Have you ever wondered what it takes to bring your work of fiction or non-fiction from idea to publication? In this enlightening interview with Nicki Pascarella, author of 5 published books (with a few more coming), you get a peek behind the curtain for what it takes to write, edit, and publish your book. You’ll learn why Nicki loves Wild Rose Press (featured in an earlier episode) and get a sneak peek into her most recent book, Troubles In Bellmount, A Miranda Albright, PhD Mystery. Dr. Miranda Albright is a socially inept and brilliant young professor who moves to a new town and encounters an incredible mystery that she is uniquely suited to help solve. Troubles In Bellmount is released as of today, May 16, 2022 and can be found at your favorite booksellers or on Amazon.
02:00 Why Nicki loves Wild Rose Press (her publishing house)
04:40 About Nicki’s newest book: Troubles In Bellmount, A Miranda Albright, PhD Mystery (released today, 5/16/2022)
08:15 To self-publish, traditional publish, or hybrid publish?
12:30 The importance of giving your book a rest and editing/writing in an active voice
15:00 Submitting query letters to agents and publishers, and handling rejection
18:30 A newer genre emerges: New Adult
23:00 Growing as an author
25:00 Steamy Cairo Nights – Erotic novella coming soon as part o the Passport to Pleasure series published by Wild Rose Press
About Nicki Pascarella:
With the help of two hyperactive Shetland Sheepdogs, Nicki writes Women’s Fiction, Romantic Mysteries, Humor, Romance, and Paranormal Romance. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and teenage daughter. When she isn’t writing and editing you will find her running, and belly dancing.
Resources Mentioned In This Episode:
Troubles In Bellmount: https://www.nickipascarella.com/books
Wild Rose Press: https://wildrosepress.com/
A Peek Under The Skirt Of Romance Book Publishing with Rhonda Penders, Editor-in-Chief of Wild Rose Press: https://themediacasters.com/a-peek-under-the-skirt-of-romance-book-publishing-with-rhonda-penders-editor-in-chief-of-wild-rose-press/
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Find The Best Match To Publish Your Book with Nicki Pascarella, Author of Troubles In Bellmount
Julie Lokun: Oh, this is probably our favorite recording ever.
Right? Corinna. It has to be… Because we are all together. That’s right. Business besties. There’s Corinna Bellizzi, Julie Lokun, and
Nicki Pascarella: Nicki Pascarella that’s right.
Julie Lokun: Nicki Pascarella.
Corinna Bellizzi: Well, she’s one of my favorite authors. She’s amazing.
Julie Lokun: Nicki is a published author. She’s going on her 1, 2, 3 fourth, fifth. This is going to be your fifth book published, traditional publishing all the way.
And you’re the one that really taught me all about publishing. And not only is she Nicki Pascarella she. Is our editor and chief of The Mediacasters Publishing House, which is an arm of The Mediacasters, because the media, isn’t just all about podcasting, either even though Corinna and I that’s what we think, but it’s not just about podcasting.
Corinna Bellizzi: Yep. And she’s even helping us finalize and get complete our book, Audiocasters just in time for PodFest at the end of the month.
Julie Lokun: Exactly
Corinna Bellizzi: by the skin of our teeth, just to get, you know, the Kindle version and possibly a few print versions in hand just in time for that show. So thank you, Nicki, for all of your hard work.
Nicki Pascarella: Oh, it’s great. I’m having a great time. It’s my dream to do this kind of stuff.
Julie Lokun: So the big news is that Nicki has a book that is launching May 16th, Troubles and Bellmount. Tell us about that. Tell us about Wild Rose Press because Corinna and I love ourselves some Wild Rose.
We love Rhonda Penders. She literally was, has been our number one ranked podcast episode.
Corinna Bellizzi: I think it’s because we had so much darn fun on that show.
Julie Lokun: She said a lot of bad words. So feel free to swear all you want.
Corinna Bellizzi: We marked it explicit. I think that might be why.
Nicki Pascarella: Yeah, I really, I absolutely love Rhonda Penders and RJ.
They are in the ladies in charge of the Wild Rose Press, which is an amazing publisher. It’s an independent publisher, but it’s a huge, independent publisher. They have thousands of titles. And I think for my estimate, it looks to me like they might put out almost a book a day, they have over 30 editors.
I’ve made some wonderful friends with the other authors and we call ourselves roses in the garden. And so Rhonda and RJ have their editors go out and scout for writers. They go through piles of all the manuscripts and all the queries that they get, and they look for, authors with potential.
