Armitage Authors interview with Nicole Clarkston

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Did you miss us? After a year-long reprieve, The Armitage Authors Network is happy to be back! Our first duty upon our return is to interview fellow Armitage adorer and N&S fiction writer, Nicole Clarkston. If you haven’t already discovered Nicole’s work, then we’re doubly pleased to introduce you to her!

Armitage Authors: You’ve been a fan of Richard’s for a good while. Tell us a little about how you discovered Mr. Armitage.

Nicole Clarkston: North and South! I was stripping and refinishing my wood floors one week in the summer of 2011, when my husband was out of town. I had small children and I would put them to bed and work all night, so I needed something for noise while I worked. I had moved all the furniture out of the downstairs, so I dragged my laptop around the house and queued up my Netflix account. I found this miniseries I’d been wanting to watch, and immediately I was sorry that I had waited so long to see it. What a glorious piece of fim-making!

The moment I saw that stern glower from the scaffolding of the cotton mill, I could see that this actor truly lived and breathed his role. He could do more with a flicker of an eyelash than most actors can do with explosive emoting. He is so subtle and powerful that he brought John Thornton to life in a way that I do not think any other could have. He began the movie scarcely likeable, but by the end he had so masterfully filled the part and grown the character that I had ceased all my work just to stare at the screen. I think I may have even been drooling. Just a little.

What character was it that first impelled you to write fan fiction? 

I believe it was Thornton. I found him inspiring because of what he had overcome to position himself at the peak of his world, but he is also so vulnerable when he discovers that he can’t earn his way into what he desires most.

One of the things I loved about Mr Armitage’s portrayal is his artless, honest expressions. I grew up the daughter of a simple, hardworking man who speaks little but clearly, and he reinforces his words with deeds. I learned to value those qualities, and Armitage-as-Thornton possesses such strength and dignity that I instantly felt that his was a character to be trusted and respected.

Atop these other virtues we then add the rare glimmer of his heart-stopping smiles, and we can easily see that this is a character of depth and passion as well. Armitage captures this complex man with both precision and power, recognizing that the industrial titan of a man carried around with him a wound which had never healed and an ache for more from this life.

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One of Nicole’s favorite Thornton smiles

What was your first published work?

The first book I ever wrote was No Such Thing as Luck, a variation which picks up during the time after Mr Hale’s death. Margaret has gone to live in London, and she and Thornton never expect to see one another again. The alteration to this story is Mr Bell’s machinations, setting both Margaret and Thornton off to Spain- coincidentally at the same time.

No Such Thing

While I was working on No Such Thing as Luck, I had also started writing Rumours and Recklessness, a Pride and Prejudice variation. By the time it published a few months after my first book, I was already working on Northern Rain, another N&S story. I seem to like alternating, so The Courtship of Edward Gardiner, another P&P story followed Northern Rain.

I am currently continuing that pattern, of always having both a N&S story and a P&P story in the works. The two worlds reflect well off one another in my mind. Thornton and Darcy are of different characters and backgrounds, but share the same integrity and passionate love. Margaret and Elizabeth are likewise dissimilar in personality, but in essentials they possess a common strength and dignity.

My current N&S story is a format I have never before tried. The main narrative flows concurrently with a series of flashbacks, if you will, mirroring the past into the present and shining light on the depths of these character-building moments. I am absolutely loving getting to know Thornton in his developmental years, and I keep picturing a very youthful Richard in the role. He was pretty cute at age 16, if you ask me!

Were you a writer before you found Richard Armitage?

I suppose that would depend upon how you define “writer”. At age 8 I would lie in bed after watching Walt Disney’s Robin Hood and spin further yarns about the characters in my head. In Jr High I was constantly toting around a notebook full of stories I was writing, but I never allowed anyone to read them. In my freshman year of college, I took a writing class from the most detail-oriented professor on campus and loved every minute of it. By the time I was a young mom, my writing had taken the form of anecdotal emails composed to amuse my family members (usually after some horribly embarrassing parenting episode had taken place and there was nothing left to do but laugh about it). I continued to daydream my own fictional adventures, but though I always had this desire to write a book, I never had the courage to do so.

