Dancing Between the Beats (Reader Review and Giveaway)

Monday, July 20, 2020
Dancing Between the Beats by Lynn Nicholas
We are proud to present another special reader review event with author Lynn Nicholas, featuring her book Dancing Between the Beats. Read the reviews of this fun book and our interview with the author. Don't forget to enter to win a prize pack with a variety of items picked about by the author as well as a copy of her book.

First, about the book Dancing Between the Beats:

Twenty-four-year old Paige Russell, still grieving the death of her single mother, defines herself as an orphan. Her obsession to find the father she never knew takes her to Tucson, AZ, where she settles in as the newest ballroom instructor at Desert DanceSport. But Paige’s newfound sense of belonging could be short-lived. Swirling under the glamorous surface of Desert DanceSport are rivalries and conflicts that threaten the future of the studio, and Paige is hiding a life-changing secret of her own.

Studio owner Katherine Carrington is grappling with complicated cash-flow issues of her own making. As her stress level rises, her demeanor ricochets between controlling and neurotic. Katherine’s identity is defined by her ownership of the studio, and losing it would mean losing herself.

Aging playboy Marcos Stephanos, dance master and studio manager, is too distracted by the disarming new-hire Paige to focus on the warning signs of Katherine’s erratic behavior. Will his nonchalance cost him his career?

Top dance instructor Tony Moreno finds flirting with Paige so tantalizing he misses practice sessions with his ambitious, professional partner, Sylvie Goldstein. Instead of burning up the floor with Tony, Sylvie is smoking with resentment against her unwitting rival, Paige.

Will misunderstood intentions and ego-driven altercations force the exposure of secrets and betrayals at the studio so many call home? Who will adapt and who will retreat when expectations clash with reality, and the status quo suddenly shifts?

Laced with humor, Dancing Between the Beats offers an insider’s view of the world of ballroom dance, along with a smattering of off-beat insights about relationships.

What WOW readers said: 

"I judge a book by how quickly it pulls me into the story and how fast the characters are developed. In Dancing Between the Beats, I was delighted to find both the pull and the development. Dancers will admire the depths Nicholas went to portray the mechanics of Ballroom Dancing as accurately as possible. Anyone who loves a good mystery/drama/love story will enjoy how all of this seems to be entwined in the story line. As I read on in the story, I found myself caring for the characters. Would Paige find her father? Would Marcos survive Katherine’s sabotage? Would Katherine ruin the lives of everyone, including herself? No spoilers here…you will have to read the story to find out. Suffice it to say, the ending was also quite satisfactory."

- Review by Linda M. Rhinehart Neas

"Dancing offers us a look into Desert DanceSports, a fictional dance studio that has become a de facto community center for its most loyal customers. This Big Cast book takes us through a game of perspectives. Author, Lynn Nicholas, has created deep characters and proved herself unafraid to show every conscious and subconscious bias of each of them. The entire book allows the reader to dive into the real-life drama of dance instruction and running a business while balancing the surrounding egos. Dancing offers a slow burn contemporary drama with real-life circumstances that show things are rarely as bad as we believe and fear is our greatest barrier to growth. Some characters learn, some cannot, and their choices affect the very fate of their beloved Desert DanceSports.

I rated this 4/5

The reason for 4 stars: The descriptive language was beautiful and often insightful, though at times it became too top heavy with metaphor, simile, and analogy for me. A few conversations felt like the characters had fallen into an exchange of proverb-like statements. There were a few occasions the unconscious bias of a few characters made me squirm, though these moments were true to character. These are my personal opinions, and therefore not a comment on the well edited, deep character development and well executed writing Lynn has provided."

- Review by CK Sorensen

"Interesting and honest. The author was able to give the readers a good look inside the world of ballroom dancing. An easy to read book but still full of emotions. It really showed that a dancer's life is not just glitz and glamour. In fact, it is more about passion and determination. I really like that the background of each character was highlighted. This not only drawn me to the story but also made each personality more relatable."