When I started my query, process and looking into traditional publishing, I knew that’s what I wanted. I knew I wanted a traditional publisher. I knew I wanted to have editors that were going through my work. Even if it meant that I was rejected or even if it meant that it was taking a little bit longer than self publishing. I have nothing against self-publishing, it is awesome to be able to self-publish, but I wanted a company behind me.
I wanted a publisher behind me. I wanted editors and I wanted them to tell me if my work wasn’t ready. So I only wanted to put my stuff out there when it was absolutely ready. So wild rose, I think the wonderful thing about it is Rhonda has her editor. She says, go out there and find writers go find people with potential.
So her editors go out there and they read through the piles. My editor, the woman who took a chance on me, is named Claudia Fallon. I absolutely love her, but she picked my Belmont out of the pile. And here I am today, I now have, three books contracted with the Wild Rose Press. And I have a couple more submitted that I’m waiting to hear back from them.
Corinna Bellizzi: So as you architected these stories, you really put this incredible. Doctor in the center of it, Miranda Albright. I want to know how you work to create this character and how much of her is rooted in, I don’t know. Self-perception, let’s just say?
Nicki Pascarella: Dr. Miranda Albright is a very young college professor.
She is in her mid twenties and she is already a doctor. And that sounds impossible. You think that wouldn’t happen? My best friend from high school happened to have earned her PhD and been a doctor by the time she was in her mid twenties. So Miranda’s brilliant, but she’s socially inept.
I don’t think that there’s very much of me in Miranda because, um, I’m not a college professor, although I am a high school teacher, so I didn’t know what it was like to be young and to go out there and be in front of students at a young age. The one thing that I love about Bellmount is that I made up this fictional town called Bellmount, but I based this town on, Western Pennsylvania.
There’s three towns in Western Pennsylvania. There’s like a triangle Dubois, Clearfield and Punxsutawney, and there’s these, these three towns where my family is from. And when I was in my early twenties, I got to go up and live in that area right after college. And I had all these cousins and aunts and uncles up there, and I lived with them and I just loved the community.
I loved moving in there and hanging out with my cousins, my male cousins, and they used to tease me and call me fresh meat. So that part of Miranda is true. Like I moved to this town and all their friends were like, oh, the new girl in town, she’s fresh meat. So Miranda goes into this little town and she’s super nice.
And everybody calls her the fresh meat. So there’s lots of handsome men in the story, that she, and she does have one true love. I don’t tell anyone who that is, that there is one person that she does end up with in the end of the series, but right. For right now, there’s all these really handsome men and she’s got these two best friends.
Kesha and Wynnona and, they are just a lot of fun. I like to think kind of as Miranda, like compare almost to like a Stephanie Plum character where she’s kind of out there doing these, solving these murders. But her best friends that are helping her are a little inept.
Julie Lokun: Just like us.
Nicki Pascarella: And Miranda does have psychic powers.
I’m not all my books. Um, you know, I have a lot of, you know, I’m working on a lot of books, I think by next year, by this time I might have eight published. And not all my stories have that supernatural fantasy element, but this one, I do happen to have a psychic Detective.
Julie Lokun: There’s a lot of romance going on in your books. And I mean, okay. So a little backstory, I met Nicky several years ago. And I’m not at Liberty to share the information because I am bound by confidentiality agreements.
Nicki Pascarella: She doesn’t want to say that, but I was a mess.
Julie Lokun: She was a beautiful mess. And literally, you know, going through what she’s going through, just the seasons of life. And I just asked her, Nicki, have you ever written before. Maybe you should write a blog. And that was the onus for this whole like snowball effect of her, not only in publishing book, after book, after book, after book, but just almost really becoming obsessed with writing.
And I’ve seen you through the whole experience of thinking about the book, writing the book and then the queries and like the nail biting and 99 rejections and waiting for that one that said that one. Yes. And you’ve got the one. And I think you were about ready to pull your hair out.
Nicki Pascarella: Yeah. So, um, like I said, I really wanted to go the traditional route.
And so, you know, anyone who’s listening, I’m sure you understand. Maybe you don’t understand, but, you can choose to self-publish or you can choose to get a traditional publisher involved. When you traditionally publish, it means that the publisher actually buys your story and then they pay for the editing.
They pay for the cover design. So they have a ton invested in its success. And that is really what I wanted, because like I said, I wanted the coup I wanted someone to believe in me. I wanted to know that my stuff was ready. And Julie always has believed in me.
The traditional query process is brutal. And so Julie asked me to talk a little bit about that today because it was a brutal process and it was something I put my stuff out there.
Julie Lokun: After you write the book you’re done with the manuscript and you are ready and you can have an agent or you can do it.
