Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Nancy Herkness on Post-Pandemic Pastimes: Why Now?


LUCY BURDETTE: In the late spring, Nancy Herkness and I did a Zoom event for her college class's reunion. I had noticed her name fifteen years earlier in our alumni magazine, when she announced the publication of her first romance. We had such a good time talking about writing and publishing genre fiction, and the writing life, and so much more. I thought you all would enjoy meeting her as well! Welcome Nancy!



NANCY HERKNESS: This summer I’m growing tomatoes for the first time. I blithely ordered three little cocktail tomato plants from Burpee, thinking I would plunk them in the large pot I already owned, water them once a day, and harvest beautiful miniature fruits. Ha! The plants arrived with an instruction sheet as long as my arm. 



Here’s a photo of all the equipment required to cultivate those three tiny plants. 




The good news is that I’ve harvested about a dozen delicious little red Baby Boomers—yes, that’s what kind of tomato they are. Pretty funny name, isn’t it?




Last month, I downloaded the Duolingo app on my phone and started learning Spanish. I studied French in school but always thought Spanish would be more useful. Also, the book I’m writing is set in a country with a strong Spanish culture. 


I’m amused by the vocabulary Duolingo thinks I should learn first. Yes, I agree that “tired” is important but “milkshake”? With my sweet tooth, it’s better if I do not know how to order one in any language. And “basketball player”? Nope, don’t need that one. I have acquired words for every piece of clothing except “shoes”. If you could see my closet, you would know that shoes are very, very important to me, so I have learned that word on my own initiative.





In February I started writing the first book in a brand new series. I set it in a fictional island country (off the coast of Spain, hence my urge to learn the language). My previous stories have always been in locations that were either real or closely modeled on real places. However, I decided that I wanted to do some world-building because I’ve never done it before.


On top of that, I’m 60,000+ words into the manuscript and I just had an epiphany about how to take it up a level. Unfortunately, that means ripping the book apart and putting it back together in a different way. At the moment, I don’t have a deadline so I’m able to indulge in that luxury.


The strange thing is that these were the kinds of things we were supposed to be doing while in lockdown for the pandemic: learning a new language, cultivating our gardens, writing like crazy.


However, I didn’t do any of that. I huddled in my house—and considered myself lucky to have that option—binge-watching television shows, binge-reading science fiction (although I write romance), and not writing a single new word of my own once I handed in the final book in my contract in May 2020. 


The constant low hum of anxiety about the pandemic, the apprehension about going to the grocery store or post office, the decisions about who should be included in my personal “bubble,” and the jab of terror every time I coughed or sneezed, all sapped any creative energy I might have mustered. 


Yet now that I’m vaccinated, all of a sudden I’m hungry to learn new skills on every front of my life, but most especially I want to push my books to be a more compelling, more intense, more immersive experience for my readers. Even better, I think I’ve figured out what I need to do to make that happen. It’s both thrilling and terrifying.


So why this explosion of productivity and excitement about my work now?


Perhaps my brain needed a rest and the pandemic downtime somehow recharged my batteries. Perhaps after I got protected by the vaccine and that anxiety lifted, the energy I had focused on worrying was freed up for new ventures. 


However, I think it goes even deeper. I think the pandemic reminded me that life is both precious and fragile. It pushed me to consider what’s important and to reset my priorities accordingly. Seeing so many lives lost drove home the fact that my time here is a treasure to be used with care and thought. 


So I have decided to take on new challenges, to push myself out of my comfort zone…to truly live my life with as much verve and joy as I can. 


How about you? Have you come out of the pandemic with any new knowledge about yourself or your world? I’d love to hear it!



Giveaway! Every reader who comments on my blog will be entered for the chance to win an autographed copy of my latest release The Agent. (U.S. only due to shipping costs.)



Nancy Herkness is the award-winning author of the Consultants, Wager of Hearts, and Whisper Horse series, published by Montlake Romance, as well as several other contemporary romance novels.  She is a two-time nominee for the Romance Writers of America’s RITA® award. 


Nancy has received many honors for her work, including the Book Buyers Best Top Pick, the New England Readers’ Choice award, and the National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award.  She graduated from Princeton University with a degree in English literature and creative writing.