Perhaps it was Richard’s performance, perhaps it was the timing, but eventually I couldn’t stand it any longer. I kept seeing John Thornton and Margaret Hale’s story playing over and over, in so many different ways, and I was distractingly obsessed with them for well over three years before I finally gave in. The idea for No Such Thing As Luck had been tormenting me for days, until I couldn’t sleep one night, so I crept out of bed and opened up my laptop. I tried to tell myself that I would “just” try writing one book, and I wouldn’t allow any of my friends to read it. I was terrified of showing it to anyone I knew because I was just certain that it wouldn’t be their “thing”. It was better in my mind to present my writing instead to total strangers who already knew and loved North and South.

You must know by now that I have overcome my initial fears. Since that first terrifying night at my laptop, I have published a second North and South inspired novel, Northern Rain, as well as two Pride and Prejudice inspired stories (Rumours and Recklessness and The Courtship of Edward Gardiner). I also have a third North and South story in the works entitled Nowhere but North, as well as a third Pride and Prejudice book titled These Dreams. Both are on track to be published in 2017.

Northern Rain

I continue to refuse to allow my personal friends to read my work because I am such a bashful writer. The joy I have found in other North and South lovers, however, more than makes up for any lack of courage on my part. I have met friends in nearly all corners of the world through the magic of self-publishing and social media, and it has been a privilege to share in their enjoyment of Gaskell’s amazing story and the talented actor who carried the torch.

 Is fanfic just a hobby for you or do you hope to go further with your writing?

I think there is a stigma attached to the word “fanfic” and yes, perhaps someday I would like to write a completely original story just to say that I did it. I write what I love, however, and what I love most right now is these characters. I enjoy spending time with them and reading other works about them, so at the moment I am wholeheartedly devoted to the world of fanfic.

What would you ask Richard Armitage if you bumped into him today?

Oh, my, I think I would be too bashful to say anything at all! I wouldn’t want to pry into his personal life, so if I had the courage to speak, I would probably ask something ridiculous, like, “What it was like to go galumphing across the wilds of New Zealand wearing those massive boots in The Hobbit?” Or perhaps I would ask, “Exactly how many takes were required to film ‘The Kiss,’ and who was the lucky woman who taught you to do that?” Or, in reality, I would probably just offer him a cup of coffee, and would probably spill it on him. He’s probably safer if I never bump into him.

Nicole

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Nicole-Clarkston-1730162270587796/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/N_Clarkston

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14175642.Nicole_Clarkst

Exploring the Creative Process-Part IX: Interview with Abby Vegas

Just in time to bid farewell to another month and celebrate the release of her Lucas North-inspired novel, Clean Break, here’s our interview with Abby Vegas. abby_vegas
What type of environment do you need to write?
Someplace comfortable! In the summer I write on my screen porch, and in cold weather I write inside by the fire. Background music is a must for getting words on the page, but when I’m editing I usually prefer to work in silence.
How do your ideas come to you? Do you always write them or do you let them disappear?
Clean Break was my first novel and I drew inspiration from so many different places — movies, books, fairy tales, Spooks, real-life experience, and pure imagination. It took some time for the whole thing to come together. In the process I’ve absolutely let some ideas come and go. You can’t pack everything into one novel.
Do you plan a story from the beginning to end or start with an idea and let the chapters come to you as they do?
Clean BreakA little of both, although I think I veer closer to flying by the seat of my pants. With Clean Break I had a definite idea of where I wanted to start and finish, but how I’d get there was still a mystery when I started writing. The characters didn’t really come to life in my head until I had them on the page, talking and moving and thinking, making mistakes and learning from them. And some directions I initially took the story didn’t work, so I had to rethink my approach and try again.
 
Do you prefer writing easy, quick stories or long, layered stories?
 
Both! Short stories are a lot of fun because they don’t take two years to write (and edit and publish.) But there’s something very satisfying about a long-form story, too, and that’s why I wanted to try my hand at writing a novel. There’s freedom to explore in all that space, and I loved bringing in the secondary characters and taking time with some of the thematic elements.
 
Which do you find easier to write: dialogue or description – or are they equally hard/easy?
 
Writing dialogue is definitely easier for me. Description and introspection are a hard nut to crack – but it’s immensely satisfying to nail it, which I hope I do on occasion.
 
Is there anything that you won’t write or feel uncomfortable writing?
 
