About Once Upon a Word: We're a large group of multi-talented authors working together, to bring you the best romances. Please, stop by our websites and check out what we've been up to: Publishing by Rebecca J. Vickery and Victory Tales Press.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Rejection Can Rejuvenate by Sarah J. McNeal

Like so many writers I began writing at an early age. I was nine. I had no mentor, no one who inspired me to write, and no one in the family who wrote and could guide me through the pitfalls and show me the ropes. I was on my own to find my own way through the scary world of publishing. But I was an optimist and expected everything to work out just fine. In other words I thought my work would be published right away.

I learned the awful truth at the speed of light.

I had just turned 13 when I completed my first short story. Like Ralphie in A Christmas Story, I had visions of greatness when I submitted my story to “Seventeen” Magazine. The submissions editor was certain to call me on the phone and personally thank me for my award worthy submission. I rode high on my dreams of becoming a published author for quite some time.

And then the day came when my self-addressed, stamped envelope came from “Seventeen”. My heart practically beat out of my chest with expectation. My hands shook with the surge of adrenaline from my excitement. When I opened the envelope and pulled out the form letter that simply stated that my story didn’t fit the type of work the magazine had in mind. I did what any kid would do with rejection: I cried. It was the first and last time I would ever cry over a rejection…and a good thing since plenty of rejections would come my way.
The amazing thing is, that rejection didn’t deter me from writing another story. I know my writer friends can relate when I say that the rejection just made me more determined than ever. Now I was in a fever to write good enough to become published. I wrote, and wrote, and wrote. I took correspondence courses through the mail from writing schools. Later, I took classes in writing in college. I joined Romance Writers of America. I subscribed to writers’ magazines like “Writer’s Digest” to find the answers to why my work was rejected and what I should do about it. I knew that writing was a highly competitive endeavor, but I honestly could not stop.

I began to take rejections that offered some kind of advice or critique of my work as golden opportunities to learn. Meanwhile, I went to work as a nurse and supported myself while I continued to write and reach for my goal of becoming published. I did not know any other writers then. I had no one to hash out my ideas or converse with about the road to publication. I was alone, having to figure it out as I went along.

And then in the autumn of 1996 when I was 48 years old, I got my first submission acceptance with a short science fiction story titled “Blind Intuition.” Words cannot fully express the elation I felt on that day. I cried—this time with profound joy. I called everyone to tell them my good news. My friends took me out to lunch to celebrate. My sister helped me celebrate by taking me out. I published four more short stories before I committed my writing to a novel length project.

I had a few rejections after that, but by that time, I took rejection in stride. I would just work harder. Eventually, I found a publisher that consistently liked my work. As my career began to move forward, I found other publishers more in line with my style and genre of writing and found more success. My only regret has been that my parents died before I became published. I think they would have been happy for me because they, above all others, knew how badly I wanted to be able to claim the title of “writer” and they knew my struggles to get worthy of success.

My Published Books (top shelf left of my Minions)

Rejection is hard to swallow. It was especially difficult for me at age 13. But rejection is a great motivator, too. If a person’s spirit tells them they should become a writer, absolutely nothing will stop that spirit as long as the person draws breath, to work toward the goal of becoming published. In fact, it never stops. Writers write because they cannot conceive of not writing. I personally think it’s genetic. Writers just never quit, never give up. We are built tough enough to take rejection and use it to our advantage. If I could explain how we got to be this way I would, but honestly, I don’t have the answer. It’s just who we are.

MYTHS, LEGENDS, AND MIDNIGHT KISSES/ Pennytook (my contribution)

Myths are supposed to be false…but some are terrifying and true.

Pennytook is a war weary Gypsy who longs for peace from the past and wants something meaningful in his life.
Esmeralda, a Gypsy trick rider, has harbored a deep affection for the chieftain, Pennytook, for many years. But her dark secret will never allow him into her life.
A mythological creature is about to unleash its horror and change the destinies of Esmeralda and Pennytook.

