Honorary Heartlette – Nancy Haddock

May 4, 2008 at 7:56 am | Posted in Honorary Heartlette, Nancy Haddock, writing | 47 Comments

The Long and Winding Road

I’ve been a member of RWA for 24 years now. Last February I sold my first book in a two-book contract to Berkley, and La Vida Vampire, my debut in this new series was released on April 1st.

So, was I a horrible writer during my first 23 years in RWA?

No. Though I’m a better writer now than I was then (ya think?), I placed in and won contests early on. I had a great agent within a few years of joining RWA. I received good rejection letters. Published friends who read my work asked why I wasn’t published yet.

So, why was my road to publication so long and winding? I attribute it to three main reasons.

First, balance in my writing life. When we join RWA, we tend to join one or more chapters. We may tend (like me!) to get involved in volunteering for the chapter, or even volunteering at the National level. I found myself accepting an appointment to serve an unexpired term on the RWA Board less than a year after I’d joined, and this was at a time when the Board members chaired virtually every job to be done. We had one full-time employee, and the organization was growing by leaps! Talk about time devouring! I met wonderful people who are still friends. I learned how to break my comfort zone wide open. I gleaned information about the publishing business just by having meals with other writers – some published, some not.

What I failed to do during all my Kamikaze volunteering days was to balance doing the jobs with doing the writing. I let job deadlines consume me instead of letting the flow of writing consume me. So my advice to those who tirelessly lend their expertise to organizations – writing, PTA, whatever – is to create balance in writing and volunteer activities. Find out what a job requires in as much detail as possible, including the daily/ weekly/ monthly time it takes. If this is a new kind of job for you, double the time you think you’ll spend on it. You may not use double the time, but if you don’t, you get to write!

A second reason for the winding road was that serious family issues came up, such as my middle management husband being “downsized” out of a job. During this period, I also faced challenges with my children, and I went back to teaching. I tried to write in spite of the chaos, but found myself frozen. I couldn’t write in the upheaval – not for publication anyway. I just couldn’t shake the internal editor who had me changing words before I’d written a complete sentence. And I don’t mean a compound, complex sentence! When the internal editor took over, concentration and confidence vanished.

So, if you have a yappy internal editor, I beg you to destroy that negative voice now! Think twice before you let him/ her out again. Ever. I let mine out during my revisions of La Vida Vampire, and banished her again within minutes. She hadn’t mellowed a bit, and still had nothing constructive to contribute! Whether internal or external, surround yourself with only the constructive voices!

SIDEBAR: One of the positive outcomes of going through intense family times was that I came out of them with clear experience in conflict, confrontation and combat. Since the major criticism of my writing had been that I hid behind humor rather than letting characters confront, the lessons paid off when I began writing in earnest again! There’s always an upside!

The last component of my long, winding road had to do with finding the courage to write what I wanted to, the way I wanted to, rather than “following the market.” I came into RWA in a time when new writers were expected to break into category first. If you proved yourself, you might move up to Single Title. Lead title. Mainstream. But you didn’t simply burst onto the scene in single title. In this sense, we all followed the market, more or less.

When I came back to writing for publication in the late 1990s, romance publishing was no longer quite so restrictive. For the first time, I wrote romantic suspense … with humor, though, so that didn’t pan out. When I moved to St. Augustine in 2002, I decided to release the stories I’d been working on in order to start fresh. I let the energy of my new hometown permeate me, and my story ideas. I was actually working on a cozy mystery series when the idea for La Vida Vampire gripped me and wouldn’t let go.

I’m still working on the cozy series, but my first loyalty is to Cesca, Saber and the gang of La Vida Vampire. It may have been a long and winding road that I wouldn’t wish for anyone else but we must all find – and follow – our own paths. I trust that yours will be shorter and straighter!


Thank you, Nancy!

We will be giving away a copy of La Vida Vampire to one lucky winner at the end of the week! Post a note to the comments section to be eligible. The winner will be chosen at random on Friday afternoon.



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  1. Nancy!
    I love this post! Although my time in RWA is in its relative infancy, I can already feel myself sliding down the precarious slopes you mentioned. Thank you so much for sharing your time, advice, and cautionary tales! What a great reminder that in belonging to a writer’s organization, never lose sight of the writer piece of the equation — sounds intuitive, I know, but the siren call of service can be very seductive . . .
    We are delighted to have you with us today — thank you!