A native of West Virginia, Nancy now lives twelve miles west of the Lincoln Tunnel in suburban New Jersey with two tabby cats.  For more information about Nancy and her books, visit www.NancyHerkness.com. Sign up for her monthly newsletter at: http://www.nancyherkness.com/newsletter/



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92 comments:

  1. Your new book sounds fascinating, Nancy . . . world-building is fascinating.

    I can’t believe you need all that stuff to grow tiny tomatoes!!! [I leave the tomato-growing to my husband.]
    Thanks to the pandemic, I read [a lot] and baked [a lot] and missed every important grandbaby thing for a year; now, I’m enjoying being free to visit and come and go pretty much as I please. But I think the experience has underscored the importance of appreciating things, of not taking the normal, the everyday for granted . . . .

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    1. I hope we don't forget that Joan! And also remember that so many people did not come through this unscathed, not at all.

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    2. Joan, I am really enjoying the world-building, although it requires more research than I expected since I'm trying to make it seem like a real country in contemporary times. Of course, I imagine creating a whole new planet would be even more work, just a different kind. :-) You are smart to leave the tomato-growing to your husband, believe me! It's a lot of work. I had no idea. LOL! Aww, I'm so sorry about missing your grandbabies for a whole year. That has to be really hard. I know you'll enjoy every minute of time spent with them going forward. It feels like a gift now, doesn't it?

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    3. It is a truly wonderful gift, Nancy . . . .

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  3. We started growing tomatoes, too, last year! And we were obsessed. And happily, this year's are also thriving. I think I've learned to be more patient. At least, my unnecessarily perfectionist standards are lowered to somewhere in the realm of reasonable:"It's zoom, it's fine, whatever, we all do the best we can." I may take a bit longer to answer emails, maybe? And I've allowed myself croutons in my salads. Because hey, life is short. Joan, I SO agree.

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    1. Croutons in salad Hank--congratulations!!

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    2. Croutons today, actual Caesar dressing tomorrow! And one day she will eat the bun on her burger.

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    3. Croutons in your salad, Hank?! I'm shocked! ROFL! Yes, I find myself taking more time to get things done too. I'm learning to enjoy the process, not just checking them off my list. It's a nice feeling, right? Good luck with the tomatoes! They're demanding little buggers, aren't they?

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    4. Ann, is Hank the kind of person who peels off the bun? Wow! That's major self-discipline!

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  4. I've been working from home, and working full time, since March of last year. Honestly, I haven't had much time in my life to take on all these extra things. I kept seeing lists of things to do/learn during the pandemic, and all I could do was laugh. I didn't have the time for that.

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    1. That's a lot closer to my experience, Mark! I was fortunate to continue to work from home, and while it was in many ways harder, I never lost sight of how fortunate I was to have the opportunity, when I could easily have been furloughed or laid off. But as for all that extra stuff I saw others doing? No. Just no. I worked, I walked, and I cooked. At some point later in the process, I got back to reading in the evening. That was really it for me.

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    2. Mark, I can imagine that working became much more difficult with the learning curve about doing everything virtually. It might not even have been YOUR learning curve, but everyone else had to be coached and coaxed into the new technology. Believe me, I didn't learn anything new during the pandemic, except how to use Zoom better; I didn't even keep up with the old things! I hope the time crunch is easing a little bit for you now.

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    3. Susan, I'm so glad your job stuck with you in the pandemic. I can imagine that was a relief. Congrats to you for continuing to walk and cook! I found myself reading a lot, although strangely enough, I read a lot of science fiction. I think I needed to get off this world for a while. And that's what inspired my world-building yen. Did your reading habits change at all?

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  5. Your writing sounds really interesting, Nancy, and I'm off to find it.

    Thank you for this post today -- it's most timely for me, as it is my final day of full-time work. At the end of it, I will move into what is called retirement though I know it's really just my next chapter. The pandemic has taught me -- with its lockdowns and deaths and anxieties -- that having time for creative endeavours of my own choosing is key for me. I am going to build my own world, as it were.

    Today looks like just an ordinary Wednesday on the calendar, but in my corner it's an extraordinary day, heralding new opportunities on horizon -- with so much more time for reading!

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    1. Enjoy all the extraordinary days to come, Amanda.

