10/31/13 Update: Thanks to everyone for stopping by! Our randomly selected winners are: Autumn and Amanda! I’ll be in touch, ladies!
True story: Last summer at the RWA conference, just as I was about to leave the hotel room for my first ever Literacy Signing, my lovely and talented cousin, Cara Connelly, proudly took a photo of me and sent it to family back home. Our dear aunt—who’s my biggest supporter and unfailingly honest—immediately texted Cara back.
Something along the lines of: “Tell Annie she needs to amp it up a little if she wants to make it as a romance writer. Good grief, she looks like a schoolteacher. She’s got to WORK IT.”
Cara jumped to my defense—sort of: “LOL, I know. But I think she might be showing a *little* cleavage. Will try to get her to put on some red lipstick at least.”
Me (grabbing Cara’s phone): “Will everybody please stop hating on my classic cardigan and sensible heels?!”
Geez, you’d think I was dressed like a nun or something. Wait, never mind.
I guess the point is, I seem to be missing the risqué romance writer gene. I don’t like drawing attention to myself or taking risks. My life, in general, is distinctly un-scandalous—and I like it that way.
But when I’m writing (or reading), it’s a completely different story. In books, the more scandal, the better—and my second book, ONCE SHE WAS TEMPTED, has plenty!
Everyone thinks Miss Daphne Honeycote is the sweet, innocent younger sister, but it turns out that she’s been hiding a shameful secret. Two, actually. Because she once posed for a pair of risqué portraits, and if they fall into the wrong hands it will mean ruin for her and, worse, for her beloved family. (You see, kids, this kind of risky behavior can get you in trouble!)
Anyway, I thought it would be fun if there was a way for risk-averse people like me to experience the thrill of posing for a scandalous portrait without actually, you know, getting naked. So, I created Daphne’s Scandalous Portrait Generator. Just answer the five completely innocuous questions below to find out what your portrait would look like. I dare you to give it a try!
Also, since my book releases today, I’m going to give away two copies of ONCE SHE WAS TEMPTED to random commenters (U.S. only, please). Now, go get your portrait!
We’re thrilled today to welcome another of the Lucky 13s: DOUBLE 2013 Golden Heart Finalist Jacqui Nelson, who made the list in two very different categories: Historical and Romantic Suspense. Jacqui’s Romantic Suspense manuscript, THE SHADOW HOUR, is currently also a Daphne finalist.
None of that’s a surprise: her books have been finalists (and winners!) in many prestigious contests, including the Golden Pen, Gateway to the Best, Great Expectations, TARA, Gotcha!, Fab Five, Winter Rose, Orange Rose, Romance Through the Ages, Fool for Love, Heart of the Rockies, and the Catherine, and she WON the Golden Heart Historical category in 2010, with another historical, BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL.
Here are blurbs for her two 2013 Golden Heart finalists:
Between Love and Lies (Historical finalist): After his herd destroys a homestead on the trail to Dodge City, a Texas rancher blames himself for not preventing the down-on-her-luck farmer from becoming a saloon girl. Surviving each day via a web of deadly lies, she’s determined to never put her fate in anyone’s hands again—not even the honorable Texan who’s now willing to become Dodge’s Deputy Marshall to assist her. What would happen if he discovers being a soiled dove is only the first of her lies?
The Shadow Hour (Romantic Suspense finalist): When her father dies under questionable circumstances, a Victorian physicist and society misfit turns amateur sleuth in order to clear his name and regain her inheritance. But enemies abound not only in London’s scientific institutions and impoverished slums but in the most powerful echelons of Parliament. Can an unlikely partnership with an ex-Scotland Yard detective—who’s only willing to share his first name—help or lead to her death as well?
Today, I’ll be interviewing Jacqui (yay!), so buckle up and think of some questions of your own to toss in for her to answer in the comments throughout the day!
And I’m delighted that I get to be interviewed here on the Rubies with you of all people, Elisa! It feels like we’ve been contest circuit buddies for a long time. Whenever I see your name in a list of finalists, I give a cheer. Then, if I’m nominated in the same category, I give a little groan before reminding myself it’s not a true contest unless you’re up against the best.
LOL! I’ll just think of us like Lady Gaga and Madonna up against each other at the Grammy’s (though let’s skip the traffic-cone bras and the meat dress). Okay, I’m going to start with my single favorite question for Golden Heart and Rita finalists: What was it like when you got the call saying you were a finalist?