  2. Hi Jessica!

    I love your phrase, “the siren call of service.” Yes, service can be seductive, and volunteering can provide terrific education and growth opportunities. Balance is the key, IMHO.

    Have a fabulous day, and thank you for inviting me to join you!


  3. Good morning, Nancy!

    I knew a lot of this about you (we have been friends for a while) but not all. I enjoyed reading your post.

    My own internal editor is the bane of my writing day. She loves to join the party just when I’m getting into the groove. So I hand her a candy bar and try to shove her back into her cage – with varying degrees of success, of course. lol
    Loved La Vida, Nancy. Congratulations, again.

    Tracy Garrett

  4. Oh, Nancy,

    that sounds eerily like what happened/is happening to me, with the volunteering, contest thing and serious family issues. Volunteering and contests are down to a manageable level. But I’m still stuck in the middle of “serious family issues” in spite of my best efforts.

    At least I’m writing again, for 6 long miserable years my characters had totally disappeared. Some days they’re still reluctant to come out to play but we’re getting along much better now.

    I like the idea of the move and releasing the old energy, etc. I don’t plan a move, but I do foresee yet another change coming and I’m trying to embrace it. And like, you, I’ve learned a lot during the turbulent years which I think has added to my writing.

    Technically I’ve been an RWA member for 15 years though I wasn’t able to write a big chunk of that time. Does that mean I have 8 more years to go? 🙂

    Really enjoyed reading your post, it makes me feel better.

    make it a magical day!

  5. Hi Nancy!
    I saw your email on Clues-n-News and popped on to say good morning. Your posting really hits my heart strings. I first joined RWA 26 years ago while expecting my first child. Family crises, business and a move to Europe convinced me to put my writing on the back burner, where it stayed until I rejoined RWA about five years ago. I’m still unpublished and still don’t prioritize my writing enough. Thanks for your insights and encouragement to stay the course… after all, the journey is as rich as the destination and sometimes the longer the path, the greater the ultimate enjoyment. Congratulations on your success and thanks for sharing!

  6. Hi Nancy.

    Kamikaze volunteering – I love that description. I’ve elevated that to an art form, sometimes in order to avoid writing. Lucky for me, the writing always pulls me back from the edge and actually helps me restore balance to my world.
    The other thing that restores my balance is reading fabulous fiction. La Vida Vampire definitely falls in that category! I’m glad you followed your heart and wrote this story. Now you’re leading the market instead of following. I can’t wait to read your cozy mysteries one of these days.
    Enjoy the light!

  7. Nancy,
    Because of the paths we took, we met as friends, as writers, but I, too, have been plagued by various life’s commitments and idiosyncrasies. I have also realized that paths grow and sometimes veer towards the unexpected, like screenwriting, production did for me. It is a path and challenge I have accepted and now truly engage in my writing, my life.

    I met you when Scriptscene was just a tiny dream. Years later, under your whip– errr wings, =) Scriptscene was elevated to another level of professionalism. For that I will always be grateful. Years of volunteering and a diverse life have given you the confidence, discipline and polish that you now weave into your writing, marketing and branding. Incredible to watch. I am in the middle of reading La Vida Vampire, love it, and eagerly look forward to reading Cesca’s next adventure.

    Nancy, it is an honor and pleasure to call you my friend. I continue to learn from you…


  8. Hi Nancy,

    Thanks for sharing your story. You are so deserving of your sucess. You stayed with it after all these years. You’ve given me hope. I’ve been a member of my local RWA chapter for 19 years. I’ve had short stories published. But my dream is to see my books in print or sell my scripts.

    Best to you,

  9. I really appreciate your encouraging article. Ann

  10. Thanks Nancy!

    I found your post amazingly encouraging. I’m a new writer and hearing how you persevered over the years to this new exciting place was really exciting.

    Good luck with La Vida Vampire!

  11. Nancy:
    Just wanted to drop by and say hi! Your story is one of encouragement and dedication to your inner muse. I have your book and when I finish the one I’m reading, it will be next! Looking forward to it!

  12. Hi Nancy,

    I came across your post on a day I was feeling particularly low about my writing career (publication no where on the horizon, a few contest fizzles), and your story was just what I needed. Thank you for giving me the encouragement to continue tap-tapping on my key board.
    Congrats on your success, you deserve every bit of it for hanging in there.