A deep ache spread through Pennytook's chest as he walked beside Esmeralda to the shelter where the horses rested. Something was very wrong and it filled him with dread. The night air had grown cold. He wanted to tuck his woolen cloak around her shoulders, but he knew she would refuse. The music of the tribe and the Chergari were distant now as if it were the music of the spirit realm. He shivered at the thought.
Excerpt: 2
As Esmeralda neared the ruins of the Dark Isle, her heart began to race and something like sparks darted all through her body. She realized she had made a terrible mistake leaving the safety of the Plains of Marja to travel to Castyava on her own. Hasty decisions made in anger or fear seldom worked out well.
Sensing the danger around her, she tried to keep to the edge of the forest away from the bubbling cauldron that had once been the vast Lake of Sorrows. The smell of sulfur and evil grew rank in the air. No birds sang from the forest. No crickets made music. No creatures crept along the forest floor or rustled in the limbs of the trees. Something evil menaced from the shadows of the woods. Esmeralda sought a place for cover. Minita could not outrun anyone or anything that might pursue her, but the black steed was strong and had the stamina to endure over a long distance. It was only a small advantage and no advantage at all if whatever stalked her possessed the ability for speed.
Something drew near. She had heard the rumors of monsters and knew the terrible legends told of the Lake of Sorrows and the Niamso who still kept vigil over the lake. Her heart pounded in her chest. She had been foolish to come this way alone. Nothing but pride had made her do such a thing. Pennytook had hurt her and now she might never be able to survive to make things right.
Buy Links: Smashwords   Amazon

Sarah J. McNeal is a multi-published author of several genres including time travel, paranormal, western and historical fiction. She is a retired ER and Critical Care nurse who lives in North Carolina with her four-legged children, Lily, the Golden Retriever and Liberty, the cat. Besides her devotion to writing, she also has a great love of music and plays several instruments including violin, bagpipes, guitar and harmonica. Her books and short stories may be found at Prairie Rose Publications and its imprints Painted Pony Books, and Fire Star Press. Some of her fantasy and paranormal books may also be found at Publishing by Rebecca Vickery and Victory Tales Press. She welcomes you to her website and social media:

Wednesday, December 28, 2016


A resolution is a serious thing.  Webster's has many definitions of the word but the one apropos to these words of wisdom  is "a decision as to future action."  It is a well-known fact that New Year's resolutions are made to be broken. People resolve to lose weight, give up harmful habits, be nice to an annoying family member, spend less money or save more, work harder, and the list goes on and on. Many resolutions are kept only a few days, some longer. But for however long our effort lasts, perhaps the time to resolve to take some action is well spent. It at least forces us to focus on what we would like to accomplish in the year ahead.

As I write this we are on the threshold of 2017 and I think most people are relieved to see 2016 pass into history. I always make a few personal resolutions as a new year begins and I imagine many of you do as well. (How long I keep them is another story.) But I'm not  going to talk about the personal issues I propose to do (or not). I want to share some thoughts on professional resolutions that relate to my writing life.

High on my list is a revision of my website which is long overdue. When I began my career as a     digital author about eight years ago, a website was a requirement with most publishers. I examined several sites, chose one I liked, and contacted the author. I learned that she had built it herself  and she encouraged me to do that. So with input from her and help from Go Daddy, I did. (Thanks, Celia Yeary). In the process I gained a wonderful new online friend. Websites are no longer of such great importance, but since I have a three year contract now in its first year, I need to update my site yesterday.

Updating my files and folders is also a nagging chore that I need to address.  I have finally surrendered to Windows constant brainwashing tactics and accepted Windows 10. This has forced me to buy a new wireless printer that is compatible with the change. Never mind that I have two perfectly efficient printers, one in Kentucky, one in Florida because they were too awkward to carry back and forth.  Yes, I'm aware that this is a sales gimmick but I am grudgingly learning to accept the"technical" things I cannot change. So with W-10 and a new printer in place, I resolve to tackle my tangled files and folders and try to sort then out.