I was sleeping when Gerri Russell called at 5:30 am. I started to wake up when she said, “You’re a—” but then my brain short-circuited when she continued with, “—double finalist” because that’s just too amazing a sentence to even dream. I didn’t tell anyone until I saw my name listed on the RWA and the Ruby’s websites later that morning. I kept asking, “What if I did dream this?” But the call was real. It was the best wakeup call I’ve ever received. Thank you, Gerri!
Oh, baby! A month from today, we’ll know the winners of the 2013 RITAs and Golden Hearts! (I can’t even make it to Atlanta this year, and that thought’s got me tingling with excitement.)
Among the red-hot contestants: the lovely Joanna Shupe, whose manuscript DRAWN TO THE EARL is nominated for a Golden Heart in the Historical category. Here’s a blurb:
What’s the Earl of Winchester, a reformed libertine, to do when a clever cartoonist reminds Londoners about his notorious past, threatening his political aspirations? The earl vows to stop him… only to discover it’s a her. Even worse, the two share a past he can’t remember—and one she can’t forget.
Joanna grew up in the Midwest, where her love of history began with Schoolhouse Rock. When her mother wasn’t looking, Joanna began reading every romance novel she could get her hands on. The countless novels that followed led to a journalism degree and a passion for creative writing. It was a few years later, when pregnant with her second daughter, that she began drafting her own stories.
Joanna now lives with her family in New Jersey and can still recite all the words to the Preamble.
It’s been almost three months since I received the call telling me that I was a 2013 Golden Heart® finalist… and I’m still waiting for the follow-up call telling me there’s been a mistake.
Am I a glass half-full kind of gal, or what?
One thing I’ve heard again and again in the short time since I began pursuing writing is that it’s not enough to have talent. It’s not enough to be funny, a good storyteller or a grammar maven (though all of that must help, right?).
I don’t know if I’m any of those things but, above all, I try to be resilient. Anyone who aspires to write seriously knows the business isn’t all jellybeans and balloons. On the climb toward literary success, things occasionally happen to knock you down. So I always remember (no matter how trite it may sound) not to get too discouraged. Shake it off and keep charging toward the top.
Case in point, I was very excited to hear last week that one of the final round judges had requested a full of my Golden Heart entry. Yay! On the very same day, however, I received an email from my agent telling me that a publisher had passed on another manuscript. Boo. Last year was full of examples like this, and I found it really hard to stay focused and positive.
It’s easy to understand why a lot of writers give up or take a hiatus now and then. What we write is so personal—it’s a little piece of ourselves out there in the world for all to see—and when our writing doesn’t resonate with others (be they agents, editors, or the almighty audience) it can definitely erode your confidence.
Here are a few ways I try to regain my writing mojo when doom and gloom starts to set in:
My latest book in the Muses of Mayfair series, The Marquess Who Loved Me, just came out last week (yay!). You can see below for the cover and description, if you’re so inclined. I’ll also give an ebook copy (Kindle or Nook) to a random commenter today – good luck!
However, as excited as I am about my new release, my mind is already churning with ideas for the next book (The Earl Who Played With Fire). Because I’m still in early brainstorming mode, it feels like everything is possible. Even though I write Regencies, I’m considering having my main characters travel outside of England. Which leads to my question for all of you – how much do you think an author can get away with in terms of stretching readers’ expectations?
I know that the stock answer is that you can get away with anything as long as it’s well-written. But if it’s clear from the book description that the book doesn’t match your expectations of the genre, would you as a reader even pick it up long enough to determine whether the writing was good? Or would you move on to another book that meets your expectations?
I’ve heard that the commonly accepted industry wisdom is that historicals (and particularly Regency historicals) don’t sell if they’re set outside the UK. Obviously, our very own Ruby Sister Jeannie Lin is an exception to this rule, since her books are set in Tang Dynasty China. But what’s behind this belief?
And I suppose the real question is this – did previous non-UK historicals not sell *at all*? Or did they just not become massive bestsellers? And in that case, should an independent author take that risk and write for the smaller, unsatisfied niche of readers who want non-British historicals? Or are the publishers right in their assessment of the market?