I wouldn’t say I *won’t* write it, but explicit sex scenes and erotica are not my forte. Given a choice, I’ll leave that to the experts.
 
What do you do to cure writer’s block? What advice can you give to new writers who might be scared to post their stories?
 
The only cure for writer’s block is to write. I’ve learned to embrace the wretched first draft as a necessary part of the process.
 
My advice to a new writer would be: start small. Try writing a one-shot fanfiction, post it on an appropriate site of your choosing, and see what kind of feedback you get. Then repeat the process. Fanfiction is an amazing point of entry for new fiction writers (I call it my gateway drug) because you have this built-in community of voracious readers and fans who are already invested in the characters and their stories. And connect with other writers in your genre! The fanfiction sites are an excellent resource for that kind of networking.
 
What is your favorite book and why?
 
Shining Through by Susan Isaacs — I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read this novel. It’s a historical romantic spy-thriller chick-lit masterpiece with a kick-ass heroine. It’s just so good.
 
Abby´s Official Website:
http://www.AbbyVegasAuthor.com (includes bonus material for Clean Break + four nonfiction RA fandom adventures)
Twitter:
You can get her “Clean Break” at Amazon.com and AmazonUK.
 Visit Abby’s site and read the first ten chapters of the novel for free: FREE SAMPLE

Exploring the Creative Process-Part VIII: Interview with Hazel Osmond

We’re bidding farewell to April with a new instalment in our Creative Process Series. This time it’s Hazel Osmond’s turn.

hazelWhat type of environment do you need to write?

It doesn’t have to be absolutely quiet, but it does have to be non-distracting. So somewhere with background noise is OK as long as it’s not too loud. If there’s music playing, it either has to be such a familiar song I’m not really tuning into it, or have no words at all.

How do your ideas come to you? Do you write them down or let them disappear?

In that time between waking up and being fully awake, I often get ideas come to me and usually I have to write them down, having learned that otherwise they flit away.  I like to go out for walks too because there’s something about the rhythm of walking that generates ideas or helps me sort out plot niggles. Those walking ideas stay with me till I can get to some paper.

Do you plan a story from the beginning to the end or start with an idea and let the chapters come to you as they will? 

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I plan, but not too tightly. So I’ll rough out chapters and know how the story will end and the major events along the way. I’ll also make sure I get any timelines right at this stage, so for example, if there’s a seventeen year old appearing in the present day story, I make sure I have birth dates and conception dates right. But it’s loose scaffolding rather than a tight plan. If I plan too much, when I come to write the whole thing, the freshness is gone. Often as I write, new twists and turns develop so there’s room for me to surprise myself.

Do you prefer writing easy quick stories or long, layered ones?

faceI don’t know if there is such a thing as an easy, quick story! I’m going to say that as a short story writer I do like the snapshot of a life it offers and the way it makes you use every word to the greatest effect. On the other hand, there’s something satisfying in drawing all the different threads of a complicated plot together … Sorry, I can’t decide!

Which do you find easier to write: dialogue or description or are they equally hard/easy?

Definitely dialogue. I’m always eavesdropping on conversations to make sure I get the rhythms right.

Is there anything that you won’t write or feel uncomfortable writing?

I would find it hard to write about child murder or violence against the vulnerable – I became much more sensitive to anything happening to children once I had my own.

What do you do to cure writer’s block? What advice can you give to new writers who might be scared to post their stories? 

The Mysterious Miss Mayhew appears courtesy of Hazel Osmond

The Mysterious Miss Mayhew appears courtesy of Hazel Osmond

Just try to keep writing in the hope that something good will emerge. Because I have spent years as a paid advertising copywriter, I have learned that you can’t wait for inspiration to show up, you just have to get the words on the page and work from there. Having said that, I had a break from writing last year following a number of deaths in the family – I needed the break from mining my own emotions to create emotional stories. Luckily it has passed and I’m writing again.

To new writers – if you’re really scared to post, find a good beta reader who can help you get your story in the best shape and then go for it. And then, well, try to put your fear in perspective … most people are kind and supportive and those who aren’t are really few and far between. And really, should you let what ‘might’ happen stop you from expressing yourself? No … do it!