  13. Hi Nancy,

    I know exactly what you mean about volunteering. I am always tempted to take on more than I have time for.

    I only started writing fairly recently. Although part of me mourns the lost years before I ‘found my path’ another part acknowledges that I needed the experiences of life that filled those years to give me the understanding of ‘life the universe and everything’ to craft a good story. I’m a firm believer that things happen as they should when they should.

    Now is your time!


  14. Hi, Nancy.

    This post really hit home. I joined RWA 15 years ago. I’ve volunteered for a number of positions on my local chapter’s board. And lately I’m really biting off more than I can chew. I find I can’t say no to judging contests. I find they help me so much with my own writing. But I will get through it all and find time for the writing.

    Thanks for the inspiration.


  15. Nancy, I think you suffered from the same virus that afflicted me: “over-achiever-ness.” Always believing that we can do it all and forgetting how to say “NO!” or even, “Let me think on it.” Balance is so hard to achieve, but once it’s mastered everything seems to fall into place.

    It still takes me some doing to keep a balance; prioritizing can be so boring when I’d rather just sit and read or write.

  16. Hi Nancy,
    You’re a fabulous testament on the definition of perseverance. Great advice on time management. I find that most things take twice as long, if not more, to finish. I’m proud of you for being such an inspiration to so many of us writers, and mostly, for being you. *Hugs*

    Diana Cosby

  17. Nancy, thanks for sharing! A lot of this parallels my own writing journey. I hope I have a similar ending — although it’s not an ending, but a beginning of a different leg of the journey. 🙂

  18. Hi Tracy!

    Thank you for stopping by, and for your kind compliments on the post, and on La Vida Vampire!

    So, tell us, how do you handle your internal editor? Have you managed to shut her up entirely – ever? Does she always show up when you’re clicking along, or can you control her popping in?

    How about it, Gentle Commenters? How do you tame the beast?


  19. Diane, hi!

    I’m so sorry to hear you’re still struggling with family issues and general balance. Do you find you’re able to write in chaos any better than you used to be? I can, but some days it’s marginal. I pick a “lesser” task on those days – editing, note taking, research.

    I’m thrilled that your characters coming out to play more often, and I sincerely hope they start knocking on YOUR door to come play!

    I know not everyone can – or wants to! – move in order to clear out the old energy. Yet, sometimes just by cleaning my office space, or writing files, or the thousands of writing workshop notes and whatnot, we can “clear” the old.

    Since I certainly do NOT want it to be another 8 years for you to sell, I’m sending energy that you easily and effortlessly embrace the change coming in your life. That you write through it, and perhaps to it! And that you’ll enjoy every day of play time with your characters!


  20. Tracy, hi, and thanks so much for visiting from CNN!

    I love your phrase, “the journey is as rich as the destination and sometimes the longer the path, the greater the ultimate enjoyment.” You’re entirely correct! Writing is a process, and we must give ourselves permission to take the steps along the path. We must also be patient with the process and with ourselves. Writer “road rage” doesn’t do us one bit of good!

    My wish for you is that you prioritize your writing, beginning tomorrow! Reprioritize each day until that mindset is established. Sure, there will be things in life that knock you off-track, but they don’t have to keep you off track.

    Wow, how many of us have had the chance to live in Europe! That’s a whole bunch of stories waiting to happen!

    Thank you for your congrats on my success, and know I’m waiting to dance on the beach for YOURS!


  21. Misty! How wonderful to see you today!

    Thanks so much for your compliments on La Vida Vampire! I’m glad you enjoyed it, and even happier to hear you have a method for balancing your writing and volunteering. Even if it’s not a perfect system yet. 🙂

    Keep creating focus on your writing! And remember, none us of said, “I want to be a perpetual volunteer when I grow up!” Getting involved and giving back is fantastic, but keep time and energy for yourself, too!


  22. Okay, Neringa, your note has me in tears. You have SUCH and incredible spirit, and you do SO much for SO many people.

    Volunteering with Scriptscene was – IS – one of the most enjoyable gigs I’ve done, and mostly because of you. I’m agog at how much you get done in a single day, especially when you’re also screenwriting AND producing, AND working on other artists’ productions.

    You said: Years of volunteering and a diverse life have given you the confidence, discipline and polish that you now weave into your writing, marketing and branding.

    You’re right, and having known me so long, you can see the growth and the application of lessons learned. This comes back to “no experience is wasted.” We may not see what the value of an expereince is when we’re in the midst of it, but the value is there, and the payoff will be, too!