I realize that this post is more of a survey than a statement of fact – but I’m curious to hear your thoughts. What makes you pick up a book – something unique or something comfortable? And what are your views on how setting plays into purchasing?
As mentioned above, a random commenter gets an ebook copy of my latest release – cover and description below!
A not-so-merry widow…
The widowed Marchioness of Folkestone is notorious for her parties, her art collection, and her utter disregard for the rules. But Ellie Claiborne knows her destruction is near. The new marquess is her first lover – the man whose sculpted body and sardonic grin haunt her every time she picks up her paintbrush. If he ever returns to claim his inheritance, her heart won’t survive seeing him again.
A man determined to destroy her…
Nicholas Claiborne hasn’t stepped foot in England since watching Ellie marry his cousin. He has no use for the gorgeous, heartless girl who betrayed him, or the title she abandoned him for. But when his business in India turns deadly, Nick must return to London to uncover a murderer – and take revenge on the woman he couldn’t force himself to forget.
A love they can’t escape…
Nick hates Ellie’s transformation from sweet debutante to jaded seductress. Ellie despises him for leaving her behind. Still, the sparks between them reignite the passion that should have been their destiny. As their demands of each other turn darker and a potential killer closes in, they must decide whether to guard the fragile remnants of their hearts — or find a way to fall in love all over again.
If you want to read it right now, you can find The Marquess Who Loved Me on Kindle or Nook (other formats coming soon!).
It is my great pleasure to introduce Alison Delaine, Golden Heart® finalist in Historical Romance for her novel NOTORIOUS.
Sometime this fall it will be 20 years since Alison brought home that first ream of typing paper and sat down to write a romance. It’s been a long journey—hills of commitment followed by valleys of inaction—but giving up has never been an option. Alison is a teacher-turned-attorney and a two-time Golden Heart finalist who knows a few things about perseverance and hanging on to the dream. You can find out more about Alison at www.AlisonDelaine.com.
As a writer, I think I’ve counted about a hundred ways I’ve given my power away over the years. (Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration. It’s really more like 95 ways.) When I say I’ve “given my power away,” I am using that phrase in its full, airy-fairy, therapist’s-couch meaning: placing responsibility for my feelings (or more accurately, my writing) on someone or something else.
Here’s a sampling of people to whom I have served my power on a silver platter:
The industry insider whose help I thought I could never make it without.
The freelance editor whose feedback I decided I needed to have before I could work on anything new—even though there were many weeks between each draft.
The agent who requested my material and whose response I awaited for months without working on my next project.
The editor whose comment about my pacing left me doubting my entire ability to craft a novel instead of educating myself about pacing.
The first agent I worked with, who I assumed would do everything for me so I took no steps of my own toward publication.
One common denominator marks all of these episodes: I stopped doing what I could do and instead put my hope in what someone else might be able to do for me. Ever been there? Published or unpublished, I’m betting most of us have. In fact, I bet you can think of someone right now who has your hopes pinned all over them. Is it an agent? An editor? Readers? Publicist?
Now, sometimes we do need other people. Books don’t publish themselves. (Disclaimer: This post is not about self-publishing.) Many publishing houses don’t accept unagented manuscripts. A busy author may not have time to keep up with promotions, correspondence, and social media. But if you catch yourself feeling helpless, as if everything is out of your control, ask yourself: “Am I giving my power away? To whom?”
It might not even be a person. A few non-human recipients of my power have included
The day job that left me resentful and angry because it took time away from my writing.
The beliefs that made me absolutely sure I could only write at certain times of day and under certain conditions.
The market, that summer at National when I was sure I could never get published if I didn’t write about shapeshifters.
If any of this sounds familiar, it’s time to take your power back. Here are three ways to do it:
1) Write. I’ve noticed a pattern: When I write, I feel powerful. When I write, I feel like I am moving forward. When I write, I feel like my destiny is in my hands. The act of writing improves your craft, gets the ideas flowing, and gives you some mud to fling against the wall. You have control over when, if, and how much you write. No agent, editor, or one-star critic on earth can stop you.
2) Ask the Tough Questions. Are there things you could be doing to be a better writer that you’re not doing? Yes, there are. What are they? Ask the hard questions: “If I’m totally honest, what part of my craft do I know I need to work on?” Work on that thing. “If I’m totally honest, what do I know this story needs but I haven’t wanted to tackle?” Tackle it and change the story. I’ve found that being honest with myself about areas for improvement and taking responsibility for becoming a better writer helps me feel like I’m back in the driver’s seat.
