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Meet 2016 Golden Heart Finalist McCall Hoyle!

Today we’re welcoming one of the YA Mermaids, McCall Hoyle, who won a Golden Heart® two years ago, and whose manuscript THE OTHER CHEEK is a 2016 nominee in the Young Adult Romance category.

mccallMcCall Hoyle writes honest YA novels about friendship, first love, and girls finding the strength to overcome great challenges. Her first novel, THE THING WITH FEATHERS, won the YA category in 2014. It releases in September 2017 from Blink/HarperCollins. When she’s not reading or writing, she’s spending time with her family and their odd assortment of pets—a food-obsessed beagle, a grumpy rescue cat, and a three-and-a-half-legged kitten. She has an English degree from Columbia College and a master’s degree from Georgia State University. She lives in a cottage in the woods in North Georgia where she reads and writes every day.

Here’s a blurb for THE OTHER CHEEK:

Seventeen-year-old Hartley Downs used to be pretty. She used to know where she belonged—at the top of the honor roll, at the top of the homecoming court podium, at the top of the cheerleading pyramid. When a grizzly bear attacks her on a camping trip out west, she loses more than her looks. She loses her identity.

A year later, all she wants is her old face back. But that’s going to be a challenge. The reconstructive surgery comes with risks, and her father has enrolled her in a confidence-building-summer camp. Chase Simpson, her team captain, is a fierce competitor and refuses to let Hartley fade into the forest.

In order to survive this summer-camp-from-hell and convince her father she’s capable of making her own decisions, Hartley must learn to take risks, trust others, and tap into her own inner strength. Only then will she have a chance at facing the world with both cheeks forward.

Oh, fabulous!! What a great issue for your book to focus on—especially in this media-driven, appearance-obsessed age! This could be an important book for a lot of young people.

Speaking of experiences that help us find our inner strength, McCall’s here with us today to share her take on why RWA is so empowering for writers.

Readers, grab yourself some s’mores and gather round the campfire…no grizzly bears nearby, I promise!

Take it away, McCall!

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WHY I INVITE RANDOM STRANGERS TO GRW AND RWA®:

Well, in all honesty, I don’t invite just any random stranger. I invite the ones who voice even the tiniest interest in writing—in any genre. I’ve invited book sellers, librarians, friends of my nineteen-year-old daughter who are avid readers, and maybe my drycleaner.

Why?

2015 M &M

GRW Peeps–Brenda Davis, Sia Huff, Tami Brothers, Tammy Schubert, and McCall

I guess I need to return the favor, spread the love that was shared with me. I first heard of RWA® in Janet Evanovich’s HOW I WRITE. I don’t have the book handy, but if I remember correctly, she suggests anyone with an interest in writing join RWA® for the plethora of resources the organization provides. I would take her advice one step farther and suggest anyone interested in writing seek out a local chapter and move heaven and earth to attend regular meetings. If that absolutely won’t work, find an online chapter.

When an acquaintance, Sia Huff, who is now a dear friend, invited me to attend a GRW meeting years ago, I jumped at the opportunity. I didn’t join right away. I didn’t feel like a real writer at the time, but that’s a story for another day.

Since that first meeting I’ve learned a lot about myself, about other writers, and about RWA®. I’ll try to distill what I’ve learned here:

  1. McCall and Amy DeLuca

    McCall and Amy DeLuca

     Writers need writing resources to perfect their crafts. We need materials and access to other writers. We’re responsible for our own educations. We can’t do this without lessons, texts, and teachers. RWA® and GRW have provided me with opportunities to learn under greats such as Michael Hauge, Margie Lawson, Laura Baker, and Robin Perini. I met my beautiful and all-around wonderful critique partner, Amy DeLuca, at my first Georgia Romance Writers Moonlight and Magnolia Conference. I’ve had the opportunity to learn alongside her and many others because of the connections I’ve made at RWA.

2. Writers need wise business counsel. We need information and materials about querying, about agents and editors, about self-publishing, and yuck—taxes. The vast majority of what I’ve learned about the business of writing, I’ve learned from articles in RWA®’s ROMANCE WRITERS REPORT, from conferences, and from other writers I’ve met through RWA® and GRW. 

The 2014 Dreamweavers

The 2014 Dreamweavers

3. Writers need emotional support. We tend to feel things strongly—the highs and lows. I could fill pages with people who have encouraged and mentored me along the way. I’ve got a fairly decent list of people who’ve given me a swift kick in the behind when I needed it too. Of course, there’s my critique partner Amy who is also one of my 2014 Golden Heart® Dreamweaver Sisters. The Dreamweavers are my go-to for pretty much everything writing or mental health related. There are my new 2016 Golden Heart® Mermaid Sisters. We’re currently bonding over dress and pin selections and food and travel plans. But then there are so many people who had no connection to me at all but helped anyway. Like Maureen Hardegree who critiqued for me early on at the GRW Gin Ellis Workshop. Like Sally Kilpatrick who answers random email questions despite her hectic writing and family life. Like her critique partner Tanya Michaels who answers questions and shares cabs with people like me who couldn’t find their way around rural Georgia much less New York City. Like Missy Tippens who welcomed me at her table of published authors when I showed up at a meeting and had nowhere to sit. I also run into her every year in the airport on my way to Nationals. She and her family are always warm and welcome faces. Did I mention I kind of have a phobia about traveling alone? Truly, I could go on and on. These women are all multi-published authors who helped me when I was clueless. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that these women are not the exception when it comes to our great organization. They are the norm.

And that’s why I invite random strangers who show an interest in writing, no matter how small, to visit and join GRW and RWA®.

Do you have a local chapter? Which one? What’s your favorite thing about your chapter?

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Where to find McCall on social media:

Website http://mccallhoyle.com

Twitter   @McCallHoyle

Instagram @McCallHoyleBooks

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/McCallHoyleBooks/

Live Blogging the 2015 Golden Heart / Rita Announcements!!!!

free red balloon imageLET THE ANNOUNCEMENTS BEGIN…

It’s time for our annual live blogging event of the 2015 Golden Heart/Rita announcements! If you entered RWA®’s Golden Heart or RITA contest, then you’re likely hovering over your phone today as you await THE CALL. So why not hang out with all the other hopefuls (many of the Rubies included) who are also waiting on pins and needles?

From past experience, we know that the internet will be abuzz today with happy news. We’ll be updating our list here as announcements come in from various sources. Come spread the joy and keep hope alive by celebrating the announcements of those who did receive a call today.

Good luck to all who entered and thank you to all for coming to celebrate with us.

FOR THE FINALISTS: If RWA® has notified you that you’re a finalist, please post your news in the comments below, and include the following info:

The word FINALIST in all caps / your CATEGORY also in all caps. Also, please give us your book title and the name you want listed if writing under a pseudonym.

