Author in the Spotlight: Nikki Andrews

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Nikki Andrews has worked as a picture framer, community activist, and stable hand, but in her real life she’s a writer and editor. She writes cozy mysteries, of which Framed is her latest, as well as sci fi, YA, and assorted short stories, songs, and poetry. She edits freelance and for two indie publishers. In her spare time, she makes jam, serves as a river monitor, and falls off horses and mountains. She has been known to make train noises in front of the local planning board, and is still waiting for her Formula One Ferrari with driving lessons from Fernando Alonso.

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SEVEN SPOTLIGHT QUESTIONS:

#1: What do you enjoy the most about writing?

Who was it who said, “I don’t enjoy writing. I enjoy having written”? Seriously, it’s not that bad. I love that moment when the words explode out of my fingers, the characters urge me on, and the story grows into a living world all by itself. It does happen. It’s called “flow,” and it also happens to me when I’m gardening or stitching or making music. It’s like that moment of unity with a horse, a perfect turn at speed, singing in harmony, or summiting a mountain.

#2: What was your earliest writing experience?

I’m told I made up a song about ladybugs when I was five. I’m not sure I remember that, although it’s definitely the kind of thing I’d do. The one I remember is a song I made up as I walked through the woods to my aunt’s house. I was so annoyed at forgetting the words that I made up new ones on my way home. I still have a piece I wrote in fifth grade, describing an afternoon ride with my beloved mare, Irish. My teacher scrawled across the bottom, “This is beautiful!” Unfortunately, it was years before I realized I could do it again.

#3: Describe a day in your writing life:

Not every day goes like this, but a lot of them do: Check my bedside notepad and decipher any notes I may have left overnight. Get DH off to work, sit down in my jammies and bring up yesterday’s efforts. Shower with my characters. Jot down whatever comes to me. Take care of whatever chores need doing. After lunch, if all goes well, I settle down for a couple hours with my work. Edit some other folks’ work. After supper, review and make notes for tomorrow. Sweet dreams.

#4: What authors influenced you and how?

As a kid I devoured Walter Farley’s books about the Black Stallion. If he influenced me, it was to write what I love. I stole my brother’s Hardy Boys books when I could. I never was much for the girly-girl books my mother thought I should read. Later, Ray Bradbury entranced me with his imagination and his breathless, rapturous writing. Is there a pattern here? Adventure, mystery, otherworldliness? Stephen Jay Gould and Carl Sagan for clarity of thought, Tony Hillerman for spare rich beauty, Anne McCaffery for people skills, the Indigo Girls for romance. (Have you read their lyrics? Your heart like a dam when it breaks. Fantastic.)

#5: What are some things you learned to help with your success?

~Yes, I can write.

~Yes, I deserve the time to write.

~Yes, it’s real work.

~Yes, there is always more to learn.

~No, the book will not sell itself. Promotion is absolutely necessary.

#6: Describe your writing method:

Throw it on the wall and see what sticks. Outlines do not help me, although for my longer works I usually have a mental map of where I want to go. Songs and poems are gifts from the universe; short stories lure me out of my daily routine, bouncing just out of reach until they turn around and pierce my heart with their unexpected conclusions.

#7: Tips for aspiring writers:

~Learn your craft. Yes, this does mean boring old grammar. You can’t build a house until you know how to hammer a nail.

~Read and reread. The first time, read for pleasure. The second time, read to understand why it pleased you. Take notes of what worked and what didn’t, and apply the information to your own work.

~Submit to critique from strangers. Find a group or partner, either live or online, and generously share both your own work and your critiques of theirs. You’ll learn more from people you don’t have to live with.

~Write and rewrite. Do it again. Then do it over.

~The first manuscripts should probably stay in the desk drawer.

~Trust your editor.

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About Nikki’s Book Framed, a cozy mystery now available from Wild Rose Press:

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  1. When a long-lost painting turns up at Brush & Bevel, a decade-old mystery is reawakened. What really happened to artist Jerry Berger and his model Abby Bingham? Was it a murder-suicide, as the police proclaim, or was it something far more sinister? Gallery owner Ginny Brent and her loyal staffers, Sue Bradley and Elsie Kimball, each take a different path to unravel the mystery. Together, their discoveries start to form a cohesive whole. But as they get closer to the solution, they discover to their horror that art is not the only thing that can be framed.

Excerpt:

“Were they lovers?” Jenna asked, wide-eyed. “You always hear that about artists and their models.” Then she blushed.

“Oh, no! Jerry never had any interest in her as a woman.”

“But they died,” Jenna prompted, absorbed in the story.

