My first American Thanksgiving

Many of you know that I was born and raised in Germany. Heidelberg is very popular among tourists and, until recently, also housed many American families of service members stationed in the area since WWII. As a teenager in the late 80s, I became good friends with Noma, an American high-school student, who just lived a few blocks down the street. Her parents were working as civilians for the U.S. government on one of the military posts near us. It was her, who introduced me to Tang, microwaved popcorn, and MTV (my mom didn’t have cable). Germans don’t really celebrate Thanksgiving to the extend Americans do, if at all. My family never did, so it was a treat for me when Noma’s parents invited me to join them for their Thanksgiving feast at their house.

It was a cold and misty day when I walked to Noma’s home that afternoon – a typical fall day for Germany. The aroma of what promised to be a wonderful meal greeted me as I entered through the door. Walking into their home, I was stunned when I saw their dining room table filled with wonderful dishes, some of them I have never seen before. My jaw dropped. They could’ve fed the entire town with all that food. As soon as I took off my coat, Noma’s mom handed me a plate. “Help yourself!”

I didn’t know where to start. There were so many choices, and I felt a little shy about taking the first scoop out of these wonderful casseroles. “This is a sweet potato casserole,“ she said as she saw my puzzled facial expression. Sweet potatoes were foreign to me, so I scooped a small amount onto my plate. Next, I grabbed an ear of corn. Normally, our German corn on the cob back then was used for pig feed, since it was a particular bland type of corn. Now, this was American sweet corn, which I usually devoured at our German-American Volksfests (carnivals) on post. There was also a green bean casserole, a huge turkey (for German standards), mashed potatoes, gravy, pumpkin pie, and so on.

Just taking samples of every dish made my plate overflow. Of course, I had to go back for seconds for my new favorites, the sweet potato casserole, corn, and these delicious little buttered bread rolls. By the time everything was said and done, I was stuffed. I don’t remember what happened the rest of the evening (I must’ve been in a food coma), but my first “official” Thanksgiving meal made a lasting impression on me. Even though we long lost touch, I am grateful for my friend and her family to let me join their tradition.

May your holiday also be filled with laughter and cheer and turn into happy memories for you and your family.

Love,
Nickie

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From Booklover to Writer With NaNoWriMo

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You’ve always been an avid reader and every once and a while you come across a book that makes you think “I can do better than that!” You’ve toyed with the thought of writing your own book many times, but always brushed the idea aside. I have good news for you. Have you heard of NaNoWriMo?

What is it?

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to start writing the first 50,000 words of your novel in the month of November. In this post I’ll share the basics of how NaNoWriMo works and a bit of my own experience of writing my 50,000 words of my first book.

Getting Started

I wrote this blog post a month early so you have some time to prepare if you want to participate. Use this month to think about what kind of novel you want to write, brainstorm some plot ideas on paper, and you may even prepare an outline. Also, create a NaNoWriMo account and read over the tutorials, FAQs, and read and post on the forums. You can actually link up with fellow writers in your area and even meet up for a “write-in” at a coffee shop or a book store.

For me, this is how my first novel, The Heidelberg Ghost, was born. We were stationed in Germany at the time, and I couldn’t find a book that I was interested in enough to read. One day, I brought a notepad and a pen with me to lunch, and I started jotting down some story ideas, something like a mischieveous ghost at the Heidelberg castle and it had to be a love story. So when I researched writing novels on the internet, I found out that NaNoWriMo was right around the corner. My mind was made up and I decided to join the challenge to write my book. I was motivated, to say the least.

November – The Month of (Intense) Writing

On November 1st, it’s game on. It’s butt glued to the chair and hands tied to the keyboard. To write 50,000 words a month, you have to pace yourself. This means 1,700ish words a day for some, or 1,000 words a day during the work week and then make up for the rest on the weekend. The key is not too get behind, especially since Thanksgiving will be towards the end of the month.

I chose to spread my word quota evenly across every day of the month. I would come home from work, cook dinner for the family, and sat down for 3-4 hours each night to hit my word count. I had prepared a good outline, so I had a fairly good rhythm when transitioning from scene to scene. That doesn’t mean it was easy, but I became quite fond of my characters, and I was looking forward to dive back into my story each night.

Here are some tips I learned the hard way:

  • Refrain from re-reading or editing your work while you’re in writing mode. Your 1st draft will always be crap (so true, and even bestseller authors will tell you that). Just get your book written and only afterwards worry about editing, filling plot holes, and polishing it.
  • Create a writing routine. Writing after dinner was perfect for me. I turned on some film-score music, which got my creative juices flowing. A nice hot cup of tea or hot chocolate won’t hurt, either.
  • Stay on track. Try to at least knock out your minimum word count for the day. NaNoWriMo has a wonderful tracker that’ll graph your progress and calculates your daily minimum word count to complete your 50,000 words on time. Don’t forget to calculate in the time you’ll miss for Thanksgiving.
  • Don’t worry if you have questions, worries, or if you’re freaked out about this whole process. You will have plenty of support from other writers that have joined the challenge.