    Thank you so much for stopping to comment, and for your lovely compliment on La Vida Vampire. I’m tickled you’re enjoying it! Me? I can hardly wait until I see you accept the Ocsar for best original screenplay! The party will be on!!


  23. Hi Pat!

    Thank you so much for stopping to visit!

    Congratulations on the short stories you’ve had published! If your dream is to see your books in print AND sell your scripts, keep working! More, set your intent. “I will sell my books and screenplays.”

    That may sound lame, but setting your intent is a powerful tool. It focuses both your conscious and subconscious on the goal. We don’t say that we dream of going to the grocery store today. We say we intend to buy groceries, go to the bank, clean the house, whatever. I promise you, it’s more than semantics. It’s another level of focus!

    Let me know when you sell your first novel and screenplay. Hmmmm, we may have you and Neringa both on that red carpet at Oscar time!


  24. Ann and pbhearts,

    I’m so glad the article has been an encouragement to you both! Let me know when ya’ll sell, because I love to dance on the beach for good news!


  25. Hi Liese!

    I hope you’ll have fun with La Vida Vampire when you get to it. (So many books, so little time! :))

    Thank you so much for stopping to comment, and may you be writing like the wind today!


  26. Dear Nancy:

    I’m not a romance reader or writer, but you’re one of my dearest writing cyber friends and I wanted to say congratulations on your new book. It may have taken a long time, but I’m sure in retrospect it was for the best. I can see nothing but many more sales for you! Keep it up.


  27. Rashda, hi!

    I’m thrilled my journey gave you the encouragement to keep working! Oh, and don’t put too much stock in contests. They’re great when you final, better when you win, but they aren’t the be-all, end-all. Learn what you can from your feedback, and let the rest go. Easier said than done, I know, but you’ll get the hang of it!

    Thank you for visiting today, and thanks for your congratulations. Congrats to YOU for keeping on!


  28. Hi Helen!

    I love your realization that your “lost years” weren’t lost at all. Good for you!!

    Now may be “my” time, but it’s also yours, Ms. American Title Contest winner! I’m just thrilled for you, and I’ll be excited to have your book in my hot little hands next year!

    BTW, in case ya’ll don’t recognize some of the other awesome authors who’ve popped in, I’ll be mentioning them in a separate post.

    Again, Helen, that you for stopping by, and congrats again!


  29. Cindy, hi!

    Judging contests is wonderful! The downside is that they can consume as much time as doing a job in a chapter. More if you angst over each comment and score like I do.

    I was accidentally left off of a judging list not long ago due to a simple miscommunication. I was sorry it happened, and then saw it as a lesson. I was about to way over-commit myself again.

    Much as you may love helping other writers, and much as judging may help your writing, I urge you to limit yourself to no more than 3 contests a year that are spaced reasonably apart. Refocus your attention and intent on your own writing goals. You may find you’re a more effective judge when you’re not judging as often!

    Also remember, we seldom “find” time for writing. Create time to write by making it a priority!

    Not to sound bossy in the above statements, but I want to do long dances on the beach for all of you! :))

    Happy rest of your Sunday, and thank you for visiting!


  30. Hey, Kath, you’re so right about the overachiever-ness. It can be a curse!

    I remember people telling me, “Just say no.” I wasn’t supposed to offer any excuses, any reasons. The first time I did it, I was a wreck. The next times, it got easier and easier.

    The real lesson wasn’t just about saying no, though. I learned that I had been volunteering for jobs I didn’t remotely want to do. That led to overload and stress and resentment. Now I say no to jobs I don’t want to do, but I say Yes to things I do want to be involved in. I’m more discerning now.

    Cogratulations on finding ways to better balance your life, and thank you so much for visiting to lend your support!


  31. Hi Diana!

    Hugs to you for all YOUR accomplishments, and thank you for your comments. Truly, I’m happy if my story can inspire my sister (and brother) writers to persist in their goals!

    Hope the packing for your move to TX is going well, and that you’re making lots of time to write your next books!


  32. Hi Edie!

    You’re so close, I can taste it from Florida! I know you’ll be on the “now you’re published” part of the journey soon. Hang in there!!!

    Wow, when all of you sell, I’ll get to spend HOURS dancing on the beach. How fun will THAT be!