Nicki Pascarella: Right. So with traditional publishing, there’s a difference between non-fiction and fiction. And so, although I do have one nonfiction book out that I’ve written with Julie called Bookcasters, about writing mostly, and I do edit non-fiction, I actually prefer to edit non-fiction, I really don’t love editing other people’s fiction.
I love writing fiction. That’s my passion. And so the process is really different. So, you know, if I talk specifically about querying fiction, you do have to have your manuscript completely finished. And one of the mistakes that I made is that I finished my manuscript, my Troubles In Bellmount, and I was so proud of it.
I was like, this is great. And I didn’t sit on it. And I had read so many authors say, don’t put your stuff out right away, sit on it for a month. Put it back and then get it back out and read it again. And I didn’t do that
Corinna Bellizzi: Because you take it less personally. Is that why?
Nicki Pascarella: Well, what you do is, is when you put it away for a month or two and you get it back out, you see errors.
You see the places where you, um, maybe made a mistake in your plot, you see character development that you might have messed up. One of the big things is trying to write in an active voice. It’s a huge thing, you know, when you’re writing fiction, and it’s one of the main reasons that agents turn books down.
Corinna Bellizzi: I have a question though. It’s the same point, basically, because I think there’s some psychological things that happen when you let a piece that you’ve worked on rest. And I think this is something that applies to artists when they’re painting.
Where they feel like, oh, it’s not quite done. It’s not quite done. It’s not quite done. I’m just going to keep whittling at it, and not necessarily always improving it. So what I’ve found when I’m in that Uber creative space, it’s like, I need to get it out.
Then I need to take a step away. And then I can come back and edit it and then I need to take a step away and then I can come back and edit it. And this is in the world of creating a podcast it’s in the world of creating a piece of art or creating a blog or, writing deeply into a particular topic.
I mean, I’ve found this to be the case in my entire life. Like every time I wrote a research paper, it was the same thing. It’s like, okay, get it out. And I have to take a step away and then I can come back and edit it. So is it that same sort of thing where you’re able to get a little bit of emotional distance from it too?
Nicki Pascarella: I would say so.
Yeah. I think that’s also a part of it. So I think it all goes together and I think Stephen King said, you know, you should put manuscripts away for months and everybody laughed. They’re like, of course, Stephen King can put his manuscripts away for month, but I really do think it’s, it’s really an important thing to do.
What I think is my very best writing ever is a manuscript called In Love With My Djinn, which nobody has read yet. And it’s a romantic comedy. And I really kind of think it’s my book, you know.
Julie Lokun: Like a genie? I don’t know that word.
Nicki Pascarella: So a Djinn is a male genie. Yeah.
I put it away for. ’cause. I was like, oh my gosh, this is so good. And I’m like, you need to put it away and make sure it’s really that good. And so I put it away and I got it out today and I read the first 25 pages of it and I was laughing so hard that I was crying. So I am getting out of manuscript now that I made myself put away for two months, and taking a look at it.
So, I say to writers, that was one of my early mistakes. So. Thank you have that fiction piece, and you think it’s really, really perfect and you’ve added it and you’ve added an edit it. I know there’s this fallacy out there. Oh, your editor edits it. Don’t worry about editing. Oh no, you have to edit it to the point that you think it’s perfect because agents and editors are going to reject it immediately if you don’t – if it needs a lot of work. So don’t rely on an editor to do that. You really need to do that yourself and you really need to study editing and you really need to study your voice and your active, voice.
Julie Lokun: What is active voice? Remind us remedial third graders.
Nicki Pascarella: So active voice is, you want the character doing the action. You don’t want the action being done to them.
Corinna Bellizzi: Is it getting back to the adage of show, don’t tell?
Nicki Pascarella: Yes, exactly.
Corinna Bellizzi: It’s the same thing with screenwriting. They’ll say, show me, don’t tell me. Enough with the narration. Narration is the laziest form of storytelling. You need to show, not tell.
Nicki Pascarella: Yes. And so that’s the biggest mistake. One of the biggest mistakes of new writers. So when you put that’s another thing, if you put your manuscript away, it’s easier to catch those things.
And they’re really things you want to study in your craft before you start putting your work out there. And you do have to be super tough because you do get rejections.
Julie Lokun: Do you remember the exact number? It was?
Nicki Pascarella: I don’t know, but the thing that happened to me that was really kind of heartbreaking was when you’re going through this process of the first thing you do is you put your query letters out there and you want to research aid and editors.