3) Take an Action—Any Action. As a writer, there is always something to do. Make a list of agents to query. Actually send the queries. Enter a contest. Study a book about craft. Put a new technique into practice. Jot down a new story idea. Set a goal for this week, this month, this year—or even just for today. Make a small change to your writing schedule. Try a new motivational technique and see if it works. Committing to an action and following through always gives me a sense of forward momentum—probably because when I take action, I am moving forward.
What about you? Have you ever given your power away as a writer, and if so, what steps made you feel back in control? Any big epiphanies?
Today we’re delighted to welcome the second in our series of guest bloggers from among the brilliant (though not yet nicknamed) 2012 Golden Heart finalists.
Tracy Brogan is a finalist in the Historical Romance category with HIGHLAND PROMISE, which has already gotten a big thumbs up from the Rubies….but I’ll let Tracy tell that story below.
You can learn more about Tracy at tracybrogan.com (including the glorious detail that she wrote her first love story at eleven, when her boyfriend dumped her for another girl who did know how to dribble a basketball. Haven’t we all been there? *sigh.*)
She’s also got some fabulous publication news to share, but I’ll let her tell about that, too!
I wanted to say that right up front, and now I’ll tell you why.
Last year I was an RWA® Golden Heart finalist in the Romantic Elements category with my contemporary novel TOTALLY DODY. It was a fabulous experience, and I will be forever grateful for the friends I’ve made and the opportunities which that nomination afforded me. At the time, I thought it was my launching pad. I was on my way! Or so I thought.
Then circumstances intervened and ‘real’ life interrupted my writing endeavors. Meanwhile, I tried and tried to dive into my next WIP, another contemporary. I knew the plot, I loved the characters, I had the time. But I could not get the story to gel the way it needed to. I was frustraaaaated. I wondered if the GH nomination was a mistake. Just some cosmic hiccup and secretly I did not have what it took to turn my lifelong passion of writing into a big-girl career.
I thought about quitting. Pretty much every day for months I thought about quitting. Or at least switching gears to some other story. My poor critique partners listened to me agonize over this for months. And bless them for never once saying, “Please stop whining and just write something. “ (At least not to my face.)
Then September rolled around and the Rubies posted a ‘BEST FIRST LINE” contest. They’d take 100 entries and chose their top ten favorites. Then those top ten finalists could submit their first 250 words and the Rubies would rank them. First place would win the entry fee to the Golden Heart contest.
Today I’m happy to be the hostess for Ruby sister Jennifer Bray-Weber’s new Romancing The Pirate novel, A Kiss In The Wind. For those of you who are fans already of her Blood And Treasure novel, you’ll be happy to know this is Blade’s novel. The difference this time is that instead of going the indie-route, A Kiss In the Wind is a Carina Press release! And is there a tale to tell about how that came about! Let’s get to it, shall we, me mateys!
Today I’m thrilled and privileged to host our very own Sara Ramsey as we discuss her inaugural release, the fun and fabulous regency romance Heiress Without a Cause.
After winning the Golden Heart in 2009 and being named a finalist again in 2011 (with the first two books she wrote, but lets all pretend we aren’t green with envy over that), Sara is launching her delightful Muses of Mayfair series with those Golden Heart recognized novels, featuring artistic, rebellious highborn ladies and the rakish lords who love them.
Sara grew up in a small town in Iowa, and confesses to an obsession with fashion, shoes (of course), and all things British. She graduated from Stanford University in 2003 with a degree in Symbolic Systems (also known as cognitive science) and a minor in history. After graduation, she worked at Google for seven years in a variety of sales, management, and communications roles. She left Google in 2010 to pursue her writing career full time.
And now she can add “published author” to her impressive CV.
Heiress Without a Cause
One title to change his life…
A disgraced son with a dark reputation, William “Ferguson” Avenel is content to live in exile – until his father dies in the scandal of the Season. With rumors of insanity swirling around them, his sisters desperately need a chaperone. Ferguson thinks he’s found the most proper woman in England – and he won’t ruin her, even if he desperately wants the passionate woman trapped beneath a spinster’s cap.