If you’re a RITA finalist, we’ll also need the publisher and your editor’s name, if any. (Let us know if you’re Indie!)

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Now, let’s get this party started!

2015 RITA FINALISTS:

Best First Book

A Bollywood Affair
by Sonali Dev
Kensington Publishing
Martin Biro, editor

The Dress Thief
by Natalie Meg Evans
Quercus Publishing
Kathryn Taussig, editor

Fake
by Beck Nicholas
Harlequin, TEEN
Annabel Blay, editor

Mind Sweeper
by AE Jones
Self-published
Faith Freewoman, editor

The Smuggler Wore Silk
by Alyssa Alexander
Penguin Group USA, Berkley
Julie Mianecki, editor

Purely Professional
by Elia Winters
Harlequin, Carina Press
Kerri Buckley, editor

Run To You
by Clara Kensie
Harlequin, TEEN
Natashya Wilson, editor 

For Such a Time
by Kate Breslin
Baker Publishing, Bethany House
Raela Schoenherr, editor

To Scotland with Love
by Patience Griffin
New American Library, Signet
Tracy Bernstein, editor

Contemporary Romance: Long

showThe Sweetest September
by Liz Talley
Harlequin, Superromance
Megan Long and Wanda Ottewell, editors

It’s in His Kiss
by Jill Shalvis
Grand Central Publishing
Leah Hultenschmidt and Alex Logan, editors

Baby, It’s You
by Jane Graves
Grand Central Publishing, Forever
Michele Bidelshach, editor

The Best Medicine
by Tracy Brogan
Amazon Publishing, Montlake Romance
Kelli Martin, editor

Fever Pitch
by Heidi Cullinan
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
Sasha Knight, editor

The Vixen and the Vet
by Kate Regnery
Self-published
Chris Belden and Melissa Demeo, editors

Slow Tango with a Prince
by Nicole Burnham
Self-published
Valerie Susan Hayward, editor

Somebody Like You
by Beth Vogt
Simon & Schuster, Howard Books
Jessica Wong, editor

The Place I Belong
by Nancy Herkness
Amazon Publishing, Montlake Romance
JoVon Sotak, editor

To Scotland with Love
by Patience Griffin
New American Library, Signet
Tracy Bernstein, editor

Contemporary Romance: Mid-Length

Carolina Man
by Virginia Kantra
Penguin Publishing Group USA, Berkley Sensation
Cindy Hwang, editor

Her Cowboy Hero
by Tanya Michaels
Harlequin, American Romance
Johanna Raisanen, editor

Worth the Fall
by Caitie Quinn
Self-published
Jenn Harris, editor

Her Kind of Trouble
by Sarah Mayberry
Harlequin, Superromance
Wanda Ottewell, editor 

Starting with June
by Emilie Rose
Harlequin, Superromance
Wanda Ottewell and Karen Reid, editors

Reforming the Playboy
by Inara Scott
Entangled Publishing, Indulgence
Alethea Spiridon Hopson, editor

Love with a Perfect Cowboy
by Lori Wilde
HarperCollins Publishers, Avon Books
Lucia Macro, editor

Once a Family
by Tara Taylor Quinn
Harlequin, Superromance
Paula Eykelhof, editor

Her Temporary Hero
by Jennifer Apodaca
Entangled Publishing, Indulgence
Kate Fall and Alethea Spiridon Hopson, editors

One in a Million
by Jill Shalvis
Grand Central Publishing
Leah Hultenschmidt and Alex Logan, editors

Contemporary Romance: Short

A Bride for the Blacksheep Brother
by Emily McKay
Harlequin, Desire
Charles Griemsman, editor

The Bachelor Doctor’s Bride
by Caro Carson
Harlequin, Special Edition
Gail Chasan, editor

Enemies with Benefits
by Louisa George
Harlequin Mills & Boon, Modern Tempted/KISS
Flo Nicoll, editor

Her Unforgettable Royal Lover
by Merline Lovelace
Harlequin, Desire
Gail Chasan, editor

A Texas Rescue Christmas
by Caro Carson
Harlequin, Special Edition
Gail Chasan, editor

What the Greek Can’t Resist
by Maya Blake
Harlequin Mills & Boon, Presents
Suzanne Clarke, editor

Yours Forever
by Farrah Rochon
Harlequin, Kimani Romance
Tara Gavin, editor 

Bad Girl
by Julie Miller
Harlequin, Intrigue NOIR
Allison Lyons, editor

The Headmaster
by Tiffany Reisz
Harlequin, E-Shivers
Danielle Padula, editor

Blueprint for a Kiss
by Nancy Warren
Self-published
Trish Milburn, editor

Erotic Romance

Call Me Saffron
by Talia Surova
Self-published

Wanted
by J. Kenner
Random House, Ballantine Bantam Dell
Shauna Summers, editor

Purely Professional
by Elia Winters
Harlequin, Carina Press
Kerri Buckley, editor

Bonds of Denial
by Lynda Aicher
Harlequin, Carina Press
Rhonda Helms, editor 

The Saint
by Tiffany Reisz
Harlequin, Mira
Susan Swinwood, editor

Historical Romance: Long

Fool Me Twice
by Meredith Duran
Simon & Schuster, Pocket Books
Lauren McKenna, editor

Douglas: Lord of Heartache
by Grace Burrowes
Sourcebooks, Casablanca
Deb Werksman, editor

A Place Called Harmony
by Jodi Thomas
Penguin Group USA, Berkley
Wendy McCurdy, editor

Worth: Lord of Reckoning
by Grace Burrowes
Self-published

Where the Horses Run
by Kaki Warner
Penguin Group USA, Berkley Sensation
Wendy McCurdy, editor

Historical Romance: Short

Darling Beast
by Elizabeth Hoyt
Grand Central Publishing
Leah Hultenschmidt, editor

 Romancing the Duke
by Tessa Dare
HarperCollins Publishers, Avon Books
Tessa Woodward, editor

The Gentleman Rogue
by Margaret McPhee
Harlequin Mills & Boon, Historical
Pippa Roscoe, editor

The Bells of Times Square
by Amy Lane
Riptide Publishing
Sarah Frantz Lyons, editor

The Cowboy’s Reluctant Bride
by Debra Cowan
Harlequin, Historical
Rachel Burkot, editor

In Bed with a Rogue
by Samantha Grace
Sourcebooks
Cat Clyne, editor

Inspirational Romance

Hope at Dawn
by Stacy Henrie
Grand Central Publishing, Forever
Lauren Plude, editor

Deceived
by Irene Hannon
Baker Publishing Group, Revell
Jennifer Leep, editor

The Widow’s Suitor
by Rose Ross Zediker
Harlequin, Heartsong Presents
Kathy Davis, editor

Huckleberry Summer
by Jennifer Beckstrand
Kensington Publishing
John Scognamiglio, editor