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    2. Amanda, congratulations! We will be so anxious to hear about what unfolds in this next chapter!!

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    3. How exciting, Amanda! I wish you a fulfilling and entertaining retirement.

      My sister-in-law's last day at her job of the last 20 years is Friday. She was talking to someone who had retired a couple years ago and he said it will take at least 60 days to settle into your new routine, or lack thereof. Give yourself space, he said, to find the next thing you want to focus on. Having gone through that a few years ago that idea resonated strongly with me. It is an adjustment, although a happy one.

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    4. The last day at work is very special. Will you celebrate it in some ways ?

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    5. Happy retirement my friend!

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    6. Thank you, all, so much! I will celebrate at day's end with tea and cake, and the knowledge that tomorrow is the first day with more time for my own pursuits... we shall see what unfolds!

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    7. Congratulations! The pandemic has me thinking very seriously about retirement too, though for now I'm trying to stay the course for a few more years, as it is for us the more financially prudent choice. Prior to the pandemic, I wasn't even thinking about retiring yet! Blaze a good trail, Amanda, and keep us posted about how it goes.

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    8. Congratulations, Amanda. Give your self time to adjust to time that still moves more quickly than you expect it will. We love retirement, but it took Irwin two tries to settle into it.

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    9. Oh my goodness, huge congratulations, Amanda! That is so exciting! I hope your creative life blossoms in your new chapter. Enjoy those tea and cakes; what a great way to celebrate!So, tell me what creative ventures are you contemplating? I'm really interested to hear about them!

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    10. Happy retirement, Amanda! That is a milestone, and we'll all be looking forward to seeing what unfolds for you!

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    11. Nancy: I plan to spend more time doing collage art work, and also more time developing and delivering workshops at the community level on using writing as a tool for transformation. I am excited about all this.

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    12. What awesome plans, Amanda! I happen to love collage--admiring it, not creating it. There's something really fascinating about the unexpected juxtapositions of images/objects that appeals to me. What sort of media do you work with?

      Brava on your workshops too! Writing can definitely be a tool for transformation. I love that idea.

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    13. Congratulations Amanda! I was given two pieces of great advice when I retired: 1. Be open to serendipity, something unexpected may enrich your retirement and 2. You can say "no" if you try something and it doesn't work for you.

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    14. Nancy: I work with paper and glue (lots of glue :)). I collect magazines and other sundry paper that has images. Then I go to town. I am sometimes surprised at what ends up on my page!

      Charlotte: those are two good pieces of advice. thank you!

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    15. My friend Mel Davenport shares photos of some of her mixed-media work. It looks like such fun! Our library has had some painting sessions, a bit of a stretch and inspiring.
      Retirement, a human be-ing and reading and reviewing, and soon, out and about, socializing. Have a great time!

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    16. Amanda, you won the autographed copy of THE AGENT. Congratulations! Please contact me at nancyherkness@gmail.com so I can send you your book.

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  6. I had the same pandemic inertia. I couldn’t focus my brain to do anything productive or creative. It seemed enough to just survive, and I was not used to so much unregulated time. I admire those people who decluttered their houses and read all their TBR piles, but I was not in that group.

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    1. And I think that's fine, because it was an extraordinarily stressful year, and everyone managed it in her own way. I feel lucky that I was able to make myself write, and do yoga, but my reading fell off--too hard to concentrate. And I did not organize one thing, nor make bread LOL

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    2. Bookbuddy, join the club! I just hung out with my cats and hoped not to catch COVID. Oddly enough, I ended up reading science fiction! I needed to escape this world for a while, I think. But my TBR pile never got smaller; I just added to it. :-)

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    3. Lucy, I admire you for writing! I wish I could have done that. And no, I didn't make bread either. LOL!

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    4. Bookbuddy, you won the autographed copy of THE AGENT! Congratulations! Please email me at nancyherkness@gmail.com to exchange information so I can mail it to you. Thanks so much for joining me here!

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  7. I had the same pandemic inertia. I couldn’t focus my brain to do anything productive or creative. It seemed enough to just survive, and I was not used to so much unregulated time. I admire those people who decluttered their houses and read all their TBR piles, but I was not in that group.

