General News and Updates, Writing

Camp NaNoWriMo (April)

The time has come for Camp NaNoWriMo, where writers around the world spend the month feverishly editing and polishing their stories and works from NaNoWriMo last year…or in my case, continue editing a piece from NaNoWriMo in previous years. I’m excited it has started as I always find my inspiration and motivation for editing grows when I’m working with my fellow writers. It’s nice to have others who are in the same stage as you in their writing so you can talk and chat about stories and challenges you are facing.

This month, I am again working on my story “After the Storm”. I’m trying a new outlining method that includes a finer focus on the purpose of each scene. Admittedly, this story needs A LOT of work, so I’m hoping this will help me be a bit more conscious with my story choices and critical about what scenes make it in to the next draft.

If you are interested in following my progress this month, you can follow me using the button below. Otherwise, be sure to check in on my various social media platforms for regular updates and news on how things are going!

Happy Reading and Editing!

Shanna

General News and Updates

Top 10 Reads of 2021

Happy New Year’s Eve, Everyone!

I hope you all had a fantastic end to 2021! I know I am ready for the year to be over and to embrace new habits and new goals for 2022 (especially my massive TBR pile that seems to have doubled in size, despite my best effort).

To end the year, I wanted to share my top 10 ten favorite reads from 2021! This year I read a total of 119 books. …and yes it does bother me that it isn’t an even 120, but I don’t have time today to finish another book!

I read so many AMAZING books this year, which made it so hard to pick my top 10, but below you will see my list. If you are looking for some amazing reads in 2022, give some of the books on this list a try!

Stories by Shanna P. 
Top 10 Reads of 2021
1) "The Bride Test" by Helen Hoang
2) "Take a Hint, Dani Brown" by Talia Hibbert
3) "Barbarian's Redemption" by Ruby Dixon
4) "A Strange Affliction" by Marie Piper
5) "The Heart Principle" by Helen Hoang
6) "A Court of Silver Flames" by Sarah J. Maas
7) "Get A Life, Chloe Brown" by Talia Hibbert
8) "Roseblood" by A.G. Howard
9) "To Fall For A Duke By Christmas" by Sadie Bosque
10) "Getting Hot with the Scot" by Melanie Johnson 

Thank you to the amazing authors of these amazing books. Your stories lifted my spirits and allowed me to go on grand adventures! Shanna

Just in case the image above doesn’t work, I have listed them below as well — included with a synopsis and link for you to purchase the book if you would like! When possible, I linked to a fantastic store “The Ripped Bodice”. This store, and it’s owners, do all they can to build up the romance genre and authors, so I wanted to help promote them where I could! I hope you find a fun 2022 read!


#1 : “The Bride Test” by Helen Hoang

From the USA Today bestselling author of The Kiss Quotient comes a romantic novel about love that crosses international borders and all boundaries of the heart…

Khai Diep has no feelings. Well, he feels irritation when people move his things or contentment when ledgers balance down to the penny, but not big, important emotions—like grief. And love. He thinks he’s defective. His family knows better—that his autism means he just processes emotions differently. When he steadfastly avoids relationships, his mother takes matters into her own hands and returns to Vietnam to find him the perfect bride.

As a mixed-race girl living in the slums of Ho Chi Minh City, Esme Tran has always felt out of place. When the opportunity arises to come to America and meet a potential husband, she can’t turn it down, thinking this could be the break her family needs. Seducing Khai, however, doesn’t go as planned. Esme’s lessons in love seem to be working…but only on herself. She’s hopelessly smitten with a man who’s convinced he can never return her affection.

With Esme’s time in the United States dwindling, Khai is forced to understand he’s been wrong all along. And there’s more than one way to love.

#2: “Take a Hint, Dani Brown” by Talia Hibbert

USA Today bestselling author Talia Hibbert returns with another charming romantic comedy about a young woman who agrees to fake date her friend after a video of him “rescuing” her from their office building goes viral…

Danika Brown knows what she wants: professional success, academic renown, and an occasional roll in the hay to relieve all that career-driven tension. But romance? Been there, done that, burned the T-shirt. Romantic partners, whatever their gender, are a distraction at best and a drain at worst. So Dani asks the universe for the perfect friend-with-benefits—someone who knows the score and knows their way around the bedroom. 