I’m Done – What now?

First of all – congratulations on writing your first novel, or at least a good part of it. If you were able to write 50,000 words in November, you’re a NaNoWriMo winner. As a reward for your hard work, some vendors usually offer perks to winners, such as a steep discount on Scrivener software, an awesome writing program, which I still use today.

The next step is to finish your 1st draft, if you’re not already done with your entire book. It took me another 6,000 words until the “THE END”, so my 1st draft was about 56,000 words. Once it’s finished, let your manuscript rest for a few weeks. In my case, we moved back to the U.S. in February, and I didn’t start reading my manuscript, with red pen in hand, until April. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised to read my own writing. It seemed surreal – more like I was reading someone else’s book.

Next, I did a few more editing rounds, before I sent my manuscript to a professional editor. I was shocked how much red was still on the pages when I got it back, but these were mostly suggestions to polish the manuscript. Finally, I was ready for a cover and to publish my now 75,000 word novel. I’ll be glad to share more about that process in future posts if you’re interested.

Leave a comment below if you’re planning to participate in NaNoWriMo 2017. I’m also happy to answer any questions you might have. Happy writing!!!

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Grumpy Poltergeist On Sale Today

Just a quick not to let you know that Grumpy Poltergeist is on on sale for $.99 through this weekend.

Kyla’s excitement of moving into the apartment of an old German family home quickly diminishes as fixtures and appliances seem to have a mind of their own. Accusing her moody landlord about his shoddy handyman work doesn’t help a bit to improve their already damaged landlord-tenant relationship. Maybe he should stick to being a firefighter instead of trying to fix things around the house. As Chris spends more time putting out proverbial fires in Kyla’s apartment, she discovers the warm and gentle side of him. However, odd activities aimed at Kyla intensify, as if someone, or something, wants to keep them apart.

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I’m Back

After a somewhat extended absence (understatement of the century), I am so excited to be back at my writing desk.

So where have you been?

It all started when I hit a little rough patch with my health and my personal life that I had to tend to, but I hope you understand if I’m not sharing quite yet.

Thanks to this “rough patch” I became more confident and resilient and went back to school to get my Master’s in Business Administration with a Concentration in Project Management. As you can imagine, after working 10 hour shifts and writing research papers every night, there wasn’t much creativity left to squeeze out of my brain. However, the stuff I’ve learned helps me tremendously in my day job and I’m so excited to use those skills for my moonlighting activities as a novelist.

Are you writing again?

Almost. I have 8 weeks left before I graduate, but I’m using this time to get my website and social media accounts up to speed again. I’m also rereading my manuscript for Christmas Angel, so that I can pick up writing where I left off… You don’t know how much I miss writing, my fans, and my characters!

Why do you have a new website?

My domain name for my website expired about a year ago and I wasn’t able to renew my original web address, so I had to get a new one. Then I realized that my blog didn’t back up correctly, and I lost all my content, except for the early posts that I had on my wordpress account. Yikes! That’s okay, though. I plan to bring you much better content with this site.

What about your social media?

Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads are still the same.

  • I prefer Facebook to hang out with my fans and chit-chat. Come on by and say hello! I’d love to meet you!
  • Goodreads is like Facebook for book lovers. You can follow or friend me over there, and you can see what I’m reading. I also get a lot of recommendations from friends, so I’ll never run out of books I want to read.
  • Over at Twitter, I follow a bunch of fellow authors and this is where I share books that look fun to read, especially if they are also on sale.

What’s coming up?

Lot’s of exciting stuff, actually. Right now I’m working on:

  • Grumpy Poltergeist & The Heidelberg Ghost will be on sale at Amazon just in time for Halloween. Grumpy’s countdown deal runs 8-11 Sep for $.99 and 12-15 Sep $1.99. Heidelberg Ghost runs from 1-3 Oct for $.99 and 4-7 Oct for $1.99.
  • VIPs (newsletter subscribers) will get to vote on character names and choose covers for upcoming books.
  • A closed Facebook group for a limited number of awesome fans that want to beta read / test read my manuscripts before they go to the editor.

More on all that shortly.

That’s all I have for you tonight. Feel free to come and hang out with me at Facebook or Goodreads.

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Revision Update

Edit RuthlesslyA few months have passed since I finished my first draft of  The Heidelberg Ghost.  In the meantime, we have moved  from our tour in Germany back to the States, got settled, and I unpacked my manuscript from one of the million boxes in our new house.

Cool Off Period

The writers’ books were right:  give your novel time to cool off before editing.  Once I held my manuscript binder in my hands, after 4 months of moving stress, I couldn’t wait to dive back into my story.  Equipped with a pen and highlighter, I began reading through my manuscript, marking blatant errors and spots that needed improvement, leaving the deeper editing for the actual revision.