For Such a Time
by Kate Breslin
Baker Publishing Group, Bethany House
Raela Schoenherr, editor 

Paranormal Romance

Be Careful What You Kiss For
by Jane Lynne Daniels
Boroughs Publishing Group
Jill Limber, editor

The Darkest Touch
by Gena Showalter
Harlequin, HQN
Emily Ohanjanians, editor

Forged By Desire
by Bec McMaster
Sourcebooks, Casablanca
Mary Altman, editor

Mind Sweeper
by AE Jones
Self-published
Faith Freewoman, editor

My Lady, My Lord
by Katherine Ashe
Self-published
Martha Trachtenberg, editor

Evernight
by Kristen Callihan
Grand Central Publishing, Forever
Alex Logan, editor

Burn for Me
by Cynthia Eden
Kensington Publishing, Brava
Esi Sogah, editor

Bitter Spirits
by Jenn Bennett
Penguin Group USA, Berkley Sensation
Leis Pedersen, editor

Romance Novella

Pushing the Line
by Kimberly Kincaid
Self-published
Curtis Brown Digital, editor

The Last Wicked Scoundrel
by Lorraine Heath
HarperCollins Publishers, Avon Impulse
May Chen, editor

Kiss and Tell
by Grace Burrowes
Self-published

His Road Home
by Anna Richland
Harlequin, Carina Press
Rhonda Helms, editor

“A Love Letter to the Editor”
by Robin Lee Hatcher
in Four Weddings & a Kiss
Thomas Nelson, Inc.
Traci Depree and Ami McConnell, editors

“A Yorkshire Christmas”
by Kate Hewitt
in All I Want For Christmas
Tule Publishing Group, LLC
Sinclair Sawhney, editor

“Will You Be My Wi-Fi?”
by Caroline Linden
in At the Billionaire’s Wedding
Self-published, The Lady Authors
Martha Trachtenberg, editor

10 Rules to Sex Up a Blind Date
by Heidi Rice
Harlequin, Cosmo Red-Hot Reads
Bryony Green, editor 

“A Game of Brides”
by Megan Crane
in Love Me True
Tule Publishing Group, LLC
Lilian Darcy, editor

Her Best Laid Plans
by Cara McKenna
Harlequin, Cosmo Red-Hot Reads
Malle Vallik, editor 

Romantic Suspense

Concealed in Death
by J. D. Robb
Penguin Group USA, G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Leslie Gelbman, editor

Into the Shadows
by Carolyn Crane
Self-published
Deb Nemeth and my fabulous critique partners, editors

You’re Not Safe
by Mary Burton
Kensington Publishing, Zebra
John Scognamiglio, editor

Midnight Action
by Elle Kennedy
New American Library, Signet
Laura Fazio, editor

Honor Reclaimed
by Tonya Burrows
Entangled Publishing, Select
Heather Howland, editor

Forged in Ash
by Trish McCallan
Amazon Publishing, Montlake Romance
Charlotte Hersher and JoVon Sotak, editors

Lock and Load
by Kimberley Troutte
Self-published
Kimberley Troutte, editor

Grave Danger
by Katy Lee
Harlequin, Love Inspired Suspense
Emily Rodmell, editor

Young Adult Romance

Boys Like You
by Juliana Stone
Sourcebooks, Fire
Leah Hultenschmidt and Aubrey Poole, editors

Plus One
by Elizabeth Fama
Macmillan, Farrar, Straus and Giroux BYR
Simon Boughton, editor

Run To You
by Clara Kensie
Harlequin, TEEN
Natashya Wilson, editor

Some Boys
by Patty Blount
Sourcebooks, Fire
Aubrey Poole, editor

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2015 GOLDEN HEART FINALISTS

Contemporary Romance

Jen Gilroy, PORT FAIRLIGHT SUMMER

Kelly Farmer, PUPPY LOVE 

 Susan J. Bickford, THE HOUSE OF D’INNOCENZI

Jennifer Brodie, MACE, MEN, AND MARGARITAS

Priscilla Kissinger, HIS PERFECT PARTNER

Jo Anne Banker, HOMECOMING

Alice Faris, GOOD GIRL’S GUIDE TO TALKING DIRTY

Arianna James, CAUGHT ON FILM 

Kimberly Buckner, CALL ME MRS. WHITLOCK 

Kelly Siskind, CHASING CRAZY

 

Erotic Romance

Elle Mason, SORTING OUT THE KINKS

Michele Arris, A DEAL FOR LOVE

Caroline Bradley, INDULGE MY FANTASY

 

Historical Romance

Laurie Benson,  A PROPER SCANDAL

Sara Leyton, THE REUNION

Kim Turner, SAWYER’S ROSE

 Marnee Blake, A DANGEROUS CHEMISTRY

Ellen Lindseth, A QUESTION OF LOYALTY

Renee Ann Miller, NEVER DARE A WICKED EARL

E K Barnes, RESCUING MR. GRACEY

Kimberly Bell, A CONVENIENT ENGAGEMENT

Lori Sanders Foley, DRAGON’S LAIR

Paranormal Romance

 Melanie McCarthy, UNDERCOVER ENCHANTER

Pamela Kopfler, BETTER DEAD

Kristal Hollis, HOWLIN’ HEARTS

Nancy Coiner, THE MAGICAL LIBRARIAN OF TULSA, OKLAHOMA

Heather Leonard, MAGIC CITY

Kimberly MacCarron, MAPPING FATE

Jeanne Oates Estridge, DEMONS DON’T

Maria Powers, COYOTE WALKS

Tara Sheets, STONE HUNTER 

 

Romantic Suspense

Sharon Wray, EVERY UNWORTHY THING

Sharon Wray, HOPE CRAVES AN EXECUTION 

Bronwyn McAvoy, DECEPTION ISLAND

Arlene McFarlane, MURDER, CURLERS, AND CREAM

Jessica Darago, SCANDAL

Tracy Poole, A SHOT WORTH TAKING

 

Short Contemporary Romance

Mia Sosa, AT HER SERVICE

Mary Oldham, A NIGHT AT THE ROSEMONT

Debra Moser, WAITING FOR MEGGIE

Alexa Rowan, WINNING HER OVER

Seana Kelly, WELCOME HOME, KATIE GALLAGHER

 

Young Adult Romance

Stephanie Winkelhake, OUR SOULS TO KEEP

Stephanie Winkelhake, WHEN I WAKE

Diana Munoz Stewart, MIND TRAVELER

T L Sumner, THE CULLODEN IMMORTALS

Julie Glover, SHARING HUNTER

Mary Sullivan, THE JADE QUEST

 

CONGRATS TO ALL THE NEW FINALISTS!!! Please join us here tomorrow for our annual Welcome party!!!

Meet 2014 Golden Heart Finalist Ellen Lindseth!