The query letter is a one page letter, introducing yourself telling about yourself. There are examples online. You can look up query letter examples, Julie, and I have some examples in Bookcasters. It’s a one page letter where you’re introducing yourself to the agent or the editor, because you have the ability to query.
Agents or people who represent you and take you to publishers and some publishers, you can actually query editors within the publisher company.
Corinna Bellizzi: This sounds very similar to what PR agents have to do when they’re trying to pitch stories. Like in some cases they’re pitching the magazine and in other cases they’re pitching the specific writer.
So it sounds really similar to that process.
Nicki Pascarella: Yes. So some publishers will only take you if you have an agent they don’t and others will have, they have their editors that help go through the pile. When somebody finds something they’re interested in, like, I know first you send out your query letter. And I start, I started with agents.
I ended up with an editor who took me on, but I started with agents. And in that process, I think seven times agents responded to my query letter and said, we love you. You sound fun. Love your personality. And normally they’ll ask you for sample anywhere from between five to 20 pages of your book.
And they’ll read those and they’ll say, send me more, if they’re interested in you, so then they’ll say send me the first five chapters. So you send them the first five chapters and they’ll say, send me the whole manuscript. And so seven times, I think I had agents say, send me the whole manuscript. I’m interested in your book, which is pretty amazing, really, because it’s like a one in 6,000 chance and seven times I had the agent at the very end say, I really like you.
I really like your sense of humor. But I’m going to pass. And so that’s part of the query process too, is you get your hopes up and you’re like, this is my age. And I found my person. And then, you know, you get your dreams crushed,
Corinna Bellizzi: Did they share with you openly or candidly, why they were rejecting you? So you still got value?
Nicki Pascarella: Yes. So it is really a value. And I know there was one woman who actually is very interested in an agent who is really interested in my work and who has contacted me since and said, hey, I still love your work. That book wasn’t for me, but I want your other stuff. You’re supposed to really make sure you get back to those people – the ones in your court.
If an agent contacts, you and says that and says, I’m passing on this book. It wasn’t my thing, but I’m really, really want your next book. I know this particular agent said to me at the VA, she loved my sense of humor. She loved Miranda. She loved the romance. Um, and she said, the thing is, I just don’t know how to market it.
I can’t figure it out. Immediately when my editor, when the editor who, you know, looked at my stuff from Wild Rose knew immediately what I needed. I had marketed myself wrong. I was marketing myself for that book as a romance, and it ended up being marketed as a fantasy romance in a new adult category. New adult is a fiction category that specifically is being marketed for girls from 20 to 30.
And it’s a new genre. Because this group of this girls really loves to read. They’re really into reading and they have particular tastes. It’s not young adult. They want a little bit of steam and a little bit of grit and it’s women’s fiction.
Corinna Bellizzi: So it took a, it took a while to figure out what your niche was going to be is essentially what you’re saying.
Nicki Pascarella: Yes.
Corinna Bellizzi: Yeah. I mean, I find that so difficult in the world of podcasting. You only have so many topics you can select from, and none of them necessarily fits perfectly, but you have to find the one that’s going to work for you and then work to market to that select group. It’s ever changing.
And I imagine your audience is much broader than that. 20 to 30 year old girl. So yeah, I mean, I read it, I enjoy it. I’m definitely not 30.
Julie Lokun: And what I have to say to all authors out there, what I know to be true. And this is really the onus of why we started The Mediacasters Publishing House. With Nicki and Corinna is that we know those struggles.
We know the struggles of pouring your whole heart and soul into something, especially in fiction. And maybe Nicki can explain. She explained it so much the difference between a fiction writer and a non-fiction writer, but, and then met to just defeat in negativity. There are ways around it and KDP the online Amazon publishing company.
It makes it possible, but you got to do it right. If you don’t do it right. It just falls into the graveyard of all those poorly edited, poorly written books in KDP.
Corinna Bellizzi: What did I say to you, Nicki? When I read your book, I mean, I am a voracious fiction reader and I just want to share this with the world.
Every single book I have read… I have found grammatical errors, spelling errors, misusage of words. Weird typos that don’t make sense. It’s just that the wrong version of a word is used or something like that. I did not find a single one of those in this particular book. And I found that shocking, because again, I I’m so used to running into these things.
Like even when my friend, Cassie Alexander was publishing her books and I was reading an early copy, I would say, oh, well, do you want the errors still? Because I found this on page 83. I didn’t, I didn’t run into a single one of those. So your prowess is editing is incredible. Nice work.
Nicki Pascarella: Thank you. And I want to tell all the listeners, I have two really crazy hyper Shetland sheep dogs that bark and talk all the time.