When big, brooding security guard Zafir Ansari rescues Dani from a workplace fire drill gone wrong, it’s an obvious sign: PhD student Dani and former rugby player Zaf are destined to sleep together. But before she can explain that fact to him, a video of the heroic rescue goes viral. Suddenly, half the internet is shipping #DrRugbae—and Zaf is begging Dani to play along. Turns out his sports charity for kids could really use the publicity. Lying to help children? Who on earth would refuse? 

Dani’s plan is simple: fake a relationship in public, seduce Zaf behind the scenes. The trouble is, grumpy Zaf is secretly a hopeless romantic—and he’s determined to corrupt Dani’s stone-cold realism. Before long, he’s tackling her fears into the dirt. But the former sports star has issues of his own, and the walls around his heart are as thick as his… um, thighs. 

The easy lay Dani dreamed of is now more complex than her thesis. Has her wish backfired? Is her focus being tested? Or is the universe just waiting for her to take a hint?

“Barbarian’s Redemption” by Ruby Dixon

In a tribe full of happy couples, I am alone. But I am not content to remain this way. There are no eligible unmated females left, so I will do whatever it takes to bring females back to our tribe…even if it means doing something wrong. 

“A Strange Affliction” by Marie Piper

In the summer of 1692, Nicholas Cleary arrives in Salem Village. There on orders from the new Governor, he hopes to restore his good name by ascertaining the root of the witchcraft madness so the ridiculous trials can end. He does not expect the widow he boards with to be a mysterious beauty…


Hannah Hibbard knows plants, the moon, and other things a good Puritan woman shouldn’t, and is doing her best to go unnoticed by the citizens of Salem…


To save a dear friend, Hannah must take a risk and work with the arrogant stranger, even if it means telling secrets once better left untold.

“The Heart Principle” by Helen Hoang

A woman struggling with burnout learns to embrace the unexpected—and the man she enlists to help her—in this new New York Times bestselling romance by Helen Hoang.

When violinist Anna Sun accidentally achieves career success with a viral YouTube video, she finds herself incapacitated and burned out from her attempts to replicate that moment. And when her longtime boyfriend announces he wants an open relationship before making a final commitment, a hurt and angry Anna decides that if he wants an open relationship, then she does, too. Translation: She’s going to embark on a string of one-night stands. The more unacceptable the men, the better.

That’s where tattooed, motorcycle-riding Quan Diep comes in. Their first attempt at a one-night stand fails, as does their second, and their third, because being with Quan is more than sex—he accepts Anna on an unconditional level that she herself has just started to understand. However, when tragedy strikes Anna’s family she takes on a role that she is ill-suited for, until the burden of expectations threatens to destroy her. Anna and Quan have to fight for their chance at love, but to do that, they also have to fight for themselves.

“A Court of Silver Flames” by Sarah J. Maas

Sarah J. Maas’s sexy, richly imagined series continues with the journey of Feyre’s fiery sister, Nesta.

Nesta Archeron has always been prickly-proud, swift to anger, and slow to forgive. And ever since being forced into the Cauldron and becoming High Fae against her will, she’s struggled to find a place for herself within the strange, deadly world she inhabits. Worse, she can’t seem to move past the horrors of the war with Hybern and all she lost in it.

The one person who ignites her temper more than any other is Cassian, the battle-scarred warrior whose position in Rhysand and Feyre’s Night Court keeps him constantly in Nesta’s orbit. But her temper isn’t the only thing Cassian ignites. The fire between them is undeniable, and only burns hotter as they are forced into close quarters with each other.

Meanwhile, the treacherous human queens who returned to the Continent during the last war have forged a dangerous new alliance, threatening the fragile peace that has settled over the realms. And the key to halting them might very well rely on Cassian and Nesta facing their haunting pasts.

Against the sweeping backdrop of a world seared by war and plagued with uncertainty, Nesta and Cassian battle monsters from within and without as they search for acceptance-and healing-in each other’s arms.

“Get A Life, Chloe Brown” by Talia Hibbert

Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamorous family’s mansion. The next items?

Enjoy a drunken night out.
Ride a motorcycle.
Go camping.
Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex.
Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage.
And… do something bad.