Hard to believe, but today we’re welcoming the last of our 2014 Golden Heart Finalist guests!! (Well, conference IS next week.) Ellen Lindseth, who finaled in the Historical Romance category with her book A SOLDIER’S SERENADE, is here to share some wonderful thoughts about what turned her into a writer.

But first some background: After years spent digging through dusty tomes on classical Greek and Roman societies, and writing such scintillating fare as “An Examination of the Economic Rivalry between the Minoans and the Mycenaeans during the Late Bronze Age I (ca. 1600-1400 BC),” Ellen decided to move on to a more modern era, namely the World War II years. When not listening to the best of Glenn Miller and watching gems of the Silver Screen, like Casablanca and The Best Years of Our Lives, or flying around the country with her husband in their Beech Bonanza, she likes to relax at home in Plymouth, MN with her three rescued cats and a bearded dragon.

Here’s a blurb for her Golden Heart book, A SOLDIER’S SERENADE, which is the first in a trio of WWII romances set in 1942 United States:

Phoebe Jennings, a spirited young songwriter, is on her way out of Minnesota when she meets Captain Will Mathison, an enigmatic army officer with a musical past and a dark secret. Stranded by a series of wartime snafus in the same town where he works, she starts to fall for him while he helps her with her career. When Will’s secret comes to light, endangering them both, Phoebe is forced to choose whether to leave and follow her dreams of success or obey the longings of her heart.

Ellen has two more complete historicals as well, and she was willing to share the blurbs for them as well:

A Question of Loyalty (Book 2 of the Homeland series): 

Sophia Younan, a young Turkish woman alone in wartime America, is on a quest to find her missing father and twin brother. When she starts asking questions of the wrong people, Jason Krieg, a top researcher for the O.S.S., is ordered to stop her. As far as the U.S. government knows, Sophia Younan is not only the daughter of a lead scientist on a U.S. weapons project, she is also dead. Desperate to prove her identity, Sophia agrees to accompany Jason to Washington D.C. where secrets and lies soon surround them in an ever thickening web. Against the odds, they fall for one another, leading them both to question what they know of loyalty . . . and love.

Seducing the Enemy (Book 3 of the Homeland series):

Meredith Bennett Mathison, a beautiful but naive socialite, is in deep trouble. Accused of aiding the enemy in a time of war, she is given the chance to clear her name if she can recover some stolen weapon plans before they are smuggled out of the U.S. The only catch is the plans are in the hands of a rich sociopath who would rather have his hands all over Meredith. A sexy and highly-trained Army sergeant is brought into help her, and soon Meredith finds she is risking far more than her life on this mission . . . she may also be risking her heart.

Wow! Fabulous scenarios, Ellen! I’m so glad WWII Romance is on an up-swell these days–what an era for adventure and sacrifice and genuine passion!! Thanks so much for sharing.

Ellen’s sharing something else as well today: a sweet prize for one lucky commenter! Leave a comment today and you’ll be entered into a random drawing for a $15 gift certificate to your choice of Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Powell’s.

Take it away, Ellen!

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Ellen_Lindseth_Author_Photo_(1)It Takes a Village

Unlike many authors, I didn’t grow up knowing I wanted to be a writer. For a while I thought I would be a world-class equestrian, despite not owning a horse. And then there was the summer I spent in our local pool seeing how far I could swim underwater, hoping to become an underwater demolition expert, otherwise known as a frogman, or more recently as a Navy SEAL. Never mind that I have always been on the diminutive side, with bad eyesight, and well … female. Even in college I majored in Classics with vague aspirations of being an archeologist. Instead I ended up in business and eventually got my MBA in Accounting.

So how did I ever get started in this profession? One word: Shanna, one of my all-time favorite romances written by Kathleen Woodiwiss, which I also read at the tender age of thirteen. Talk about an eye-opener! To this day I wonder what my very straight-laced mother was thinking when she let me buy that book. Maybe she didn’t know what was in it. Maybe she hoped it would relieve her of having to explain the birds and bees to me. All I know is I loved that book in all of its overwritten glory. Despite having the attention span of a caffeinated flea (did I mention I’m slightly ADD?), I didn’t skip, I didn’t skim, I read every word of that book, from cover to cover. Multiple times.

In fact, I read all of Kathleen’s books, and to this day I thank the literary gods that no one said she couldn’t write romances set during the Civil War, or in the Caribbean, or in the court of the Russian tsar. Near as I could tell, she wrote in any darn period she felt like, and the romance world was richer for it. I’d like to think if she was still alive and writing today, she would have written one in the Roaring Twenties or even one set in the World War II era.

Which brings me around to that day, maybe ten years ago, when I wanted to read a particular story, starring one particular hero (a wounded, but noble WWII army officer who finds love and redemption in the arms of a spirited songwriter), and I couldn’t find it in the library, nor in a book store. So naturally I decided to write it. That story became A SOLDIER’S SERENADE, a finalist in this year’s Historical category of the Golden Heart.

Meet 2014 Golden Heart Finalist Jillian Lark!

Today we’re welcoming the second to last of our guests from the class of 2014 Golden Heart Finalists: Jillian Lark, whose book MUCH ADO ABOUT SCANDAL is nominated in the Historical Romance category.

Jillian’s passion for the past, England, and writing began at age eight when her family moved to a late Victorian era home near London. She earned a bachelor’s degree in education, minored in English, and studied writing and British history.

After living in two foreign countries and eleven U.S. states, Jillian now resides in Texas. When not writing or spending time with her family, she is a fervent Anglophile, occasional traveler, and reluctant wrangler of dust bunnies. She sometimes finds missing people. Just don’t ask where her lost keys, eyeglasses, and forks are.

MUCH ADO ABOUT SCANDAL (Book 1 in the Mischief in Mayfair series), also placed second in the 2013 Maggie Award for Excellence and Rebecca contests. Here’s the blurb:

Lady Selborne has found the man she wishes to marry. Unfortunately he’s not her husband. Lord Selborne has found the life he always wanted. Unfortunately he is not free to live it.

The estranged couple decides to end their arranged marriage the only honorable way allowed by Victorian law. One of them has to die – a faux death.

To avoid suspicion Lord and Lady Selborne must convince Society they are a loving couple. That is, if they can agree who should be the “victim” and protect their hearts from a painful past and unexpected desire.

I’m chuckling with delight just hearing about it! And, luckily for her future readers, Jillian’s working on the second book in the series, INVENTING LORD REMINGTON (which she describes as “Remington Steele for the Victorian age”): To save her late father’s company, a woman creates an imaginary husband. When a con artist assumes her fake husband’s identity, she must risk her reputation, the family business, and her heart.

I can’t wait!

Today, Jillian’s here to talk with us about a topic very much at the forefront of my mind: what to do if you’re NOT going to be joining the rest of the Romance writing world at RWA Nationals next week.

Be sure to leave a comment for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card!