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  8. During the pandemic, I felt like I was flailing. I'd finished out my contract too, and for months, I wasn't sure where my career was headed. I baked a lot of bread. I signed up for Master Class and learned a few things. But mostly, I battled the urge to curl into a ball and melt down. By last fall, I had a new agent and a new contract and some new goals, all of which helped me re-focus.

    I didn't garden last year but am going gangbusters with it this year! Still no ripe tomatoes, but I've been harvesting lettuce, green onions, and herbs like crazy!

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    1. Congrats on the new agent and new contract Annette! and the garden...

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    2. Always keep us posted on what you are writing, Annette. You've got fans here!

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    3. Annette, huge congrats on your new agent and contract! Woohoo!

      So you did the bread thing? I'll bet is was delicious. Ooh, I've always wanted to try a Master Class. Hope it was brilliant and enlightening!

      Your garden sounds amazing. Three pots of tomatoes is about all I can handle. I'm not much of a gardener; the tomatoes are kind of an aberration for me. LOL!

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  9. I'm happy to hear about your new energy and goals! If anything, I wrote more during the pandemic - three books under contract and one not. It was such an escape from the outside world.

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    1. Edith, you are one of a kind:). Lucky for your readers!

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    2. Thank you, Roberta! Of course, I neither cleaned nor decluttered, and baked more than my share of sourdough bricks. I've always grown tomatoes, though, and just picked the first two Sun Gold cherries yesterday!

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    3. Edith, you rock! I escaped by reading science fiction which I enjoyed but it wasn't very productive. :-) It helps to have a contract, I find; that's the only thing that kept me writing through last May. Deadlines are very motivating. But I am awed that you wrote so many books...and one on spec! Wow!

      Sun Gold cherry tomatoes sound yummy! Maybe next year....

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  10. But the tomatoes were delicious, right, Nancy? I've decided that the value of vegetable gardening is hard to put a price on. It's a healthy activity, whether you end up with produce or not. I keep telling myself this.

    Last year was so weird for almost everyone. At least we were all in the same boat, one way or the other. Your renewed energy and creativity gives me hope!

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    1. Karen, yes, the tomatoes are yummy and I get such a sense of accomplishment when I pop one in my mouth. "I grew this! I'm a pioneer woman." ;-) It gets you outdoors, too, right?

      You're right about last year: we were all dealing with the same disaster, all over the world. I am intensely grateful to all the folks who kept things going: the medical workers, the frontline workers, the grocery store staff, the chefs, the delivery people...the list goes on and on. I feel so lucky that I could just stay home while they put their lives on the line.

      Your joy will return, I'm sure! Everyone has their own pace for these things.

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  11. Congratulations on your new, world-building project!

    My first cherry tomatoes are ripening in a sunny spot next to the garage, because the deck is undergoing reconstruction. Maybe I'll leave them there, next to my herb pots, which are also thriving.

    During the past eighteen months, I learned to give myself patience, time to ignore "should" in favor of "I wonder or what if?" With Mercury finally out of retrograde, I found an appliance dealer willing to order me a new wall oven and mic, anticipated delivery 4-5 months. I've been stovetop cooking since February 1st; what's another five months?

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    1. Thanks, Margaret! I'm excited about it! And enjoy your tomatoes! I'm only now learning how many folks grow cherry tomatoes in pots. We are legion!

      Ouch on the stovetop cooking! I'm not much of a chef but even I need an oven on a regular basis. Did you improvise some great new recipes?

      Patience, yes! I think I learned more about that virtue too. I love your new motto of "I wonder or what if?" That's a terrific perspective on life. I'm adding it to my inspirations. Thank you!

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  12. I pretty much enjoyed the enforced seclusion of the last months, hermit that I am. However I've been getting out lately, not wearing the mask when around vaccinated friends, and it feels good, energizing.

    Yesterday I cleaned out the pantry! Now all I want to do is stand and stare at my work. And go water the tomatoes!

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    1. Ann, I cannot lie: I didn't mind the seclusion either. I think a lot of writers are happy introverts. Weirdly enough, what I really missed was going out to a restaurant to eat, probably because I do not enjoy cooking for myself. :-)

      A clean pantry should be admired at length. It is a thing of true beauty. Savor your accomplishment!