But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job.

Redford ‘Red’ Morgan is a handyman with tattoos, a motorcycle, and more sex appeal than ten-thousand Hollywood heartthrobs. He’s also an artist who paints at night and hides his work in the light of day, which Chloe knows because she spies on him occasionally. Just the teeniest, tiniest bit.

But when she enlists Red in her mission to rebel, she learns things about him that no spy session could teach her. Like why he clearly resents Chloe’s wealthy background. And why he never shows his art to anyone. And what really lies beneath his rough exterior…

“Roseblood” by A.G. Howard

A. G. Howard returns with a creepy, clever novel that will thrill readers. Rune has a mysterious affliction that’s linked to her musical talent. Her mother believes creative direction will help, so she sends Rune to a French arts conservatory rumored to have inspired The Phantom of the Opera. When Rune begins to develop a friendship with the elusive Thorn, she realizes that with him, she feels cured. But as their love grows, Thorn is faced with an impossible choice: save Rune or protect the phantom haunting RoseBlood, the only father he’s ever known.

“To Fall for a Duke by Christmas” by Sadie Bosque

To spite his former love, David, the Duke of Somerset decides to court the least suitable miss of the house party, an enchanting Irish commoner Niamh. He will not marry a commoner, of course. It is just a pretense. Or it was. Until the sparks fly, and he finds himself falling hard and fast for a woman who is completely wrong for the role of his Duchess.

A penniless Irish commoner living among polite society is unlikely to find a suitor. Especially in England. Or at least that’s Niamh’s experience. Living in a troublesome household of her uncle, she is desperate to get away and go back to Ireland. When Niamh meets the Duke during the festivities, however, she finds herself at crossroads. Will she be willing to give up her freedom for a chance at love?

“Getting Hot with the Scot” by Melanie Johnson

IT’S TIME TO FLIRT WITH A MAN IN A KILT

Cassie Crow, a pop-culture reporter for a TV talk show, is focused on becoming a “serious” journalist. But when she stumbles into a kilted Highlander with a killer accent, Cassie decides that taking one night off from work and spending it with a sexy Scot couldn’t hurt. . .

Logan Reid has built a career on his charm, hosting a series of off-the-wall hijinks on the Web. But when the Scottish prankster meets the all-American, equal parts intelligent and irresistible Cassie, Logan realizes that one night of fun won’t be enough. Could it be that this career-focused, commitment-phobic couple is finally ready to take a chance at true and lasting love?

I hope you all enjoyed seeing and reading about my top 10 books of the year! I can’t wait to dive into the next stories in 2022! Until then, have a Happy New Year!

~Shanna Pikora

Events, General News and Updates

Writers on the River (Author Event)

I’m so excited to be going to Writers on the River this weekend with friends and family! This is an amazing event that hosts over 80 romance authors — from independently published authors to well known New York Times/USA Today Bestsellers.

Not only is this a great place to get new books and meet some amazing romance authors, but this event also helps fundraise Thistle Farms. Thistle Farms helps support women of abuse by providing financial, housing, and community support. It truly is a great cause that I am happy to support while spending the day with fellow readers and writers.

If you are in the Peoria this coming weekend, be sure to check out this amazing event! Otherwise, you can see posted pictures on my Instagram Account throughout the weekend!

Check out Writers on the River Content

General News and Updates, Writing

My Writing Process

A banner for Camp NaNoWriMo 2021. It has pictures of a forest with camp tents.

Last week I hosted an event for my NaNoWriMo Region, in honor or Camp Nano, where I discussed different types of readers (Alpha, Beta, & Sensitivity Readers). In that event, I talked about my own personal writing process and how I tackle a novel idea. It was a lot of fun, but a few people at the event said they wished there was more information out there about how they can organize their writing and strategize for publication. Although I’m by no means an expert, I thought I would share my own process for anyone who is interested!

I do want to make a note though, that this is MY process and that every writer is different. You are welcome to take a shot at my schedule and planning, but if it doesn’t work for you, that’s fine! With time, you will find your own perfect process. With that being said, let’s go down the rabbit hole!