What is your favorite book and why? grace

‘Vanity Fair’ by William Thackeray. Layered, complex plot; intrigue; love; battles and an amoral female protagonist in Becky Sharpe. A huge, witty, satirical blockbuster of a book!

 

 

 

Visit Hazel’s official site: www.hazelosmond.co.uk

Contact her on Twitter

Get her books from AmazonUs or AmazonUK.

Exploring the Creative Process-Part VII: Interview with Charlotte Hawkins

The TempestHere’s a new instalment of our Writing Process Series to inaugurate our 2016 posts. This time we get some insight into the matter from Charlotte Hawkins, the published author of a well-known Gisborne trilogy.

Enjoy and get ready for more interviews in the coming weeks.


What type of environment do you need to write?

 
Solitude and quiet. I find it impossible to work when other people are around, and most any noise breaks my concentration.

How do your ideas come to you? Do you always write them or do you let them disappear? The BARON

 
They just pop into my head. I have to write them down or they vanish.

Do you plan a story from the beginning to end or start with an idea and let the chapters come to you as they do? 

I plan everything as it comes to me. My “Muse” dictates everything, so I rarely have a set path to follow.

Do you prefer writing easy, quick stories or long, layered stories?
 
Layered stories, for sure. When a story comes into my head, there are so many images and details floating around in my brain that I can’t contain them all in a short story. I just have too much to say.

MY LADYWhich do you find easier to write: dialogue or description or are the equally hard/easy?

I think I’m much better at writing dialogue. It’s not that I dislike writing description. I love it just as much. But I find that the voices of the characters speak to me in my head. They’re alive and say exactly what they need to. I just write it down.

Is there anything that you won’t write or feel uncomfortable writing?

 
I don’t think I would ever write mysteries or thrillers. I have little interest in the darker topics those kinds of stories sometimes take. I feel there’s too much darkness in the world already.

What do you do to cure writer’s block?

I wish I had a real cure. Some writer’s have it, but I don’t. I just have to wait it out.

What advice can you give to new writers who might be scared to post their stories?Grace

Find a good beta, preferably a fellow writer. Keep your work between the two of you until you feel comfortable sharing. Then, move on to writing groups. You’ll most likely find that your fellow writers are your best cheering section and your greatest sources of advice. After all, they’re in the same boat as you.

What is your favorite book and why? 

 
Jane Eyre, bar none. I’ve never felt such a spiritual connection to another story.

Visit Charlotte’s official blog: https://fromthequilltip.wordpress.com/

Contact her on Twitter or Facebook.

Get her books from AmazonUs or AmazonUK.

Sample the first Chapters of her latest book, The Grace Emancipation, on her blog: https://fromthequilltip.wordpress.com/the-grace-emancipation/ (updates are found on the blog’s homepage).

Exploring the Creative Process-Part VI: Interview with Catherine Winchester

We bid farewell to another Holiday Season with the sixth and penultimate instalment of our Creative Process series. This time we chat  with  bestselling romance author, Catherine Winchester. Cath

What type of environment do you need to write?

As long as my emotions are stable, I can write anywhere.

How do your ideas come to you?

Usually at night. I suffer with insomnia so that’s how I entertain myself until sleep claims me.

Do you always write them or do you let them disappear?

I write the ones I remember in the morning. Often I’ll be thinking about how to continue an existing story though, not a new one.

Do you plan a story from the beginning to end or start with an idea and let the chapters come to you as they do?513VLS-pWmL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_

I know the beginning, the end, and a few plot points I want to hit along the way, the rest I leave up to the characters. I find that if I plan too deeply, the characters stop talking to me.

Do you prefer writing easy, quick stories or long, layered stories?

I prefer longer stories, at least 30,000 words, usually closer to 60,000 plus.

Which do you find easier to write: dialogue or description or are the equally hard/easy?

I find dialogue easier because my characters essentially write that themselves. I think as a side effect of having a dyslexic mind, I find it hard to write evocative descriptive prose.

Is there anything that you won’t write or feel uncomfortable writing?512rbiM1BjL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Not much. My bad guys sometimes do things that I personally find distasteful and I won’t be graphic about things like that, I write to entertain my audience, not frighten them, so I don’t shy away from any topic but I hope I handle them with sensitivity.

What do you do to cure writer’s block?