      OMG, you're part of the tomato army too?! I had no idea tomato-growing was such a big thing. :-)

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  13. Nancy, welcome to JRW and good-luck with your new series. I'd love to hear more about the revelation you had about flipping the work around and coming at it from another angle. The JRW writers have told us about some of the reconstructions of their works and I find it fascinating. I love the idea of creating a "world" off the coast of Spain. Will this series be Romance? Mystery? Tell us a bit more, please.

    I am retired. I read voraciously during the pandemic. When I wasn't reading, I was listening to books on Audible while cooking, baking, doing chores. I feel very lucky that my family and I made it through alive and well. Zoom helped lot. First Chapter Fun helped, too.

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    1. Thanks for the warm welcome, Judy! Hmm, I'm still trying to categorize my new series myself. LOL! I think I will call it mainstream fiction with strong elements of romance and suspense. How does that sound? :-)

      As for my revelation, it actually was prompted by two things: a science fiction series I was loving and that creativity email I mentioned. I realized what I found so compelling about the science fiction series was that the hero, with all his many flaws and weaknesses, was relentlessly heroic. Sounds obvious, right? But what it really meant was that I needed to force my hero to make more high-stakes choices all the way through the book.

      The creativity email was a series of questions about a project--not necessarily a writing project, either. A couple really struck me. One was "What new skills do you need to take this project to the next level?" The other was: "Is it worth it?" The questions pushed me into the decision to go back to the beginning and rework the whole story so that I had to use new skills to make it worth writing and reading.

      Reading was a great comfort to me during the pandemic too. I'm with you: so grateful that my family and I came through this relatively unscathed.

      Tell me about First Chapter Fun! What is that?

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    2. Last year, in the early days of the pandemic, when writers' live events and promotional activities were all canceled, a heroic Canadian writer named Hannah Mary McKinnon began a daily reading of first chapters of new books, live on Facebook. Within two months our very own hero, Hank Phillippi Ryan, joined Hannah. Together they read, with author and publisher permission, the first chapter of two new books every week on Facebook and Instagram. Tuesdays and Thursdays at 12:30 Eastern, it is where you want to be! "What new book will you discover?"

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    3. Wow, that is so cool, Judy! How did I miss that?! That is heroic indeed. What a marvelous way to find new books/authors! Brilliant!

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  14. I agree with Judy - wondering what kinds of changes you felt you needed to make in your manuscript?

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    1. Hallie, check out my answer to Judy's question above! I suppose if you put it in a nutshell, it would be that I needed to raise the stakes all the way through the book. I'm adding a whole new plot thread starting almost from the very beginning. It's pushing me out of my comfort zone because it's not a romance thread. I'm also trying to up the emotional content of virtually every scene. While it's a little terrifying, I am enjoying the challenge.

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    2. I love heroic heroes. Very exciting, Nancy!

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    3. Judy, it turns out that I do too! I think it's partly a sign of the times and partly my old-fashioned side taking over.

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  15. I do agree with the underlying anxiety we felt, Nancy, but I kept mine at bay by being super busy: writing two and a half books, painting, playing keyboard, walking twice a day and FaceTiming with family and friends. Now I’m finally relaxing

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    1. Rhys, I admire your productivity. You rock! Now that you mention it, I did a lot of social Zooming during the pandemic. In fact, I kept in better touch with faraway friends than I have in normal years. I hope we can keep that up.

      How wonderful that you are relaxing NOW when I'm going in the opposite direction! It just shows how varied our responses are and how that's a good thing for the world. It needs all kinds of folks to deal with all kinds of situations.

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  16. Congratulations on your tomato success. I too started tomatoes this Spring and they are doing well. This was the first time ever. During the past year I read a great deal, walked everyday and in between took food, goodies and gifts to neighbors and friends who needed assistance.

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    1. You are such a good person to help out your neighbors and friends, Traveler! Thank you for your generosity!

      Wishing you great success with your tomatoes! Nice to have a fellow tomato newbie with me. Did you know that they would require so much TLC?

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  17. Brilliant post! I think we don’t value creative down time as much as we should. Thanks for the inspiration!

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    1. Jenn, I think there's a lot of pressure these days to produce, produce, produce! Sometimes you just plain old need to rest and let the well refill. I'm not so good at that but I'm learning...of necessity.