I’m a very organized person. I have three-ringed binders, calendars, spreadsheets, and more to keep me on top of my writing schedule. I know it sounds a bit excessive, but I learned early on in my writing journey that deadlines make my world go around! If I don’t have a hard deadline I tend to drag my feet. Thus, “the system” was started.

As I mentioned, I utilize a three-ringed binder system. Each story gets its own binder that then contains everything about the world, plot, characters, and other research within it. I know there are many platforms that help you organize your materials, but I prefer having physical copies — it makes the process easier down the road. It’s also nice when I’m traveling because I can just toss the binder into my suitcase and it is all right there!

Picture of the bottom shelf of a black bookshelf with multiple three-ringed binders on each edge of the bookshelf. In the center of the bookshelf, there is a cat laying on top of a couple binders he knocked over.
Here’s a peek at my binder system. As you can see, my cat Loki also enjoys the binder system as well!

To utilize NaNoWriMo terminology — I’m a planster (a mix between a planner and a panster). I like to have a bit of planning and prep done on a story before I begin drafting, but not so much that I feel locked in during the drafting process. I like to just write and see where the story goes. It usually makes a very rough first draft, but it gets the story started. Some advice I read a while back in “How to Write Fiction for Dummies” (Ingermanson & Economy) said to let yourself write a really crappy first draft, because you can always fix it later. I took that to heart and wrote myself a little contract years ago to help me remember.

A lined notecard with the following written on it: 5/6/2018. I have full permission to write a really bad first draft, because I know that most first drafts by most authors are mostly lame. I'll get it right on the revision. Shanna Pikora.
This notecard is an exercise given in “How to Write Fiction for Dummies”. I would really recommend checking out the book!

I really enjoy drafting during NaNoWriMo in November. It allows me to be able to enjoy the writing process with my local community and have extra support. I make sure to have a complete first draft by the end of NaNoWriMo — even if it’s the worst first draft in the history of first drafts. Then…I wait.

I like to take some time between drafting and editing to let the story “marinate”. Sometimes I think of ideas or a plot points to include and change. To be honest, the 6+ months of setting my story aside is where I have my best lightbulb moments. I mentioned before that I have schedules and spreadsheets, so I do have a specific plan. I draft in November and then don’t edit the story again until July the following year (during Camp NaNo!). This editing process takes on two steps:

  1. Re-reading and Plotting
  2. Editing & Revising

I always spend the week or two before I begin editing to re-read my story. It lets me brush up on specific details and make notes on what I want to change. I go through so many steno pads during this process, you have no idea, but it’s nice to have my notes broken down by chapter so I know what to target with changes.

What can I say, Loki REALLY likes to get involved in my writing process. I don’t know why, but he seems to really like attacking my pens while I’m writing…even though he has an abundance of toys.

Once I have my notes, I go back through and begin editing. I mainly focus on plot, but if I notice spelling or sentence errors I tackle those as well. Grammar and sentence structure is my weakest skill when it comes to writing (as you have probably noticed) so I utilize a professional editor to help me with that.

After I have edited the entire manuscript, I lock it away again for more “marinating”. I pull it back out in April (the other month for Camp NaNo). Now, if you have been following the timeline, you’ll notice that this means I am now in year three with the novel. Yes, it takes a lot of time, but the good news is that each year I have new novels in the works — so I’m never bored. I’ve tried shortening my timeline but when I do I feel my story isn’t as well developed.

This next round of edits I again do my re-read and then make the appropriate changes. Then off it goes to my amazing Alpha Readers. Alpha readers are special readers (and in my case are friends and family) that read the novel before major editing (which in my case means before I send the story to an editor). These readers help me with characters, settings, and plot development. It’s nice to see what parts of the story readers enjoy, which characters they love to hate, and what spots felt lacking so I can fix them in the next round of edits.

A picture of an office desk, dark brown. There is a computer open, showing a page of a manuscript draft. To the left of the computer is a binder and piles of papers and steno pads with notes.
This is my older set-up for editing. I have a few new pieces of office furniture that lets me spread out!

After I make changes inspired by my Alpha Readers, I do one more edit (August) and then send my manuscript off to the editor (if I feel it’s ready). This is where I make a judgement call, because I want a polished piece before sending to the editor. I would like to give a quick shout out to the editor I used for “A Second Chance” and I would like to continue using in the future: RoseLark Publishing.