- Review by Rozely De Sagun

"I really enjoyed Dancing Between the Beats--I liked how the various characters told their own stories and that this book gave a glimpse into competitive and amateur ballroom dancing as well as the instructors' and students' personal lives. My favorite character, believe it or not, might be considered the antagonist, but Katherine, the studio owner, kept me turning pages to the end. I wanted to find out if she would be able to get out of the mess she was in as we slowly watched her self-destruct. I also enjoyed the storyline between Marcus and Paige. By the end of the book, I felt like I knew these characters pretty well and could see them in a sequel. It was clear to me that this author knew her away around the ballroom dancing world in some capacity or she had done a lot of research! Since I know nothing about it, I found this storyworld very interesting also!"

 - Review by Margo Dill 

"24-year old Paige Russell moves to Tucson, AZ to be a ballroom dance instructor at Desert DanceSport. There, she finds herself plunked into the middle of rivalries and the general real-life soap opera that is the ballroom dance world. What takes her to Tucson is the essential conflict of the book. It takes a little long to reveal that conflict--until about halfway through the book it is nothing but character exposition and reads more like a television mini-series. The characters are three-dimensional, however, and once you do learn what the real conflicts are the drama is compelling. Lynn Nicholas' great talent is in character development, not plotting, so if you like to really get to know people and their motivations you will love this book. If you like action and a moving plot, this isn't for you."

- Review by Lori Duff

"I just have to start off by saying that this not the typical genre that I usually read, so I was a little hesitant to venture out of my little bubble. I was pleasantly surprised though and thoroughly enjoyed Dancing Between the Beats! If you have ever danced or have ever had interested in the world of choreography, lessons, and the environment this is a great read. The beginning was a little slower but by the last 7 chapters of the book I couldn’t put it down! The author does a wonderful job building character development, and keeping the reader entertained with lots of twist and turns in the plot. It was romantic, deep, whimsical, and entertaining."

- Review by Emilie Garner

"We enter the dazzling world of a dance studio with Lynn Nicholas' book Dancing Between the Beats. You hear about the lives of the students and the instructors. Of all the characters, though, I enjoyed reading Paige the most. Her storyline really intrigued me and I kept looking forward to the moments I could see her again. This book was filled with drama coming out at all sides! There were secrets kept and hidden agendas. I also thought the author did a great job describing the dance motions. I never once felt lost. This is a fun book with rich characters that will make you want to join a dance studio and take classes. It sure did that for me!"

- Review by Nicole Pyles

Dancing Between the Beats is available to purchase at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and IndieBound.org. Be sure to also add this book to your GoodReads reading list as well.

About the Author, Lynn Nicholas

After hanging up her technical-editor hat, Lynn’s focus shifted to creative writing in 2008. Dancing Between the Beats (2020) is Lynn’s debut novel.

Her stories and poetry are inspired by everyday life as it unfolds around her. She gets lost in sunsets, believes in the power of words and hugs, finds that her garden nourishes her creativity, and writes supervised by an autocratic black cat and two dog friends.

Lynn’s short fiction and poetry have appeared in Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, SandScript Arts & Literary Magazine, The Wild Word, Every Day Fiction, Wow! Women on Writing, The Storyteller, and Rose City Sisters, among other publications. Lynn is a member of Sisters in Crime and the Society of Southwestern Authors. She is also an amateur ballroom dancer.

Follow Lynn's blog at lynnnicholaswrites.com.

--- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: First of all, congratulations on your book! What inspired you to write Dancing Between the Beats

Lynn: My writing is usually inspired by life as it either quietly unfolds around me or knocks me over. That was definitely the case after I signed up for my third NaNoWriMo writing challenge in 2011. I’d been ballroom dancing for two years, so I thought it would be fun to create a storyline I could drop into the unique environment of a ballroom dance studio. I entitled it Dancing Between The Beats, a dance term that also applies to life.

In the 2011 NaNo draft, my main character was a mid-life ballroom dance student, awed by the glamorous environment. A growing awareness of behind-the-scenes conflicts and drama was tempering her awe to pragmatism. As more characters and their interweaving storylines emerged, I found myself working through some emotional baggage and using the storyline to process disillusioning changes in relationships. Writing is cathartic for me. I was unconsciously following the old adage to “write what you know.”

So, in a nutshell, I exaggerated the reality of the dance studio and spun it off into the realm of “what if.” Then I tossed in my own angst, opinions, experiences, and personal philosophies, and mixed well. The result was the situations my characters found themselves in and the words that came out of their mouths.