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  18. I was extremely busy taking care of my grandsons everyday all week for several months. After that I had a great deal to catch up with. Mainly appointments, and helping others with meals, and errands.

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    1. Wow, Petite, you had your hands full, for sure! You are a wonderful grandmother to step in to care for your grandsons. I'm sure your kids were very grateful for you. Good luck with all the catching up! I hope you give yourself a little downtime every now and then. I think you need it!

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  19. Nancy, welcome to Jungle Reds! I had not read Harlequin romances since high school. A new author friend sent me an advanced copy of her novel and I was surprised by how much I loved it because I thought that contemporary romances were no longer interesting. Usually historical romances hold my interest.

    What have I learned about myself during the pandemic? Good question. I noticed blue skies during the first lockdown in California because people were not commuting to work. I always knew that I do not like crowds. It is really hard for me to adapt to the reopening since the 15th with crowded shops and still wearing masks.

    Diana

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    1. Diana, I am thrilled to hear that you are once again enjoying contemporary romances. I love historicals myself. In fact, Georgette Heyer's wonderful Regency romances are what inspired me to start writing romance myself. However, I didn't think I could manage all the research an accurate historical requires so I told myself that I would write contemporaries that reached for the brilliance of Ms. Heyer's work. And I keep trying to do that!

      Blue skies in CA! Wow! That must have seemed almost miraculous. It's amazing how fast nature rebounds when we give her a chance. I'm so sorry about dealing with crowds again. I still haven't been to a mall myself. I may never go again since clearly I can live without it.

      Good luck with venturing out again!

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    2. Nancy, thanks! If I was writing a romance, it would be easier for me to write a historical romance with research because I always feel like I am lagging behind on contemporary stuff, since I do not listen to the radio. However, I do read the newspaper though some of the spoken language with new words are not always written.

      Never have been a fan of the shopping mall. I love how they close off streets in shopping areas like the Stroget in Copenhagen, Denmark and the Burlington Arcade in London.

      Thanks for the good luck. I need that. LOL

      Diana

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    3. Diana, I love those 'street malls" too. There are some in this country as well, although now I can't remember where I've seen them. They have great charm, don't they? And fresh air!

      As for contemporary stuff, I'm not really on top of that either; I count on my young, hip editors to catch anything totally out-of-date. I also try not to use slang or technology that is too "of the minute" because then the book will seem dated once the culture moves on. Of course, sometimes it's hard to predict the technology. Think of all the thrillers that hinged on not being able to find a phone! Now you have to figure out how to kill the character's ability to use a cell phone: no signal, battery dies, fell in the water, etc. It's tough being a writer! LOL!

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  20. Wonderful post. Perhaps the easing of the pandemic and its restrictions is a rebirth and now, just as at New Year's we're making changes in our lives and looking forward.

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    1. Kait, let's hope so! I want to believe that the pandemic will give us a new perspective on our lives and how interconnected our world is. It also reminds me that "normal life" is fragile and not to be taken for granted.

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  21. I agree with Kait - sometimes creativity needs a rest period, just as productive soil does. Now we're all ready to get down and start digging in the dirt...

    (PS - Nancy, your Consultant series has the BEST covers! Irresistible!)

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    1. Ooh, I like your metaphor, Julia...and it ties in with my tomato growing. LOL!

      Thanks for the kind words about my Consultants covers. My publisher hit those right out of the park, I have to say. In fact, the cover for THE MONEY MAN, the first book in the series, is literally the first design they came up with. I was dancing around my office when they sent it to me.

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    2. And Nancy and I laughed about how my covers all have food and cats, while hers have men in tuxes, sometimes unbuttoned:)

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    3. Yet both kinds of covers are designed to make us drool, Lucy. ;-)

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  22. Many thanks to Lucy and Jungle Red Writers for having me as a guest here. I'm thrilled to chat with all you nice folks!

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  23. Celebrating survival! I had lunch with a friend yesterday, my first time eating out since "before times." We talked about how the last year and half has impacted students, including no final exams in a year and a half. Re-entry is gradual for me, savoring each step. <3

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    1. Didn't it feel wonderful to do something as simple as meeting a friend for lunch?! I know I was thrilled the first time I did it this year. I think savoring the steps is a great idea.