I’m in the basement. So trying to keep them from being in the recording. I’m afraid during the background by one dog is freaking out right now. He is running around.
Julie Lokun: We’ll make a special appearances in your books as well. And I mean, Corinna and I, I mean, Corrina’s children are a lot better behaved than my children, but they make little cameos with their screams or come running behind us.
But that’s life. You don’t want to know what they do. I think. Yeah. I think that it’s about the mess and it’s a. Opening that gateway, the lens to things, things aren’t always perfect. Especially when you’re trying to break into the publishing industry, writing your book or certain podcasts or getting on stages or getting into film or broadcasting.
People don’t like perfect.
Corinna Bellizzi: I really enjoy a perfectly edited book. I will tell you that.
Nicki Pascarella: I can tell you that. So. I read the rentals and edited and edited. And then my, I have Claudia. I actually have two phenomenal editors at Wild Rose because I do cross the genres, they also assigned me another editor who edits my stuff. That’s a little bit steamier and spicier, elf. She’s amazing too. So, I know though when Claudia and I were editing it, we went back and forth and back and forth. And then at the very end. She said, okay, you know, we’re almost done. This is our last galley.
And the galley is when you’re finally done with your editing and you go back in and you’re just combing your manuscript for any mistakes. And I panicked and I was like, oh no, I’m not ready because I felt like I had grown so much as a writer because I studied my craft so hard. So I. I panicked. And I said to my editor, Claudia, oh no, I’m finding so many things that I don’t like.
And she was so patient with me cause we were so close to the end. And so she let me go back in and fix a whole bunch of things, you know? Cause I was like, I think, I think I did too much, you know, telling instead of showing here. Um, so thank you for that, Corinna. That’s huge. And I will let Claudia, my editor know that.
Corinna Bellizzi: Well with each book you’ll continue to improve. Right? You’ll tell more stories and you’ll continue to grow. And if you don’t then why are you doing it? You know, I’ve read a lot of Stephen King who you mentioned earlier and I’ve read some of his earlier works and then more recent, you see his style change and how he tells the story has changed and grown the same with a lot of very prolific authors.
You have to expect that.
Nicki Pascarella: Yes. I’m working really hard to my craft and I’ve had this amazing opportunity to work with these phenomenal editors and to work with, with you and Jules. So, yeah. I’m hoping that every day my craft is growing. I am a teacher, I teach creative writing and, so I’m also really working on all of those things too.
Like my ability to work with other people. I think that I’d really like to start coaching people who want to write. And I, I love to help people work through creative challenges. I’d love to work with people, and I’m also a dancer and a choreographer. So I’m fascinated by creativity,
Julie Lokun: She’s a belly dancer, guys.
Corinna Bellizzi: I can’t wait for Steamy Cairo Nights.
Nicki Pascarella: When I have books coming out, it is an erotic novella about the dancer, Tyro and falls in love. And it’s part of the Wild Rose Passport To Pleasure Series. It’s releasing in August. We are having a super fun release. The first five books in the series are releasing in August.
So we’re going to travel. Wild Rose is going to take people all over the world. We’re going to travel the south Pacific Scotland, London, Cairo with these really fun erotic stories.
Julie Lokun: I’m trying to do my belly dancing. Well, I don’t know if you saw that.
Corinna Bellizzi: Well, we know that the cover’s amazing. At least the draft I saw of Steamy Cairo Nights and I can’t wait.
Nicki Pascarella: I have been asked if I am on the cover of Steamy Cairo Nights. It is not me on the cover, but I have an amazing cover designer. Diana Carlisle. She’s so wonderful. And I actually sent her pictures. I did not want to have. I really wanted to bust stereotypes and I didn’t want people, I didn’t want them to put like a, a fake belly dancer in a Halloween genie costume on the cover of my book.
Like I really wanted a Oriental raks sharky dancer, which is really the art form. So my cover is awesome. Because I even sent her videos of belly dancers. I’m like, these are what real belly dancers look like. Not that stereotypical genie, Halloween costume, belly dancers. And I sent her videos and I sent her pictures and she just caught it.
And I said, this is what their state shows they’re like, and my cover designer just nailed it.
Corinna Bellizzi: Well, Nicki Pascarella we have to ask you to do something for us. So we ask you to say two words and that is “kick it”.
Nicki Pascarella: kick it.
Corinna Bellizzi: That was probably the funniest intonation I’ve heard yet. Let’s do it one more time. Come on,
Julie Lokun: Nicki Pascarella you got it. And then do your laugh after my favorite left. Kick it.
Nicki Pascarella: Kick it.