduced in Put Out the Light went on to new adventures. Left at Oz, Consider the Lilly, By Whose Hand, and Lethal Journal were added and the mysteries set in Riverview Manor became a series.

 Book groups honored me by inviting me to visit them and talk about my books. I've had the fun of chatting about Jennie Connors, Nate, and all the other characters who grew from my imagination as though they were real people, which, of course, to me they are. Readers ask me what's ahead for Jennie. I want to know too, so I write the next story. Sometimes what happens to Jennie is inspired by a question asked by a reader. In other words, readers are part of the creative process.

I know it's not nice to brag, so I hope you'll forgive and understand that's not what this is about. I really just want to share with you how delighted I am to be traveling this road. I truly am getting to live my dream. I know this doesn't happen to everyone. I am grateful for my good fortune and want to thank everyone who's helped make it happen. That certainly applies to the contributors to this blog. We first got to know one another because we wrote for Avalon Books and over the years and through all the changes that taken place, we've become friends, actually cheerleaders, for one another.

I also want say to anyone who has dream and doubts it will come true: don't give up. I know you hear that all the time, but the thing I'd like to add is: it's the dream that's important, not whether or not it comes true. Sometimes the road is longer than you expect and sometimes following it takes you to places you never imagined you'd be - maybe to an entirely different place than you thought you were headed. That's okay. Enjoy the journey. Hold on to your dream for its own sake.

I'd love to hear about your dreams, your journey. Please leave a comment and possibly you'll win a copy of Put Out the Light - or, since some of you may have read that book - your choice of any of my books. If you'd like to know more about my books, here's a link to my website:

Most of all - THANK YOU!