Read. Other people’s writing usually inspires me.

It’s been harder than usual over the last year, I’ve been blocked a few times because I think I’ve been battling a tiny bit of depression after I lost my favourite dog, but I try to make hay while the sun shines. Right now my muse and I are engaged in battle of wills where I refuse to start anything new until she helps me finish a half written book. I’m not sure who will win at this point.

What advice can you give to new writers who might be scared to post their stories?51n7-paTHCL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_

It’s worth the risk. There are so few trolls on the internet and most people are kind. Plus, it’s the internet so if you’re really worried, sign up for fanfic.net, Wattpad, AO3 or Tumblr under a pseudonym. No one needs to know it’s you writing.

What is your favourite book and why?

I can’t possibly choose one! Some of them though, are

“The Watchers” by Dean Koontz. I love his writing because before I even understood why some authors turned me off and angered me, he was writing complex, strong female characters that I could relate to. This one also has a dog as a main character. How can you argue with that?

22533482“Pride and Prejudice” is a great example of people not changing exactly, but overcoming their flaws. I believe the best relationships make both parties better than they are alone, and P&P is a great example of that with added (rather cutting) insights into the social mores of the day.

“North and South” – again, for similar reasons as above. N&S also adds a layer of social issues to the plot, which gives more depth to an already interesting story. I love the insights into Margaret in the book too. Thornton is open but Margaret is very reserved and I loved the experience of her seeming rude to Thornton not because she looked down on him (although she did a bit) but simply because she had no idea how to deal with him, like tradesmen were some exotic race that society ladies were slightly frightened of. She has to overcome her sheltered upbringing and prejudices, while Thornton has to open his heart to the plight of his workers, and see that Margaret’s point of view is very valid, if slightly misguided at times.51+2mMDeJJL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_

I’m sure once I sent this I’ll think of a dozen more but for now, I’ll leave it at 3 favourites.

Visit Catherine’s official site: http://www.cswinchester.net/

You can also find her on Twitter. To purchase any of CatheRine’s works, including her North & South novels, go to AmazonUS or AmazonUK.

Exploring the Creative Process, Part V: Interview with Julia Daniels

We welcome the last fortnight of 2015 with the fifth instalment in our Creative Process series. This time we chat  with  another published romantic author, Julia Daniels.Julia

What type of environment do you need to write?

I have two wonderful teenagers in my house. I thought when they finally reached this age, they would be less needy of my time, but I was wrong! I try to be wherever they are, because I want to be around them as much as I can before they leave home!

So, to avoid distractions and still be somewhat accessible, I wear headphones and listen to music to drown out the noise from their video games and whatever Netflix show my daughter happens to be watching. I create a playlist for whichever book I am writing at the time, with a certain theme to the music. For example, when I wrote Master of Her Heart, I used a lot of British tunes, classical music they may have listened to at the time, or music with lyrics that reminded me of scenes from the book or mini-series. It usually puts me in the right frame of mind as I write, too.master

How do your ideas come to you?

My ideas usually start with the characters. I think about what odd situations I can create for them to fall into. Mr. Thornton is hard to manipulate much, he’s pretty perfect the way he is, but Miss Hale… now she definitely needs her head adjusted from time to time!

My latest idea came about in such an odd way. A friend of mine develops cross stitch, rug hooking and needle punch patterns. She was selected as a finalist in a contest Martha Stewart was running at her website for “Handmade in America” products. Well, my friend didn’t win, but the company that did is a family-run sock manufacturer in a sleepy town in the south. Alarm bells went off in my head and immediately I had Thornton as a sock manufacturer in the south and Margaret a snooty gal from the north. This one will be a contemporary novel. I cannot wait to write it!

Do you plan a story from the beginning to end or start with an idea and let the chapters come to you as they do?earl

I started using a new software called Scrivener that lets me skip around. So, on the current book I’m working on for my upcoming Mill Master’s series, I had all these scenes way later in the novel suddenly popping in my head. With this software I can add whatever I want and not get lost in the storyline.

Usually, I have the major plot points and characters in my head from start to finish, but there are often scenes and incidents that suddenly appear as I write, so I have to be flexible to let the characters lead the story!

Which do you find easier to write: dialogue or description or are the equally hard/easy?