WOW: That sounds so fun! I am so excited to hear that your book Dancing Between the Beats was a NaNoWriMo novel! What was your process to finish this novel in one month? How did you achieve that?

Lynn: The succinct answer is, “I didn’t.” The purpose of a NaNoWriMo challenge is to hammer out a minimum of 50K words in 30 days: not stopping to edit, just pure stream-of-conscious, get-the-juices-flowing writing. What you end up with is the bones of a draft novel, but only the bones: something to work with. I finished 2011 NaNo challenge with well over 50K words, but didn’t begin to expand that NaNo draft for a good year. The final and much-changed manuscript wasn’t finished until late summer 2019, at which point I handed it over to a professional editor. That was eight years after that 2011 NaNoWriMo.

“Ballroom dance builds confidence, teaches focus and patience, and demands that you constantly strive to hone your craft. It’s about building on what you know to work toward the ever-moving target of perfection. You’ll never reach it, much like writing.”

WOW: I'm so impressed you stayed with your novel, despite the time frame. How did your experience with ballroom dancing help you write this book?

Lynn: Ballroom dance builds confidence, teaches focus and patience, and demands that you constantly strive to hone your craft. It’s about building on what you know to work toward the ever-moving target of perfection. You’ll never reach it, much like writing. 

A dance studio overflows with creative inspiration. It’s a subculture—a microcosm—replete with an eclectic mix of outgoing personalities and egos, from the young artistic/creative instructors to the retired doctors and engineers that comprise a large part of the student base. Being able to pull from this rich stew of inspiration gave my novel a unique flavor, I think. Lead-and-follow dance, like ballroom, forces adult students out of their comfort zone: strong women have to give it up, trust, and follow; and macho males have to get over themselves and learn arm styling and facial expression. Grown men cry with frustration. To put it kindly, when two amateurs are learning to dance together, the process can illuminate character flaws. Taking dance lessons should be a prerequisite to getting married. Seriously. I used this in the novel.

One thing I would like to note; while DBTB is set in the world of ballroom dance and much of it is light and entertaining, at its core is the need to belong, the pain and disillusionment of betrayal, and the reality that life rarely gives you what you imagined or expected. It’s about adaptation and acceptance. These themes could be used in any setting where there is human interaction, from a small town business to a big city hospital.

I think I’m the poster child for “never give up on your dreams.”

WOW: I think that is such a powerful, important theme. What was your revising process like?

Lynn: It was painful and lengthy. I expanded the original NaNo draft to four times the word count, and subsequently cut, slashed, and rewrote for several years before I felt ready to write The End. I “killed my darlings” big time and cut out entire scenes. I changed names, and pushed some characters to the forefront and others to the sidelines. Along the way I kept a running “where to go from here” file and wrote a detailed outline, chapter by chapter, which expanded and changed over the years. I created a storyboard with individual scenes on 3 x 5 index cards, which could be rearranged to keep the timeline logical. I pinned character profiles to the board. I did research on everything from sports cars to embezzlement laws and the genetic rarity of green eyes. I created a picture board of everything from the layout of the dance studio, to items of furniture in my characters’ homes and their cars. By late 2019 I handed final copies of the manuscript to two BETA readers and a professional editor.

During the eight years I rewrote and revised DBTB, I continued to learn and grow as a writer. I attended workshops, posted stories and edited on FanStory, and joined the Society of Southwestern Authors. I created short works to submit for publication and, when critiques were offered, I paid serious attention. In 2014 I took an upper level, special projects class at Pima Community College, which was an invaluable experience. Then I joined a writing group and ran chapters by fellow writers for input and critique. I culled and edited stories for PCC’s Arts & Literature magazine (SandScript 2018). I even reimagined the basic concepts of a couple of scenes from the novel as short fiction. Getting feedback from submissions was an excellent test for reader appeal.

WOW: You have an incredible revision process! On your blog, you describe yourself as a late bloomer. Why do you think that is?