Take it away, Jillian!!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHi, everyone! Rubies, love your sisterhood and this blog. I met my CP Lia and won a 25-page critique from the fabulous Darynda Jones during the 2012 Make-It-Golden contest. I’m thrilled to give back today by discussing a seldom-mentioned topic.

 

 

 

               The Not-Going-to-Conference Blues

Before RWA®14 begins next week, even non-attendees who vow to resist will be tempted by all the pre-conference social media about “the dress,” shoes, packing, and survival tips. That’s when the not-going-to-conference blues worsen. Believe me I know. For the past two years I’ve had to cancel plans to attend my first national conference. I didn’t even get a t-shirt printed with “My friends went to RWA®13 and all I got was this HVAC system.”

Meet 2014 Golden Heart Finalist Sarah Andre!

Today we’re welcoming the lovely Sarah Andre, 2014 Golden Heart Finalist in Romantic Suspense with her book SECRETS THAT KILL.

Sarah lives in Houston with her husband and two naughty Pomeranians. She writes romantic suspense, is represented by a fabulous agent, and was also a finalist in the 2011 Golden Heart®. Weird Fact: Last year she went to see Blue Man Group, and out of thousands in the audience, they hauled her up on stage for the “Twinkie Act.” (If you’ve seen the show you’ll know the humiliation she faced!) J

Here’s a blurb for SECRETS THAT KILL:

The disinherited son of a Chicago billionaire returns home for a mysterious announcement only to encounter betrayal, discover the horrific truth behind a family secret, and get arrested for murder. Unfortunately, the only person he can turn to is his long, lost love, whose neighborhood is targeted for demolition by his development company.

Sarah’s here today to talk with us about the powerful imagery of love songs. She’s also going to be giving away a gift card worth $25 to your choice of Starbucks, Amazon, or iTunes! So be sure to join the conversation in the comments below!

Take it away, Sarah!

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Andre013ERomance Language in Lyrics

I listen to music constantly because subtext, symbolism and analogy in lyrics captivate me. Like great authors, songwriters develop a distinctive, unforgettable ‘voice’. And some of the best can twist words so intriguingly that I can’t help pressing ‘repeat’ on my iPod fourteen times in a row. (OK, not that many, but many.) Here’s an example of lyrics that leave me in awe. Kristian Leontiou of One EskimO’s sings in mystified sorrow: “One day it just snowed, I guess, and they closed the road into your heart.” Wow.

Or R.E.M.s song “The Ascent of Man” (written by Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Michael Stipe,)I’m a cactus trying to be a canoe. On the surface it’s a bizarre line, but the more you list the differences between the two nouns, the more profound and brilliant that lyric becomes.

As writers we’re taught to cut, revise and be succinct. Well, sometimes repetition really nails a point. Take Neil Young’s classic song: “Old Man.” He could have said, “I don’t care what you think of me,” because that’s his frank message. But the unique repetition of words really hammers his point home: It doesn’t mean that much to me to mean that much to you. Ouch.

But let’s talk romantic lyrics! Tracy Chapman’s “Smoke and Ashes” describes an Alpha-hottie-heartbreaker in street-cool terminology: …I heard talk about the trail you left of broken hearts. About the sea of tears too wide to cross. But your bad press has never turned me off. So I burned a path to figure out how to get me some of what you got.

And yeah, she ends up hurt, just like all the others. A beautifully written song. Or the line written and sung by Stevie Nicks in Fleetwood Mac’s “Sara:” Said you’d give me light, but you never told me ‘bout the pyre. A powerful arrow straight to the heart.

The reigning master of creative lyrics, IMO, is John Mayer. The paparazzi often exploit his dating/breaking up, but his adventures in relationships have given him exquisitely written descriptions of love or pain. “City Love” is about that flawless time in a new relationship, and he compares his giddy love as: It’s the kind of thing you only see in scented, glossy magazines. Get it? The Photoshopped, impossibly adorable ad of a “picture-perfect” couple laughing and holding hands. A charming image for new love.

In “Assassin,” John unapologetically tells us he uses women and leaves, but this time he’s met his match. I’m an assassin and I had a job to do, little did I know that girl was an assassin too…suddenly I’m in over my head and I can hardly breathe.

His very public breakups can be summed up in just the song titles! “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room,” “Heartbreak Warfare,” “Half of my Heart,” “Split Screen Sadness” are some of the most outstanding stories of agony I’ve ever listened to. “Come Back to Bed” is about a late night fight and she’s run sobbing down the hall. He begs for her return: And I won’t sleep through this. I survive on the breath you are finished with. A master of lyrical pain.

Del Amitri’s lyricist, Justin Currie, uses both literal and figurative imagery in “Driving with the Brakes on.” (Again, title is as creative as the descriptive troubled relationship.) They’re on the road somewhere, having fought earlier. She’s driving and giving him the silent treatment. And he’s realizing that his love for her gives her all the power and control. Literally and figuratively: But she’s got the wheel and I have nothing except what I have on.

And finally, my favorite song of all time, “Secret Garden,” written by rock and roll god, Bruce Springsteen. Too spectacular to choose just one line, so download it and listen closely. There is not one misplaced or misguided word in his tribute to the mystery that makes up a woman. His raspy voice lends quiet reverence and regret—no man will ever figure out the inner female soul. Even the achingly soft, fade-to-black sax riff by the late Clarence Clemmons is like typing the last period on your own romance novel. (Seriously. Download the song now!)

Is there a lyric you love that uses imagery or symbolism? Please share the band, song and songwriter (only a line or two tops, please!) One commenter will receive a $25 gift card to your choice of Starbucks, Amazon or iTunes.

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Connect with Sarah:

View her website at www.SarahAndre.com, Facebook: www.Facebook.com/SarahAndreWriter or Twitter: @SarahRSWriter. She is a member of the romantic suspense blog: www.KissandThrill.com.

Meet 2014 Golden Heart Finalist Julie Mulhern!

Today we’re delighted to have Julie Mulhern, 2014 Golden Heart Finalist in Historical Romance with her book A HAUNTING DESIRE, set in 1902 New Orleans.

Julie Mulhern 2 smallJulie’s from Kansas City, Missouri. She’s married with two teenage daughters and works in fundraising. Like most of the Dreamweavers, she juggles work, family, writing and other commitments. “Nothing new there,” she says. “But I do hold the secret to successful juggling. Look at the balls in the air and figure out which ones are made of rubber and which are made of glass. Don’t drop the glass ones.”

Here’s a blurb for A HAUNTING DESIRE:

As the madam of New Orleans’ most exclusive brothel, Trula Boudreaux knows there is no such thing as love. Lust she believes in. It keeps her girls busy every night.

When a series of violent murders shakes Storyville, Trula is prepared to risk her life to protect her business and keep her girls safe from the killer prowling the steamy district. She’s not prepared for Zeke Barnes.