  33. Francelia!

    How great to see you! Thank you so much for stopping in today! Writing friends are writing friends, and I treasure them all!

    Thank you so much for your congratulations on La Vida Vampire! You know you’re right. I believe the timing was perfect, for whatever reason, and I’m just happy I sold while I can still REMEMBER I sold. :))

    I’ll see you in cyber space, dear heart! Meantime, write like the wind. Or at least a stiff breeze!


  34. Hi All!

    I said I’d mention those published authors who took the time to visit and comment. (Or those I’m sure are pubbed.) Some provided their web site URLs, others didn’t. So I’m outing them. 🙂

    Tracy Garrett – http://www.tracygarrett.com/

    Misty Evans – http://www.readmistyevans.com/

    Kath Calaro – http://www.kathleencalarco.com/index.php

    Helen Scott Taylor – http://www.helenscotttaylor.com/

    Diana Cosby – http://www.dianacosby.com/

    Liese, Sherwood-Fabre

    These are fabulous ladies, and I encourage you to look up their books to see if you might like what they write.

    ALSO, if I have missed someone, mea culpa! Please add your name and URL to the list!


  35. Nancy,
    I really enjoyed your story. Congratulations for sticking with it and for hooking the golden ring! I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s a lot of sacrifice involved in getting published and staying published. With a full-time job, two kids, a house, a dog, a husband, and a widowed father, there were a lot of reasons not to write. A few years back, I started saying no to a lot of things I used to say yes to. I only volunteer for things at my kids’ schools that directly affect them. I gave up my usual two social beers in favor of Diet Coke so I wouldn’t be too tired to put in a couple of hours when I got home. I made a conscious choice to work seven nights a week toward my goal of being a published author. I even discovered that you CAN sneak in twenty minutes on the computer after you put the Thanksgiving turkey in the oven, and after the kids open their gifts on Christmas, they are occupied, so… :–)) Relentless perseverance paid off with a sale last September. The only thing that’s really changed since then is that I occasionally give myself a day off now–but not TOO often.

  36. […] launch party for a debut author and dear friend – Saturday night I attended an opera recital – And yesterday, I hope you all stopped by the blog to help us welcome another dear friend, Nancy Haddock, as our […]

  37. Nancy
    So glad you shared your story and reminded us that it’s often the tortoise, not only the hare, who gets published! Okay, bad literary analogy, but you know what I mean!

  38. Hi Marie!

    CONGRATULATIONS on your first sale and upcoming release! You’re web site is lovely, and here’s to Line of Scrimage being a big hit! (I love the blurb!!)

    I love your power of persistence story, and I’m so happy you shared it with us! You rock! And do enjoy those occasional days off. We have to refill the well of creativity somehow!


  39. Meg, hi!

    Yes, it can be discouraging when we hear of new writers selling their first books in one or two or three years. Keep cheering for them, tho! It means the market is healthy!

    The key thing to me is that, be one a hare, a tortoise, or something in between, there’s room for all of us!

    Have a fabulous week, Meg, and thank you so much for stopping by!


  40. Nancy – your post is inspiring and came at exactly the right time for me. Writing the book of your heart, rather than following trends, can be really difficult. I’m about to start, so wish me luck!

  41. […] debut book, LA VIDA VAMPIRE, at the end of the week.  Please visit Nancy’s guest blog on The Long and Winding Road and post a comment to be eligible.  A lucky winner will be chosen at random on Friday […]

  42. Shelley! How are you?

    Good luck as you begin wrting the book of your heart — or the one simply screaming to be written! I know you’ll succeed!

    Thank you so much for stopping by, and mea culpa for not getting to your answer sooner!


  43. What a journey! Kudos to you for sticking it out.

    I’m having a HUGE Book Bash as well. Come on by.

  44. […] the Purple Hearts blog a few days ago, and Nancy Haddock was their special guest. Nancy’s post was about the road she’s traveled to become published. BTW – Nancy’s new release La […]

  45. […] not to mention being in the class when it happened.  Plus, I was even more excited knowing that Nancy was blogging for us this month […]

  46. […] the Purple Hearts blog a few days ago, and Nancy Haddock was their special guest. Nancy’s post was about the road she’s traveled to become published. BTW – Nancy’s new release La […]

  47. […] a copy of Nancy Haddock’s debut novel, La Vida Vampire. To be eligible for the drawing, post a comment to Nancy’s Honorary Heartlette guest post by the end of the day […]

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