Lynn: Like many women of my generation, I focused on supporting my husband’s career rather than following my own dreams. I worked full time all my life, raised my son, and then moved my 92-year-old grandmother in with us in my forties. In the middle of it all, I went back to school both full time and part time, concentrating on the sciences and writing. My last ten-year stint as a technical editor laid the groundwork for my own writing, but I didn’t start writing creatively until my early fifties. By about 2007 I began submitting flash fiction pieces, including entering contests on WOW! (top 10 twice and top 20 twice). WOW!’s critiques are excellent. I entered and completed my first two NaNoWriMo challenges in 2008 and 2009, during which time I was overseeing serious medical issues for my stepfather, and then for my mother. I started the NaNo draft of DBTB soon after my mother passed away in 2011.

I think I’m the poster child for “never give up on your dreams.” I took figure skating lessons in my late forties, began writing in my fifties, and started ballroom dancing at sixty (on my birthday.) I was seventy when DBTB was published. My motto is, “It’s not over 'til it’s over.”

“We writers really do a number on ourselves. How many writers don’t feel like “real” writers because no one has paid for their work or interviewed them on the Today Show? Writers have to stop letting others define them.”

WOW: You inspire me! You really do! You talked about on your blog about that moment you said out loud, "I am a writer." What advice do you have for writers who have a hard time saying that out loud?

Lynn: Uttering those words was a life-changing moment. We writers really do a number on ourselves. How many writers don’t feel like “real” writers because no one has paid for their work or interviewed them on the Today Show? Writers have to stop letting others define them. We don’t question the legitimacy of the artist who paints every day but has yet to have a showing in a gallery. Dancers are dancers whether they are on the Broadway stage or taking lessons in a local studio. If you write, if you are putting words to paper—better yet, if you are obsessed with putting words to paper—you are a writer. End of story. Own it.

WOW: I completely agree! Thank you so much for your time and best of luck on your book! 

***** BOOK GIVEAWAY *****

Enter to win a signed copy of Dancing Between the Beats, a notebook, a fan and bookmark from Indonesia, a copy of Stories from the Drylands, and felted soap made by an artisan local to the author. Giveaway ends on July 26th at 11:59 PM EST. We will announce the winner on the Rafflecopter widget the next day. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Sioux Roslawski said...

Nicole--Thanks for doing this interview. I agree--Lynn is quite inspiring.

Lynn--Congratulations on your book. Also, kudos for all you've accomplished and tried so far. Staying active and trying out new things helps keep you young. It also helps you out as a writer.

I too have done NaNoWriMo several times. Most years, I either crashed and burned early, or the "manuscript" ended up a hot mess. However, one year (2016), the story that I ended up with at the end of that November was worthy of expanding up and revising (several times). I'm currently trying to get that manuscript published.

Ballroom dancing? What's next? I would suggest skydiving. There's nothing more freeing than looking up and seeing sky... and looking down and also seeing the sky... and knowing you're going to pierce that expanse of space.

Congrats again, and good luck with your next writing project.

Unknown said...

So many good reviews, I don’t know where to start except to say that I am encouraged with your blogs and I hope someday soon I’ll read your book, Dancing between the Beats.

Unknown said...

Lynn, I love reading your Blogs, and I hope someday before too long I’ll read Dancing between the Beats! I’ve read a lot of info regarding this novel and everyone seems to love it and have given great reviews and I’m sure someday I will too!

Robert Young said...

Thank You for offering this prize for everyone to have a chance at winning it

Lynn Nicholas said...

I am absolutely over-the-moon with this promotion, and can hardly wait to send out the prize box to the winner.
Thank you so much to the wonderful readers who took the time to read my book and write reviews. All of your reviews were very much appreciated and very insightful.
Thank you to everyone who is reading my interview and making comments.
In this year of disappointments, with so many book events cancelled, can't tell you how much it means to be able to share here, on The Muffin.
And Nicole, a special thanks to you for putting everything together so expertly

Lynn Nicholas

aprilbluetx said...

I love reading about dancing especially because I have two left feet. Thank you for this giveaway chance. It sounds like an exciting book.

Antoinette M said...

Thank you for the wonderful interview.

lilyk said...

This book looks very interesting. Thanks for sharing!

Audrey Stewart said...

I enjoyed reading this post so much. I took ballet most of my young life and really enjoy dancing. I am excited to read this.

Buddy Garrett said...

It sounds like a very interesting read.

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