Ginny nodded. “Ten years ago last winter. They went missing during a snowstorm. The police went nuts trying to find them. At first, everyone assumed they had just run off together, but it wasn’t like that. Mike, her husband, really stirred things up, insisting something had happened. He forced the cops to look into it.

“It took the authorities about three weeks to find them. A hunter came across them in the snow.” She looked rather sick. “The coyotes had been at the bodies, but it looked like he killed her and then himself. Mike moved out west and never came back.”

She sighed and returned to the present. “All of which means you may have a gold mine on your hands, Jenna. Let us clean it up, verify it is what I think it is. There may even be a signature under all the grease and smoke. Would you feel better if we came up with an agreement about what happens then?”

Sue and Elsie excused themselves and went to the workshop down the stairs from the gallery. “I’d forgotten he killed himself,” Sue said.

“Don’t you believe it,” Elsie replied. “Jerry wouldn’t hurt a fly. That was no murder/suicide. It was a double murder.”

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Buy Framed:

Kindle:  http://amzn.com/B00HJEHFV2

Other(s): The Wild Rose Press: http://www.wildrosepublishing.com/maincatalog_v151/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=5515

Framed will be available on all vendors on April 18, 2014

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Connect with Nikki:

Webpage: www.nikkiandrewsbooks.com

Twitter:@NAedits

Blog: www.scrivenersriver.blogspot.com

Fan email address: nikki@nikkiandrewsbooks.com

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Author in the Spotlight: Jeanne Arnold

Today I’m pleased to welcome Jeanne Arnold, one of my fellow Champagne authors, as my guest!

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Jeanne is an author of young adult romance. At a young age she found her creative outlet in art, and for years her fictional characters came to life in drawings and paintings, until they demanded a voice. Now they grace the pages of her stories. Jeanne shares her time with her fictional teenage counterparts and her human family in Central New York. Stubborn will be released by Champagne Books on January 6th, 2014, followed by The Haunt of Thirteen Curves in June, 2014.

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SEVEN SPOTLIGHT QUESTIONS:

#1: Why do you write?

Writing gives me an outlet for my creative imagination. For years my characters and stories came out of paintbrushes and colored pencils in the form of illustrations. I was a writer long before I actually typed a story. I wasn’t fully satisfied as an artist, so when I stumbled on writing, I realized it was a perfect fit for me.

#2: What was your earliest writing experience?

I filled notebooks with themes, illustrations and short stories in second grade. I wrote radio shows and newspaper editorials and read them into a tape recorder. I remember the day brainstorming was introduced. I wanted to get down to writing; however, there was a process I was expected to follow. I was frustrated and impatient with the limits put on my creativity. I didn’t want to follow rules. I’ve always fought against creative limitations, even in the art world, and maybe this is why I didn’t find my love for novel writing until later in life.

#3: Describe a day in your writing life:

Everyday, apart from editing or promotion work, consists of me sitting in the kitchen at my laptop from early morning until the Late Show. I’m passionate about writing and it tends to overshadow everything else. I’ve become a full-time writer while taking care of a full-time family. I’m constantly trying to find balance.

#4: What authors influenced you and how?

I’m a fan of the classics, particularly authors who wrote strong female leads. Every author I read influences me with their writing style, imageries, character’s voices, romantic elements. Early on I loved historical fiction, which grew my interest in history and characters from different times. I’ve recently finished a young adult romance set in the depression era and my forthcoming young adult novel, The Haunt of Thirteen Curves, has a historical twist.

#5: What are some things you learned to help with your success?

I’ve learned to move on from rejection, success, frustration…everything. I tend to move on abruptly when I finish a novel. I close off the characters and story. Within a day I begin my next project with a new outlook and a new set of possibilities. As a result I’ve finished ten books in three years. I try not to compare or second guess my past work. I’ve learned that perseverance is everything in this business. Solid research, working with every last free hour I have and pouring my heart into my work, is what gets the contract, the gratification, and the next opportunity.

#6: Describe your writing method:

I’m an unconventional writer. My method evolves and is ever changing. I don’t follow many rules or lay out a plan when I begin a novel. I have a different method for writing and researching from book to book. Sometimes I have a title before I begin and the story develops along the way. Sometimes I have the entire plot mapped out in my head and I’m able to sit down and type without notes or direction. My characters are always alive inside me waiting for their turn. Once I begin their story, they become so real I forget I’m writing them.

#7: Tips for aspiring writers:

Research, ask questions, and most of all, have patience.  Investigate every aspect of publishing from querying literary agents and editors to formatting submissions to finding out what the market is looking for. When in doubt, ask questions. Patience is essential. You need to have it, make it, borrow it, buy it, or steal it.  If you don’t carry patience, you will struggle.