I have always had a reputation as a well-organized person in every aspect of my life. But that involves tangible things. I find it much more difficult to organize material I can't see. And don't get me started on those flash drives my husband (aka the in-house techie) has filled with my writing information and photos. I keep wanting to print everything out and arrange it in a circle on the floor around me and sort it into kindred stacks! But I resolve to try harder to function better in cyberspace.

Twenty-something of my books are currently available online (and most also in print). It is like having twenty children screaming for my attention and constantly feeling guilty for neglecting them. I love each one dearly but will confess that I have favorites. I believe that if I spent more time promoting any one of them, they would reward me with higher sales.So I resolve to work more consistently on promo, using a fair rotation plan.

I have a finished semi-fiction book that needs editing and submitting. I also have a fiction manuscript that needs a final chapter written before submission. And I have a sequel to This Time Forever that is mostly in my head and should be written to bring that story to completion. I resolve to spend less time on Facebook and more time at my computer working in Word.

If you are counting, this is five resolutions to make me a more successful digital author. Will I accomplish these goals? Probably not, but in the words of  Robert Browning "...a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for?"

I wish you a happy, healthy 2017. May your dreams come true and all of your resolutions lead to success.

P.S.Oh, I almost forgot to add that I am also resolving to complete my monthly blog post here before the "last minute" that it is due to be published!

You can find me and/or my books at the links below:

My Books

My Web Site

My Facebook Page

Sunday, December 18, 2016

I'll be Home for Chanukah by Nancy Goldberg Levine @KMNbooks @rebeccajvickery #holidaystories #romance

Let's give Nancy Goldberg Levine a warm welcome!

KAREN: Why don't you tell the readers a little bit about yourself.NANCY: I worked for a weekly newspaper for fifteen years and a legal publisher for five years, and now work in public service.  I've sold more than sixty short stories and sold my first romance novel, "Tempting Jonah," in 1999. I have six self-published stories as well as four under my pseudonym, Vi LaNance. Under Goldberg Levine the stories are sweet contemporary romantic comedies, and the ones published under Vi LaNance are R-rated romantic comedies.

KAREN: Tell us your latest news. Do you have any current projects you're working on?

NANCY: I'm working on a historical set in the fictional town of Dannville, Colorado, (same setting as "I'll Be Home for Chanukah," called (working title) "Honeysuckle for Honey." It's set in 1896, and is about the man who owns the saloon and the new doctor who comes to town. It started as a dream about me and friends of mine living in this town in 1896.  
KAREN:  What is the name of your story and what inspired you to write this tale for the Let it Snow, 2016 Holiday Romance Collection?

NANCY: "I'll Be Home for Chanukah" is about a rabbi who's in the town of Dannville temporarily and who thinks he has the perfect family and a paramedic who is on a leave of absence but loves her town. She lives with her ninety-something Grandma Bernie and the rabbi is her best friend's brother. Her family back in Ohio is definitely not perfect. I liked writing about the fictional town of Dannville and these characters just showed up and started telling their story.

KAREN: When you were a child, what holiday story intrigued you the most?

NANCY: The story of Chanukah--how Judah and the Maccabees only had enough oil to last for one day, but the oil lasted for eight days--it was a miracle. I still believe in miracles, even though that sometimes gets me into trouble. I always believe, in the back of my mind, that anything is possible.
KAREN:  What do you think makes a good holiday story?NANCY: Stories about family and friends, not necessarily people with a lot of money, but ordinary people who persevere through difficult times.

KAREN: What is your favorite holiday movie or book?
NANCY: I read a book years ago, a romance set in Cincinnati (where I live) at Chanukah. It was called "Season of Light" by Lorna Michaels. I loved that book, and the setting. 