      Oh my goodness, the poor kids of all ages! And their parents! Coping with all the challenges of school through the pandemic was so difficult and stressful. I feel for them.

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    2. They will have so many stories . . . imagine their reunions.

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  24. Nancy, first let me say that I love your haircut. I'm looking for something like that, but I don't have your beautiful face to go with it. Oh well, such is life. I am so impressed with your energy, in your writing and your learning new things. I'm not quite there yet, although we have just adopted a rescue Brittany Spaniel, and I'm her person for now, so my energy is focused on her adjustment. So, I guess you could say my project this summer is our new (well, she's eight years old), sweet Lulu. She doesn't like husband yet, due to having been owned by a man in a puppy mill, but we're working on it. She's had a rough life, and we want her to have a wonderful life in her golden years. I want to travel some, but I'm not ready to get on a plane, and I'm committed to Lulu's settling in for the summer. But, it is nice to be able to go into a store now, after having both of my vaccinations, and not be stressed.

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    1. You are so sweet to say that about my face, Kathy! I'm sure my haircut would look great on you. It's kind of a classic page boy, don't you think?

      How marvelous that you rescued Lulu! I have two adopted cats myself and have always adopted rescue critters. Lulu is a very lucky pup to have found a home with you, especially after being in a puppy mill. Ugh! My daughter is a veterinarian and she has nothing good to say about breeders.

      I'm fully vaccinated like you and I'm getting on a plane in two weeks for the first time since COVID hit. I'm a little nervous but I plan to mask the whole way through the airport, etc., no matter what the rules and regs say.

      Enjoy your new sweetie pie!

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  25. Back in the Dark Ages when I took Spanish in college (or it took me; hooray for the curve) we had to memorize dialogues. The most interesting one was set at a student demonstration with students yelling "Assassins! Cowards!" at the police. I haven't used assassinos or cobardes yet in real life, but you never know when it might come in handy. As for the pandemic I hunkered down and read more and complained about not being able to travel. I did not do anything constructive. Nada!

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    1. Ay, caramba, Pat! Those are truly unusual words to learn in a Spanish class. However, they would work quite well for my book. LOL!

      Join the non-constructive club! And the "I can't believe I had to cancel my trips!" club. I'm just rescheduling my trip to a reader event in Edinburgh, Scotland, for next May. Now I'm getting excited all over again.

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  26. Nancy, congratulations on your epiphany--and on your tomatoes! I'm a member of the tomato army, too. I have tomatoes, a cucumber, a couple of hot peppers and lots of herbs in five gallon buckets, but I'm thinking next year I need to invest in some bigger containers as the tomatoes are already rootbound. But still, it's so satisfying to be able pick and eat your own!

    I had no creative energy during the first part of the pandemic and really struggled with writing. Getting vaccinated was like coming out from under a dark cloud, and now I'm actually looking forward to writing every day! But I think writing about London long-distance is enough world building for me at the moment.

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    1. Thank you, Deborah! I was kind of wondering about herbs myself. I love fresh chives. Can you grow those in pots?

      I'm so sorry you had a hard time with writing too. Not fun. I felt the same way after I got my second vaccination; like a great weight had lifted off my shoulders. I guess it freed both of our muses from COVID anxiety. Keep on typing!

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  27. Nancy, regarding the picture of your cute shoes, I finally remembered the name of the cut you seem to prefer. All but the sandals are the d'Orsay style, which I've always loved, but have never been able to wear. They're all so pretty.

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    1. Karen, yes! That IS the name of the cut. I find them surprisingly comfortable. Weirdly enough, I cannot wear backless shoes; they just flop right off my feet. So the d'Orsay style works perfectly for me. So glad you think they're cute! I took that photo of the shoes I was packing for a writers' conference, back in the good old days when we went to those in person.

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  28. Winner! Congratulations to Bookbuddy on winning the autographed copy of THE AGENT. Bookbuddy, please contact me at nancyherkness@gmail.com so we can exchange information. Thanks so much for joining me here!

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  29. Since I didn't hear from Bookbuddy, the Random Number Generator has chosen another winner and it is...Amanda Le Rougetel! Congratulations! Amanda, please contact me at nancyherkness@gmail.com so I can send you your autographed copy of THE AGENT.

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