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Check out Jeanne’s Latest book:

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Stubborn is a young adult romance novel, set in present day Williston, North Dakota, the epicenter of America’s latest and most explosive oil boom. It will be released by Champagne Books January 6th, 2014.

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With a train ticket, a bad attitude, and an unfortunate scribbling of obscenities across her forehead, seventeen-year-old Avery Ross is tossed out of the frying pan and into the fire when she’s sent from New York to the vast oil field region of North Dakota.  When a green-eyed boy with a sultry Texan accent comes to her defense, Avery has no clue that his actions will lead her into a passion-charged summer, full of temptation and loss.

Defiant and relegated to work at her aunt’s boarding house, Avery discovers a connection between her aunt and the striking boy. He and his brothers are seeking revenge for the wrongful death of their sibling, and Avery becomes entangled in their battle over oil rights, loyalty, and love.  Avery falls for the brooding, younger brother, Gabriel Halden, against her aunt’s forewarnings and creates more tribulations than any of them could anticipate.

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Excerpt:

I was pretty confident the vulgar obscenities scribbled across my forehead with black indelible marker got me this righteous seat on the Empire Builder heading to the flat, endless, barren nowhere land of the Midwest. But I could have been wrong. I was known to be wrong.

I’d inadvertently kicked my ferocious texting habit cold turkey and wiped out all my summer plans in one unfortunate, random weekend. My parents wouldn’t listen when I swore to China and back that I was sober at my best friend Janie’s end-of-school party when some drunken joker, whose lame advances I probably shot down a gazillion times, decided to use my face as a canvas. I insisted that I simply fell asleep following a demanding cross-country meet.

I failed to see what was so horrible.

I failed to see why I was being punished.

On top of that, it wasn’t my fault I got caught cutting the last week of my junior year of high school after somebody spread a venomous rumor about me that I couldn’t stomach to repeat.

Since my original outburst when I learned I would be spending the summer of my seventeenth year with my Aunt Meggie in North Dakota, I held silent, communicating only with gestures and grunts. I could hardly swallow the truth. They were sending me to help out in the wake of the oil boom. Whatever that meant. Don’t get me wrong, Meggie was my favorite aunt, but who in their right mind would want to spend summer vacation maintaining a boardinghouse for lowly oil field hands?

Those thoughts ran through my mind as I stood on the platform in Syracuse, waiting for my train to nowhere.

“Boom!” My sister’s high-pitched voice squealed. “Boom, boom!”

I held Brianna’s squirmy body in my arms for the last time. She wore her fairy princess dress and talked excitedly with her chubby hands. They flailed like an angry bird, until she found my ponytail and yanked hard.

“Banana, hush,” I whispered sadly. I would disappear out of her life in a matter of minutes. “Will you call me on the phone, Banana? I’ll miss you so much. Give sis a hug and a kissy.”

She angled my face, her tiny fingers splayed over my cheeks. Her lips pecked at mine. Thank goodness she couldn’t read my forehead.

I set her down on the bench and avoided my mother’s evil glare. I’d given up asking for a sibling long ago, perfectly content with my only-child status. Still, I fell in love with my baby sister the second I met her, despite the fifteen-year age difference, thanks to my parent’s carelessness.

The grinding, squealing train came to a halt.

Brianna smacked her palms against my bare knees. “Boom, Avy, boom!”

A burst of resentment shot through me. I sprang off the bench and hurried for the train, catching sight of my father strapping an arm around my mother like a belt.

“Avy! Go boom!”

“Avery! Avery Norah Ross. Get back here, young lady!” my father bellowed.

I streaked up the steps wearing a self-satisfied grin and boarded the train. I wasn’t going to let my parents fold me in a phony hug. God only knows what I would have said. They were making me leave my sister, my YMCA job and my friends, spoiling any chance I had to find a real boyfriend before my senior year.

I didn’t shed a tear when the train took off, although my eyes pooled with anger as I waved to my three-year-old sister from the hazy, rounded window. I scowled spitefully at my parents, irritated by what they’d done to me, for making such a rash decision to send me to the middle of freaking nowhere for two months.

That’s when I began plotting the most outrageous payback in the history of the world. It would take me a little time, but I would give them something to really cry about.

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Check out Champagne Books for this great title:

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Connect with Jeanne:

Webpage: www.jeannearnoldbooks.com

Blog: www.jeannearnoldbooks.com/blog

Twitter: twitter.com/jeannesbooks

Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Jeanne-Arnold-Books

Fan email address: me@jeannearnoldbooks.com

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/jeannesbooks

Tumblr: jeannesbooks.tumblr.com

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/jeannesbooks/boards/

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