RoseLark is a fantastic editing and pre-publishing service. They offer so many amazing services for the indie author — at reasonable prices too! If you’re looking for a wonderful team of editors or sensitivity readers, check out RoseLark!

RoseLark Publishing logo. The words with a rose to the left of the words.

I will of course do another round of edits after I get notes from my editor. However, this time I plan for at least two months. There are always so many notes to go through, great considerations and changes to think about, so I like to give myself extra time. It also lets me think about how small changes impact future scenes in the story as well.

A computer being attacked by a cat, who is laying on a blue blanket.
There is no part of the writing process Loki won’t photobomb…or stick in his mouth, apparently — first a pencil and now my computer!

Once I am done with making changes from my editor notes, my manuscript will go out to my Beta Readers. Beta Readers are like Alpha readers, only they are giving notes on a finalized manuscript, a final look at your novel before it is published. What I really love here is to see reactions as well as notes from my Beta Readers, as it helps me identify what parts of my books could be favorites to future readers!

I will do one final edit after going through my Beta Reader notes before going forward towards publishing — whether that means querying agents or independently publishing. I would really like to be a hybrid author, an author who does both indie and traditional publishing – based on the project.

I would note, that at some point during this chaotic process, I like to do a paper edit (most of my edits are done directly on computer). It takes time, but it really does help me focus on the story and the changes I’m making.

A page of a manuscript marked in red with edits.
This is from the novel I’m working on currently “After the Storm”!

I learned the hard way that I have to save my paper copy edit until the end of this process…otherwise what you see above happens and I end up rewriting most of the page — so many hand cramps! However, I really do recommend this at least once for a story, because it forces you to slow down and really read and analyze the words.


There you have it, my writing process. I realize it seems a bit chaotic, so let me break it down a bit easier for you…

Type of EditDates of Editing
First DraftNovember (Year 1) – NaNoWriMo
First EditJuly (Year 2)
Second EditApril (Year 3)
Alpha ReadersMay – July (Year 3)
Third EditAugust (Year 3)
EditorsSeptember-November (Year 3)
Fourth EditDecember – January (Year 3-4)
Beta ReadersFebruary – April (Year 4)
Final (Fifth) EditMay (Year 4)
FormattingJune (Year 4)
Release/QueryingJuly (Year 4)
My writing schedule for ONE novel!

I will add more edits and steps, depending on the novel, but this is my general outline! Some of you may look at that and begin to panic, but it really does help me to know what I’m doing when, especially when I have multiple novels going at once — and many more novels in my “Ideas Notebook”.

Picture of two notebooks laying on top of a blue blanket. One is in an ancient Greek style and says: Decomposition book - Shanna's Story Ideas. The other book says "Anything is Possible".
My Idea Notebooks!

There you have it, the method to my madness, the organized chaos. This is what keeps me on track and excited to start new novels each year! Currently, I’m working on the following novels:

“A Second Chance” (Contemporary Romance)

“Rhys of Novia” (Fantasy Romance)

“After the Storm” (Contemporary Romance)

“Justice” (Fantasy)

My four year system in action! Be sure to keep an eye out on future updates for each of these stories, and if you would like, follow along with my schedule so you know when you can expect the next novel to be released or when the start of querying begins!

Happy Reading & Happy Writing!

Shanna Pikora

A pink binder with the words "Stories by Shanna P" in red, with Shanna Pikora's signature.
Main binder that holds ALL my schedules: Writing, Social Media, Alpha/Beta Readers, Etc.

P.S. I felt guilty that my cat Loki got all the attention above, so here is my other cat, Frey (they are brothers). He makes sure I take regular breaks! XD

A grey tabby laid out on Shanna Pikora's lap. She is wearing penguin patterned sweat pants.
My cat Frey as we “marinate” over a plot point!

General News and Updates, Novels

Camp NaNoWriMo Is Here!

I’m so excited for the start of Camp NaNoWriMo! Not only as a Co-ML for my region, but also as I have my own goals this month to finish editing my next contemporary romance novel!

For those who don’t know, Camp NaNoWriMo is similar to NaNoWriMo as you set a writing goal to complete in 30 days. The difference is during camp you have more control over what your specific goal is (instead of the 50,000 words). This year, I am hoping to complete another round of edits on my next contemporary romance novel, “After the Storm” (previously titled “Scottish Savior”).