Being a new writer, I figured my story would be horrible and disconnected, especially since I wrote this one under pressure.  However, once I read the first few pages, I became more and more excited.  It really felt like reading a novel I could have bought in a bookstore – surprised the heck out of me!   Since it’s been a while that I have spent some time with my book, the material felt fresh again and I immersed myself in that world again.  It only took me a few days to read through the entire manuscript (a miracle for a slow night-time reader like me!)

Revision 

This is the hardest part.  So I had a great book, however, it was still very raw, a true 1st draft.  It needed a lot of work to tie up the loose ends, fix the grammar and polish it up.  I want it to be perfect, for you, the readers.  Finally, a few weeks ago, I started going through each and every scene and practically rewrote everything.  I want it to be a full-size novel, so 50,000 words wouldn’t cut it.  A regular book in this genre has usually between 80,000 – 100,000 words or more.  I had my work cut out for myself, but as I went along and I watched my inner movie play out in my head, I found that adding more details and dialog actually enriched this story and made it come even more alive.

The Plan

I’m expecting to finish this round of editing around mid-September and to publish The Heidelberg Ghost just in time for Halloween, hopefully around mid-October.

Stay tuned for updates…

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I’m a NaNoWriMo Winner!

Yes, I’ve done it!  After a grueling 30 days of straight writing, I’ve completed the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge and finished my first draft of my novel with 50,078 words.  It feels so incredible to have written my own book.

How the heck did you do it?

I had a strict schedule.  As I mentioned in the last post, I took my laptop to work and wrote during my lunch break to get a head start.  Then, after dinner, while everyone in the house was watching TV, I made myself a huge mug of hot tea, lit a candle, set my iPod to play the soundtrack of the Lord of the Rings, then sat at the kitchen table and wrote for about 2-3 hours a night.  Sleep?  What’s that?

Did you enjoy writing?

On most days I did.  I was so excited to find out where my characters would take me during my next session, so it felt like I was reading the book as I was writing it.  It just took a little longer.

What about the times you didn’t enjoy writing?

Writing is like exercising.  Getting started is the hard part, but once you get going, there is no stopping.  However, there were times that I just didn’t want to do any writing at all, but I knew that if I didn’t get my quota done, I would have to work extra long the next day to catch up to meet the contest deadline.  I did that once or twice, before I swore to never skip a day again.

We did leave town to visit my parents during the Thanksgiving holidays, which I had to plan for in advance.  I wrote an extra 800 or so words for a few days and then wrote my planned 400 words each night while out of town.  That way I could enjoy my family, but also spent some time with my characters as well.

Did you finish your story at the end of NaNoWriMo?

Yes, I did get all the way through.

How did you celebrate?

By taking some time off and hanging my certificate on my office wall for everyone to see – I think, I deserve bragging rights for an accomplishment like this, wouldn’t you agree?

Will you do the challenge again?

Most likely.  It’s a good way to finally get that book you’ve been dreaming about written.  The rest of the year is spent to revise, tying up lose ends, and polish it up to make it presentable.

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My Novel Consumes Me – Day 6 of NaNoWriMo

Just wanted to post a quick update about my progress during the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  I’m almost caught up at 9,011 words on day 6 – just 900 words shy of my overall daily goal.  My eyes are starting to cross, so it’s time to put my story to sleep for the night and get cracking at it again tomorrow and hope that I can make it to my Day 7 goal.

Stuff I’ve learned so far:  

  1. 1667 words a day are a lot…  I usually write in the library on my lunch hour for 35-45 minutes and can knock out about 400 words.  Then, when I get home after grabbing food for dinner and then cooking it (doesn’t take long and takes my mind of sitting in front of the computer all day at work), I either sit down on my favorite recliner with netbook on my lap or at the kitchen table and crank out 2 or 3 more scenes.
  2. Weekends are not for catchup.  Learned that this go around when I had 2 slow days during the week.  Of course, I still want to enjoy stuff with my family instead of writing all day.  So, I’ll be trucking on all week, so I can have a little down-time for family.
  3. I need mellow music to work on my novel or I can’t see the movie in my head… you know what I mean, I’m sure.
  4. By turning my screen to black background and green writing (I use Scrivener Software for writing) I can just focus on the story instead of playing with word-count charts etc.
  5. I try not to get bogged down with outlining.  I have a very lose skeleton outline and every day, I look at possible scenes that I could write and pencil / type them in.  When I begin writing a scene, I first add some random key words that come to my head that I may want to cover or mention in that section.  The filling in happens as I watch my “movie” as it plays out in my head and my fingers do the typing.

So, this is the update for about almost a week into the challenge.  I’ll post more updates when my characters let me.

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