KAREN: What is your favorite holiday drink or food dish? 

NANCY: Peppermint hot chocolate, peppermint ice cream, potato pancakes, and jelly donuts. 

KAREN: What makes you interested in the genre you write? 

NANCY: I love romantic comedy--I hope I have a good sense of humor--and I like to write about ordinary people, although when I first started writing, I wrote about princesses and people with lots of money.

About I'll be Home for Chanukah - Dannville Dreamers, Book One
Paramedic Eve Preston is taking some boss-mandated time off from her job. Her parents don't understand her at all—they wanted her to be a doctor, and a wife and mother. She's perfectly happy in Dannville, Colorado being housemates with her Grandma Bernie and her cat, Simba. Then Rabbi Byron Sachs, her best friend's brother, takes a temporary job at Eve's temple and that changes everything.
Rabbi Byron Sachs is a city boy who thinks his family is perfect. When he meets his sister's best friend, Eve, he starts to re-think life in the big city. As he spends more time in Dannville, he learns that his family isn't perfect, and that life in a small town might not be so bad after all.
Can a great miracle in Dannville bring Eve and Byron together? 

Purchase your copy today 
Ebook:  Amazon /Amazon UK / Smashwords / iTunes /Nook
In Print:
Amazon /Amazon UK /Createspace / Barnes and Noble

~Enjoy a Snippet from I'll be Home for Chanukah~

The sanctuary at Temple Beth David is decorated in royal blue and gold. There are all kinds of Chanukah decorations – most made by the religious school kids. Paper dreidels and menorahs hang from fishing wire and blue and white paper chains. A menorah with five candles sits on the podium in front. I used to just come to temple for the Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur, but I find myself showing up at Beth David more and more. I like the members of the congregation and it feels like home. My best friend, Sirena Sachs, is a member, and so is my grandma Bernie. I moved to Dannville because of Grandma Bernie. I spent summers here as a kid, and stayed with my grandma, and I moved here for good about ten years ago after becoming an EMT.

Sirena approaches us carrying two pies, one Dutch apple and one pumpkin. She hugs my grandma, who's tall and slender. Grandma's hair is cut in a neat gray bob and her blue eyes twinkle.

I look at the spinach dip and potato chips grandma Bernie, short for Bernice, is holding. She's not one of those grandmas who whips up cookies in her kitchen or watches cooking shows on TV, but I'm closer to her than I am to my parents.

I tease her as we all walk into the kitchen. "Thanks for bringing the pies. What's everyone else going to eat for dessert?"