Good dialogue is the key to a good book! It shows the interaction of the characters, and characters are the driving force of the book. Description, of course, draws the pretty picture of the scene, but without strong characters and snappy dialogue the book falls flat for me.

Is there anything that you won’t write or feel uncomfortable writing?duchess

I am not a big fan of erotica or sexually explicit romance. That’s not to say there won’t ever be flush-worthy scenes in my novels, but sex for sex sake won’t happen. I’m also not very comfortable with child abuse or graphic incidents of harm to animals or people.

What advice can you give to new writers who might be scared to post their stories?

Go for it! I’m hungry for new stories, and new authors. Remember there is no “grade” associated with your submission and the comments I have received are very kind and supportive. Take a risk, you will be really glad that you tried! Just make sure you are willing to keep up with your stories. I get super frustrated when I get addicted to a story and then it’s never updated.

What is your favorite book and why?choices

Oh so many! The Little House on the Prairie Series, Sarah Plain and Tall, Pride and Prejudice and of course North and South (although I do like many of the adaptations better!).

Visit Julia’s official site: https://juliadaniels.wordpress.com

You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter. To purchase Master of her Heart or any of Julia’s works, go to AmazonUS or AmazonUK.

Sample the first chapters of her latest North & South story, “Milton’s Mill Master: A Variation of North & South”, on Wattpad.

ETA: Julia’s posting a Christmas story that will serve as an epilogue to her North & South novel “Master of her Heart”. You can find it on Wattpad: “A Mill Master’s Christmas”

 

 

Exploring the Creative Process, Part IV: Interview with Nancy Klein

We invited Thornton and Guy fan fiction  author Nancy Klein to share how she works and offer some advice.

GWIW

What type of environment do you need to write?

Quiet helps. A cup of coffee. I’ll often sit down to write after I’ve just exercised or done a bit of meditation and my mind is quiet.

 
How do your ideas come to you? Do you always write them or do you let them disappear?
A lot of my ideas come when I’m doing my daily walk. I’ll just go along day dreaming and things will often pop into my head and I’ll play with them. I try to write them down when I get home-this works sometimes, and sometimes the ideas are gone. Ideas also come to me in my sleep, but I never remember to keep pen and paper by the bed.
Nancy Klein
Nancy Klein
Do you plan a story from the beginning to end or start with an idea and let the chapters come to you as they do?
I have to have a plan from beginning to end–not every detail, but just to know where the main thrust of the story is going to go.
 
Do you prefer writing easy, quick stories or long, layered stories?
Long, layered stories are what I write, even when I think I’m going to create a quick story. Ideas end up branching off one another, and the story sometimes takes a detour or two.
 
Which do you find easier to write: dialogue or description or are the equally hard/easy?
Dialogue is by far the easiest for me–my betas often have to prod me to put more details in my descriptions.
 
Is there anything that you won’t write or feel uncomfortable writing?
I won’t write detailed sex scenes–I feel silly doing it. 
[Armitage Authors note: Don’t believe that her stories lack passion, however! Nancy’s sex scenes pack a powerful punch without all the mechanical details.]
 
What do you do to cure writer’s block? What advice can you give to new writers who might be scared to post their stories?
Just keep writing, even if you do a few pages and throw them away. Keep at it. Write descriptions of your characters, things they might say. Try writing the last chapter first, just for fun. Everyone is afraid of posting their stories–I still am, and I’ve posted three pretty long ones. Ask someone else who writes to look at your story. I have the best betas in the world–they make sure I stay true to the characters and details, and nag me when I’ve gone too long without posting (like now, ahem). Also, reading helps me. I will read something wonderful–often poetry–and it will inspire me to get in front of the computer again.
 
What is your favorite book and why?
I don’t have a favorite book–it seems like every fifth book I read is my new favorite. But there are some that I read over and over again, and I feel like they are fresh that 20th, 30th time–North and South, Wives and Daughters, Persuasion, Jane Eyre, Shirley. Right now I am in love with Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being. What she does with point of view and plot is amazing.
 
howfartheworldwillbend
Nancy’s North and South story, How Far the World Will Bend, is available at Amazon here.
And don’t miss her fantastic Guy and Marian story, Grant What I Wish, at Wattpad.com here.