Yankee Zeke Barnes can’t wait to catch the killer and escape New Orleans’ cloying heat and spirit-filled streets. Aside from a ghostly colleague, Zeke prefers to hunt killers alone—preferably in a different city every night. When partnership with local police proves to be of no value, he is forced to turn to the city’s most alluring lady of the night, a woman he is sure he can leave as soon as the next job arises.

Together Trula and Zeke investigate the city’s dark underside and uncover horrific secrets. Trula fights an attraction she can’t explain, while Zeke discovers that a woman who can best him might be exactly what he needs.

As the killer draws closer, can they learn to trust the spirits and overcome their haunting pasts?

Oh, hot damn! Another Dreamweaver book I’m dying to read! Ghosts, ladies of the night, a loner detective in turn-of-the-century New Orleans….Yummy!!

 Okay, folks, time to grab a café au lait and a couple sugar-dusted beignets…or, if you prefer, a Sazerac or Gin Fizz….and settle in to learn more about Julie and her world of romance!

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That book really does sound delicious. Are there any more like that on the horizon? How many manuscripts have you started, and how many completed?

Meet 2014 Golden Heart Finalist Piper Huguley!

Today we’re welcoming back the wonderful Piper Huguley, 2014 Golden Heart Finalist in Inspirational Romance. Not only is she a Dreamweaver, she was a Lucky 13 as well (see her previous guest post with us here), which means she pulled off the impressive feat of finaling in Golden Heart two years in a row, with two different books.

piper2Piper’s five-book series of inspirational historical romances, “Migrations of the Heart,” is set in the early 20th century featuring African American characters. Book one in the series, A Virtuous Ruby won the Golden Rose contest in Historical Romance in 2013 and is her Golden Heart finalist in 2014. Book four in the series, A Champion’s Heart, was her Golden Heart finalist in 2013. Her novella, The Lawyer’s Luck, prequel of the “Home to Milford College” series is already an Amazon bestseller. She blogs about the history behind her novels at http://piperhuguley.com.

She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and son.

Here’s a blurb for A Virtuous Ruby:

 If 1915 Winslow, Georgia thinks shame would keep her from speaking out against lynching, they’re wrong. Town troublemaker mixed-race midwife Ruby Bledsoe resolves never be quiet, and loves her baby–the result of an arranged rape by the town’s leading scion to stop her lynching protests. Since her son’s birth, she is more determined than ever to make Winslow a good place to live. When a mill worker falls ill in the town, Ruby doesn’t anticipate meeting a handsome stranger who offers her and her son brand new opportunities.

Dr. Adam Morson has spent years in Michigan as a white man earning his medical degree. His arrival in Winslow stirs up the shame he had always felt about his lineage. When he encounters the beautiful young midwife who still practices with old country methods, he determines she has plenty to learn. However, something powerful draws him to protect the beautiful and fiery midwife-activist who teaches him how to be true to himself. The inner peace he comes to know compels him to offer Ruby a job up north. Will she stay to fight for the soul of the town or seek her own happiness with the handsome doctor?

 Piper’s here today to talk about some of the complexities of her experience with the Golden Heart.

Take it away, Piper!

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piper-huguley-rigginsWhat the Golden Heart Really Means

When I was nominated for the Golden Heart last year, I kept hearing one thing as I put forward my book to agents and editors: “Sometimes, the Golden Heart doesn’t really represent what’s in the marketplace.”

And I would wonder what that meant.

Now that I’m embarking upon my own indie publishing journey, I’ve come to understand that this particular comment means Golden Heart nominees reflect something different in the publishing world—books that might appeal in a new way to readers.

And I wonder why those stories can’t be seen as innovative or “breakout.”

From where I am, on the threshold of making myself ineligible for the 2015 Golden Heart contest, I don’t understand why this is a drawback. I don’t get it. I need someone to explain to me. The contest has stories that have been vetted by real readers. The judges volunteer to go through piles of manuscripts, score them and put them forward a list of nominees and the whole exercise is dismissed as “weird” and “eclectic.” The contest itself is a built-in pre-reader approval board, but resulting nominees are somehow dismissed as “unusual.”

For a long time, I still had stars in my eyes about being published by a traditional publisher. I thought they had vision, but I’m not seeing that so far. They publish what they know. What they know is fine and enjoyable, but there should be room for innovation somewhere in the picture. I should have been prepared when I was told by a publishing official at last year’s RWA that my books would never be published in twenty years. Or when I just got the word last month from a Big 6 publisher that this year’s nominated story, A Virtuous Ruby was a great book, great story, but the pub board thought the audience was too small.

Fortunately, a few pubs have gotten some sense and so some of my Dreamweaver sisters have gotten “The Call.” I’m so proud and pleased for them. However, it’s not nearly enough. What happened to the eager editors ready to judge before the nominees were announced? Are they are waiting until after RWA is over? I hope so. Traditional publishing needs some innovation and they are about to miss out on a lot of opportunities. It may be that the Dreamweavers will transform as many of the Lucky 13s did. Some of my fellow Luckies grew tired of publishers not seeing their vision. Some of them have been very successful over the past year—and I have enjoyed all of wonderful variety of their stories. When the Dreamweavers get tired, then they may go out and do the indie thing as the Luckies have. If they become tired, as I did, something like this may be in their future:

lawyer luck

 

So whatever you do, whatever GH class you belong to, even if you don’t belong to a class—do not give up. Stay strong in what matters to you, stay honest. You are sharing the heart of you– the truest, most pure reflection of yourself in your fiction. That true reflection of yourself, through your story’s world, is more precious than gold.

Here’s a question for our readers today: Has your writing ever been called unusual or eclectic?

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Connect with Piper:

Twitter: @writerpiper

Facebook: Piper G Huguley

Blog: http://piperhuguley.com

Meet 2014 Golden Heart Finalist Abbie Roads!

Today we have the great pleasure of hosting Abbie Roads, 2014 Golden Heart Finalist in Romantic Suspense with her book DANGEROUS DREAMS.

Abbie Roads writes dangerously dark romances, but she always gives her damaged characters a happy ending. During the day, she’s a mental health counselor known for her blunt, honest style of therapy and her high heels. At night, she burns up the keyboard in one of her three home offices: her normal office, her treadmill office, and her aqua office. Aqua office you might be wondering? Abbie likes to write while taking a bath by candlelight. She’s weird that way. She is represented by Michelle Grajkowski of 3 Seas Literary.

Here’s a blurb for DANGEROUS DREAMS:

Lathan Montgomery is an aberration, a real life freak of nature. He hates the screwed up sequence of genetic code that enlarges the olfactory regions of his brain. He hates that he smells everything. And he especially hates the ability to smell the energy imprints of people’s memories. Memories that can overwhelm him and annihilate his reality. Avoiding people—their memories—is vital to his sanity.