Sirena laughs, puts the pies on the kitchen island, and takes off her coat, hat and gloves. "Traffic is crazy out there. I almost got here late and I don't want to miss services…" Her voice trails off as we go back into the sanctuary. We sit on comfortable banquettes covered with teal blue cloth. She's still looking around.
"How come you're so hyper?"
"Oh, I…"
Sirena twirls a lock of honey-blonde hair around her finger, something she always does when she's nervous. She's my exact opposite in coloring—my hair is dark brown, but I have lilac-blue eyes. Her eyes are brown and her shoulder-length hair is blonde. She's still doing the hair twist thing when I hear the sound of a low male voice.
"Hi, Sis!"
I glance in the direction of the deep voice and into brown eyes that remind me of a hot cup of coffee. A handsome man with hair the same color as Sirena's is standing there, smiling down at us. He's dressed in a navy blue sports jacket, a white collared shirt and a Chanukah tie with dreidels on it. He's wearing a yarmulke. I've seen pictures of Sirena's brother, but I've never actually met him. The pictures don't do him justice. He's tall and muscular, but not too muscular. I could develop a serious crush on him if I let myself.
Sirena makes the introductions. "Byron's taking over for a few weeks as Beth David's rabbi because Rabbi Goldsmith is in the hospital."
Uh oh. I shouldn't think about Byron's muscles, or eyes the color of coffee or anything else. Not only is he a man of the cloth, he's Sirena's brother, and he's only here temporarily. I try to sound as bright as the flame on the menorah candles. "It's nice to meet you. How do you like Dannville so far?"
Oh, that smile is my undoing. "I haven't seen much of it except Sirena's diner and well, here. Plus the Galloway Inn. That's where I'm staying."
Sirena runs Sachs's Dannville Diner and her food is legendary. "Well, you won't starve and you couldn't pick a better place to stay." Boring. If he has insomnia I'm sure my conversation will cure it.
"Nice meeting you," Byron says. "I've got to…" He looks toward the bima and walks to the front of the sanctuary.
Nice butt.
Grandma agrees with my assessment, and Sirena glares at us. Oh, no. I'd voiced my opinion of Byron, the rabbi's, butt out loud. I can feel heat rising on my face. "I'm sorry, Sirena."
"Nu, Evie?" Grandma says. "Why apologize? It's the truth."
He's my best friend's brother. He's a rabbi. He's only here temporarily. I repeat those words in my head like the prayers from the service.
"I just found out he was taking the job yesterday," Sirena whispers. "He didn't know if he could get the time off."
I remember her telling me that he's the chaplain at a hospital in Boston, where he lives. "I understand."
After the service, we move to the room next to the sanctuary, where all of the tables are set up for the dinner. Everyone brought something and it's buffet style, so Sirena, Grandma Bernie and I serve ourselves.
"May I join you pretty ladies?" Byron asks after my grandma, Sirena and I sit down.
"Sure," Sirena says.
He's right next to me and I inhale the crisp, clean scent of soap. "I really enjoyed the service."
"Thanks. I had to put everything together in a hurry since I wasn't sure if I could get the time off. So Sirena tells me you're an EMT."
Finally, something I could discuss that wouldn't put him to sleep. I take bites of the brisket and potato pancakes some of the congregants had brought, and then talk. "Yes. I love it." I don't tell him that I'm on vacation because I was working too many hours, and snapping at patients and staff.  I also don't tell him that things always seem to go wrong during the holidays, at least for me. This year, it was my vacation, last year Max and I had decided we were better off as friends. "My parents wanted me to be a doctor and then a wife and mother. I struck out on both counts."
"Maybe you'll do that, too, someday," Grandma Bernie says.
"Maybe. How did you get the name Byron?"
The conversation flowed like the apple cider mocktails everyone was drinking. At least something is going right for a change. "My parents met in college in a romantic poets class. So my mom decided to name me Byron."
"Are you a poet?"
"Not really, although I've written a couple of songs." He gives an "aww shucks" shrug of his broad shoulders.
"Anything I've heard of?"
"No. I guess you could say I struck out on the poet/songwriter front."
Sirena hasn't said much; she's just eating her dinner and casting surreptitious glances at me and Byron when she thinks we're not looking. I remind myself to tell her that I'm not interested in her brother. Although he is cute. Okay, he's adorable, but there can't ever be anything between us, so I have to think about Brad Pitt or George Clooney or someone like that.

Nancy Goldberg Levine has been writing since she was seven. In 1999, she sold her first print romance novel, "Tempting Jonah." She has also sold more than seventy short stories. She writes sweet contemporary romantic comedies about every day people (no millionaires here). She self-published her first e-books, "Mr. Short, Dark…& Funny" and "Mr. Tall, Tan…& Tasteless" in October 2012. To see these and other books in the 'Practically Perfect Hero' series, check your online bookstore.
Blog: Laugh with Me at wordpress.com/nancygoldberglevine
Facebook page is under Nancy Levine.
Pinterest: (this has boards for my stories and my alter ego, Vi LaNance's stories and other fun stuff: https://www.pinterest.com/vilanance/

I'll be Home for Chanukah in the Let it Snow, 2016 Holiday Romances Collection is Ms. Goldberg Levine's debut story with Victory Tales Press.