This novel has been in the works for a couple years now, I just never had any time to dedicate to it as I worked on other projects. But this month, it’s all for this novel! If you are interested in following my progress, you can friend me on the NaNoWriMo site (username: spikora). If you are also participating in Camp, let me know so we can cheer each other on!

I hope you all have a fantastic April planned. Until my next update, here is a sneak peek at “After the Storm”!

*Please note this is not a final version of the story and may change with future edits!*


Kira sat in her stiff seat and wrung her hands in her lap. The chatter of her fellow passengers was nothing but a background hum as she glued her eyes to the entrance of the plane. Each new person who walked on sent a spike of anxiety through her—just for a moment—until she realized it was just another stranger and not the person her mind feared it was. Just a stranger who didn’t know who she was…or who he was. Sat in seat 8B, arms wrapped tightly around her purse, her carry on secured in the bin above her head; she realized it was nearly time. Nearly time to take her first breaths of freedom.

A man shuffled forward and collapsed into the seat next to hers, shoving his carry on under the seat rather than dealing with the overhead bin. Kira could only watch as he cursed, trying to force the poor piece of luggage into a spot it wasn’t mean to be.

I feel ya, luggage, she thought to herself.  

Tears threatened to fall as she took a deep breath. The smell of the man’s thick and overpowering cologne consumed her. Surprisingly, it was a welcome distraction to her panicked mind. She focused on the spiced scent. Something woody and warm—a connection to the moment that kept the impending anxiety attack at bay. Deep breaths, she told herself as she shut her eyes and focused on expanding her diaphragm with each inhale. She held the breath for four counts then exhaled, pressing her belly button into her core, just as she did on Monday Pilates. The man next to her bumped her arm, forcing her to concentrate harder on her breath.

She could do this. Taking another deep breath, she felt her self-control settling and—

“Sorry ‘bout tha’.” The man next to her spoke in a thick accent after his elbow jabbed into her side and sent her nearly sprawling against the arm rest. Kira flinched as she shifted back, giving the man a stiff nod. As grateful as she was for the distraction, she wasn’t sure she was ready for idle chat. Kira’s eyes locked on the door of the plane again, watching the flight attendants talk as they moved about.

For some reason, she thought once she boarded, she would be more at ease—that he would be gone then. But she had this fear he would walk on and drag her back to that hell she was fleeing. Kira turned her attention out the window, ignoring her seat mate as he mumbled about his trip.

It was a beautiful day in Detroit. They week of hazy rain final let the clouds part and granted a cool spring day. She used it as her excuse to leave—she wanted to take a walk and enjoy the nice weather. Her husband bought it. She took a quick trip to the gym, where she stashed clothes and essentials and all her paperwork, then she was gone.

Kira looked past her hazy reflection and to the runway beyond, just as a plane rose up into the sky. Her heart raced, in excitement instead of fear. In a few more minutes, that would be her.

“Passengers, please give your attention to the flight attendant at the front of the cabin as we begin our safety procedure review before takeoff.” The flight attendant spoke precisely into the phone as the other attendant walked through the motions of how to fasten the seatbelt, how to adjust the mask, and other things. Kira’s attention drifted after a few moments; eyes fixed out the window as she waited for takeoff.

Her leg started to bounce, her nerves wanting free, as she heard the engines start up. The rumbling had her heart racing. She shifted up in her seat, pushing her purse onto the floor. This was it. She was really doing it.

“Do ya mind,” her neighbor spoke with an irritated snap. “You’ll make me sick with tha’.” Kira followed his point to her leg. She hadn’t even realized.

“I’m sorry.” She pressed herself tight against the side of the plane, trying to distance herself from him as she forced her leg to still. It gave her a chance to watch takeoff. The ground started to move past the plane. It was slow at first, but then it went faster, faster. The sound of the engines roared and the ground began to drift away. Take off.

“I’m free.” Kira whispered to herself, tears fighting to fall as she laid her head against the window. The world below her shrunk as her spirit grew and soared among the clouds. A weight lifted and she took an easy breath. The first she had taken in months.