The FBI uses Lathan’s unique ability to generate leads in the most frigid of cold cases. When he links a group of murders—by scent alone—and discovers an active serial killer, the mind-hunters reject his claim and refuse to open an investigation. Lathan is determined to prove the random kills, random victims, and random MO’s aren’t random at all, but the work of The Strategist.

His path to justice gets stalled by the only woman who’s ever captured his attention. It’s not her skyscraper legs or her plunging cleavage that he notices. He can’t smell her memories. She’s the only person—the only freaking person—he’s ever met who doesn’t have a cloud of memories around her.

Evanee Brown’s life got flushed down the pooper, forcing her to work a job as a scarcely dressed waitress. An old enemy attacks when she’s most vulnerable, but Lathan intervenes keeping her from harm. Even though the tattoo on his cheek makes him simultaneously the scariest and sexist man she’s ever met, she trusts him and for the first time in her life feels truly safe.

Until the nightmares start. In Evanee’s dreams, murder victims give her evidence to transport back to reality—evidence Lathan is seeking. Evidence he ties to The Strategist. But before he can connect a name to The Strategist, the killer takes Evanee. And he never keeps his victims alive for long…

Wow! My pulse rate’s up just hearing about it.

The story’s intense, and so is the way Abbie wrote it. She’s going to take us behind the scenes today and give us a peek at her process.

Take it away, Abbie!

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abbie roads authorDescribe your experience writing Dangerous Dreams?

The short answer: A painful test of endurance.

The long answer: In May of 2011, I wrote the very first draft of Dangerous Dreams during a Savvy Authors boot camp. In June, I started editing.

And editing.

And editing—talk about a shitty first draft.

A year later, I finally finished editing. I then read the manuscript with a critical eye and came to a devastating conclusion: It sucked. Only I couldn’t figure out why. I just knew it wasn’t a quality piece of writing and definitely not worthy of being published.

So I read craft books, took on-line classes, and nothing seemed to explain why my manuscript wasn’t good. Until…

I always listen to audio books while I get ready for work in the mornings. One particular morning, I decided to cue up a workshop from the 2010 RWA Convention. I found one I hadn’t listened to before, hit play, and got in the shower. Five minutes in, I had a ding-ding-ding-we-have-a-winner moment. Soaking wet, hair dripping shampoo, I had to see who was speaking the exact words I needed to hear. It was Margie Lawson.

As soon as I got the suds rinsed off I Googled Margie, purchased her lecture packets, and signed up for an Immersion with her in Colorado.

Meet 2014 Golden Heart Finalist Charis Calhoon!

Today we’re delighted to welcome Charis Calhoon, 2014 Golden Heart Finalist in Historical Romance.

Charis was lucky enough to work as an intern at the national office of RWA as a college senior. After graduating with a degree in Journalism, she was hired full time at RWA, and eventually became the association’s Communications Manager, editing the RWR and handling public relations at the RWA Conference and for RITA finalists. After eight years, she left RWA with a new baby and a new dream:  to write a romance novel herself.

Since that time, she’s worked to balance writing with stay-at-home motherhood. She’s written three complete manuscripts—two Regency historicals and one romantic suspense—and her current work in progress is a romantic suspense. She finaled in RWA’s Golden Heart contest with her first suspense in 2011, and now the historical this year. She says, “Romance fiction is very central to me.  I’m not sure I could live without the pro-woman, pro-family (all kinds of families) undertones and hopeful, love-trumps-all theme of romance—as a writer and a reader.”

charis calhoonHere’s a blurb for THE EARL NEXT DOOR:

Rich American heiress Piety Grey has fled to England to escape her hateful mother and the oily suitors she forces upon her.  All of them, Mom included, are after Piety’s money, but she protects the inheritance by sinking it into a ramshackle townhome mansion in the heart of Mayfair, which she plans to restore. The new home progresses beautifully until renovations (and Piety herself) spill over onto the property next door—home to the private, prickly, lonely Trevor Rheese, Earl Falcondale. They clash, the kiss, they halt construction by fighting (and kissing), even while the opportunistic Americans arrive in town and aggressively pursue Piety. Now the only thing to protect Piety from an abusive future is…the earl next door.  But can he pretend to be her fiance if he failed so miserably to be her neighbor?

Oh, yay!! What a great storyline! I love everything about it—and that you keep balancing your Romantic Suspense writing with Historical, because I want to read more!

Readers, grab some tea and scones (or for you Romantic Suspense folks, some straight black coffee) and settle in with us, while we learn a little more about what goes on behind the scenes with Charis!

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Let’s start with my fave question: what was it like when you got the phone call telling you you were a finalist?

When the call came in, I was receiving rental furniture to our temporary apartment, and I celebrated with the delivery men. A tree fell on our house in March, and we’ve had to move into temporary housing (with temporary furniture) until our roof is restored.

It was late in the day, because RWA had to figure out my cell phone number (the tree took out our landline).  I didn’t recognize the number and almost didn’t answer it….But then I did, and the Board member (whose name I, unfortunately, lost in the excitement) identified herself, and I remember thinking, “Did I forget to vote on something?”  I had no idea it was finalist day, and I couldn’t imagine why RWA was calling me.  When she told me I was a finalist, I stopped breathing, then I started hyperventilating, then I started screaming.

Off all the books I’ve written, THE EARL NEXT DOOR is my favorite.  I’ve entered it for several years, revising it each time in hopes of…something.  I had all but given up hope, so the joy of actually making the finals with it is overwhelming.  After I assured the delivery men and my kids that the call was good news and not tragic news, I danced around the empty apartment and repeated some dazed version of, “I can’t believe it!” again and again.  Delivery men Moses and Horatio were very happy for me and assure me that they will read my book as soon as it comes out.  (You and me both, guys!)

OMG! A tree fell on your house—that’s gotta be the best excuse for not being able to take the RWA phone call I’ve ever heard! (And, um, sorry it happened to you!) And I love that you don’t remember the name of the Board member who called—that seems to be a verrrry common form of amnesia—but you do remember the names of the delivery guys. Maybe you should send them flowers if you win…. So, this isn’t your first time at the Big Dance. Having been there twice, what would you say is the best thing about being a GH finalist?

This is my second time to final, and without a doubt, the best thing is the bolstering gush of VALIDATION you receive in the otherwise futile vacuum of, “Why Am I Still Trying?”

The validation is definitely powerful! So, are you going to Nationals again this year? It must be a pretty different experience from being on the other side of the RWA desk—especially being a Finalist!

When I worked for RWA, I attended eight RWA Conferences…arriving before the Board meeting at the beginning and staying for days after to clean up at the end. It was the culmination of our year, our biggest push/effort, and I loved it. Fast forward ten years of stay-at-home motherhood with writing on the side. When I returned to the Conference in 2012, I was an RWA member and Golden-Heart finalist; and it was STRANGE to be on the other side, almost…”imposter-esque.” It made me nervous and jumpy, and I ended up touring the host city of New York with my date (my mother) for much of the week.