One chance to break the rules…
Lady Madeleine Vaillant can’t face her blighted future without making one glorious memory for herself. In disguise, on a London stage, she finds all the adoration she never felt from the ton. But when she’s nearly recognized, she will do anything to hide her identity – even setting up her actress persona as Ferguson’s mistress. She’ll take the pleasure he offers, but Madeleine won’t lose her heart in the bargain.
One season to fall in love…
Every stolen kiss could lead to discovery, and Ferguson’s old enemies are determined to ruin them both. But as their dangerous passion ignites their hearts and threatens their futures, how can an heiress who dreams of freedom deny the duke who demands her love?
I am SO excited to celebrate the release of Ruby Sister Elizabeth Essex’s third book, THE DANGER OF DESIRE. Elizabeth has been an incredibly busy Ruby and this is her third release in a year, coming on the heels of THE PURSUIT OF PLEASURE (12/10) and A SENSE OF SIN (4/11).
I’ve really been looking forward to celebrating Elizabeth’s release day. I’ve loved these books and THE DANGER OF DESIRE did NOT disappoint!!! This is Captain Hugh McAlden’s book. Now I’ve had a little thing for Hugh since he appeared on the page in PURSUIT and have been anxiously awaiting his book. And OH WOW, EE did not disappoint.
This book is lush and beautiful, evoking equal parts MY FAIR LADY and a good spy thriller and I was enthralled from page one clear through to the end. Here’s a short excerpt:
I’m a history bug. If it’s old, I’m curious about it. And so the title of this blog is a misnomer, but I didn’t have four lines to work out a correct title. What I really want to ask our readers is: what are the rights and wrongs of historical romance? I don’t mean the sort of wrong that has my Viking hero arriving by helicopter to save the heroine, although that might be fun. I’m talking about the sort of history that can’t be made romantic because of what happened then, and how we look at that era today.
I’ve never seen a romance set in the south between the 1890s and the 1950s. In the 1890s, former slaves who had gained the right to vote and hold elective office had all their rights taken away in the course of a few years. Our local state representative, who was black, was a sitting member of the body that in 1898 took away his right to be a member of the assembly as well as his right to vote. He went on to be a productive member of society for many years afterward. He didn’t blow up the capitol and his former colleagues, as much as he might have wanted to. A heroic figure who could be the basis of many of our romance characters, by finding a way forward when other routes were blocked. Heroic yes, but this part of history hasn’t been touched in romance novels.
The brides of centuries past were much younger than we portray them in our novels, due to life expectancies and political and economic realities. The idea of a historical romance novel featuring a fifteen year old heroine would bring out the worst of the anti-romance novel brigade while a more literary historical novel could portray a married fifteen year old girl and not raise an eyebrow. Authors have changed their heroines’ ages to match contemporary expectations, and in a way lose the innocence and passion of these girls. Instead, historical heroines become uniformly jaded and headstrong as the authors find ways to keep them unmarried long past the date they should have wed or married to brutes for their first husbands.
And then there’s the Nazis. They left a terrible scar on history, but if you’ve seen the movie Schindler’s List, you’ve seen a way to make a man mixed up with this terrible group a romantic, heroic figure. Freedom fighters are romantic figures bucking the social order or invading armies to liberate their homeland from oppression.But what if these freedom fighters are called insurgents or criminals by our social order, such as the Mexican revolutionaries fighting along the US border in the early years of the twentieth century or the Russian revolutionaries who eventually overthrew the Czar and founded the first Communist country? Every revolutionary is a criminal to someone, as 1776 clearly tells us.
And if we look at risky periods in the past, we have to remember the religious wars. There’s a lot of history that could be painted as romantic or bleak, depending on your point of view. The Crusades, the Inquisition, the Huguenots, the Pilgrims, all could be background for wonderful romances or horror stories.
What is your take on this? Can we look past the racial, morals, religious and political divides to find romance in all times and places in history, and can we bring this to contemporary readers, along with the historical background that would have shaped those romances? With today’s e-pubs and indie publication, do we have the latitude to write stories about unpopular characters and times? How daring do we want to be? Or are there parts of history too painful to dig into for romantic fiction? Do we follow the advice to never discuss religion or politics in our stories so we don’t offend anyone? Where do we as authors draw the line?