I knew a lot of people in RWA, but they were all NYT-best-selling authors that I used to accompany to interviews or established authors who I had hired to write for the RWR. They were former Board members. Beyond saying hello, my “place” was no longer with them. Even though the RWA Executive Director is a dear friend, I couldn’t hang out with her or the other staff—that would be weird and counter-productive. Yet, I hadn’t joined my local chapter, and I didn’t really know anyone at my same place in the writing journey. I was…unprepared to navigate the social/networking aspects of RWA, because I didn’t really know where I fit in.

Nora Roberts used to say (and I’m sure she still does) that your closest writing friends are the women in your own “class”—so, the people “you come up with.” Even though she is arguably the best-selling romance author in the world, her closest writing friend is a much lesser-known category author who published about the same time as she did, back in the late ’70s, early ’80s.

This year, I have vowed to approach the whole thing differently.  I have still not joined my local RWA chapter (won’t go into excuses here!) but I do have a critique partner, and she is coming to the RWA Conference. We correspond every day and trade pages, but I have never met her in person. I am so looking forward to giving her a hug in San Antonio. And I want to make new friends and contacts. I can be reserved and tentative about this in a new setting…and it’s even weirder in a new/old setting…but I’m determined.

Most writers I know are introverts, and need a little coaxing to navigate the Nationals social whirl. Guaranteed: you’re never the most nervous person in the room. And hopefully you’ll meet some new friends today—our Finalist guests often tell me people at conference recognize them from their guest blog, and come to say hello. (Quick, everybody: take another look at Charis’s picture and be sure to at least give her a wave when you see her!)

Okay, next question: you’ve been immersed in the romance writing world for awhile now, from different angles. What are some of the most important things you’ve learned so far about the publishing industry and what writers need to do to get a foot in the door, and/or thrive?

Some of the best advice I have heard (or experienced) is, don’t submit until your work is ready.

I wasted a lot of contacts and industry-insider “short-cuts” from my years at RWA by submitting manuscripts that were still in the “learning” phases.  I thought I was ready…but I was not.  Some people may disagree…say, “Be aggressive early!” or, “Put yourself out there!”  But I wish I had held off, worked with a critique partner, had more readers, evolved my voice and my pacing before I started to pitch work that was really a beginner effort.

Of course, this can also back-fire. Now that I may (possibly) be ready, I hold back on submitting because…what if I’m STILL not ready?  How can you ever really be sure you’ve reached your so-called A-Game?  It’s a fine line, but simple rules and guidelines can help.  Is the book an appropriate length (I have beginner efforts that are nearly 600 pages long!)? Are your goals, motivation, and conflict intact?  Have you created heros and heroines that fit the archetype for romance?  (This is not always essential, but it can’t hurt in the beginning.  Prostitute heroines can be a hard sell. So are heros who are something like…florists.) Mostly, are you getting multiple positive comments from HONEST readers?

An straight-shooting critique partner is essential, I’d say. I can’t believe I toiled for so many years without one.

Hallelujah for straight-shooting critique partners!! And I hear you 100% on the thinking-you’re-ready-before-you’re-ready / then-second-guessing-yourself-forever conundrum. Sigh. But I sense you’re ACTUALLY ready now. With two GH nominations in two different categories, and several manuscripts under your belt, you’re somebody to reckon with.

Speaking of being a multi-genre writer—and in such very different genres!—what are your creative inspirations? Books? TV shows? Movies? Pop culture stuff? Do you have a favorite author…or several?

Oh, my goodness, I love pop culture….You may be sorry you asked.

Where movies are concerned, I like anything hopeful. Anything from indie films like, “In A World” or “Safely Not Guaranteed;” to sentimental, it-all-works-out-in-the-end movies like “Million-Dollar Arm;” to movies designed for 14-year-old boys, such as “Transformers” or “Battleship.” And my husband and I also love a good “dance-off” movie…where one “crew” of teens dance-battles another…generally so that an outsider to the dance world may prove to his/her parents that dancing is a legitimate pursuit. Love it. These movies almost always come out in the Sahara-movie-month of February, and we always see them opening weekend with the handful of other dance-off enthusiasts in the world.

What I will not watch is/are tragic movies, films that feature drug use, hazing, or beloved pets that die. I hate unhappy people floundering in their own futile unhappiness; movies without a single female character; and movies where no character is redeemable or “good.” Except for the original “Star Wars,” I’m not big on Outer Space. My favorite movie of all time is probably….”Speed.”  ….Or “Sense and Sensibility.”  Exactly what I write.  Go figure.

I read romantic suspense that is heavy on the ‘adventure/thriller’ side of suspense (not the mystery side) and Regency historicals.  My favorite authors are Suzanne Brockmann, Pamela Clare, Loretta Chase, and Julie Ann Long.

Outside of romance, I’ll read general fiction if it is HOPEFUL.  Maria Semple (“Where’d You Go, Bernadette?”) or Maggie Shipstead (“Astonish Me”) or Jennifer Weiner (“Then Came You”) are some recent books I devoured.

My favorite television show of all time is Veronica Mars.

LOL…”Speed,” “Sense and Sensibility”…what’s the diff, right? At least you’ll never get bored! (And you’re probably the 85th person to tell me of the wonderfulness of Veronica Mars, which I’ve never seen. Must get on that.) Anyhow, you’re clearly a complex and multi-layered person. What aspects of your personality would you say are most valuable to you as a writer? What aspects (if any) make the writing life more difficult?

My minor in college was Theatre, and I find writing dialogue to be a lot like improvisational acting.  You are basically typing out a “scene,” as it comes to you, fast and furious, in your head.  I love dialogue, and my books have a lot of “talking.”

I am also a controlling person (ask my poor husband), and that “control” carries through to my writing in a frustrating way.  My critique partner says I will write:  “She picked up the spoon, she raised it to her lips, she placed it in her mouth and relished the steaming soup to rolling down her throat, burning a path to her stomach….”  When I could (should!) simply write, “She ate.”  I am trying to reign in my need to micromanage my characters and the way readers meet them.

Ooh, ooh! Me too on the former actor / dialogue connection! Which is so great for historicals especially (hint, hint. Okay, also good for Romantic Suspense tough guy sass, but still. I want more historicals!!). And the micromanaging character behavior—sigh, I do that, too. I’m always trying to learn to cut it down to ONE actually interesting detail that synchs with the character’s emotional state. Like maybe if she’s having an angry conversation with the hero while eating that soup, stick with “Her soup burned a path to her stomach.”

One last thing: What question would you like to ask our readers to get the conversation going today?

I’d simply love to know what everyone is reading….What new or lesser-known author has blown you away recently?  I don’t have much time to read, but it’s one of my favorite things to do.  I’m always looking for the author or series that I haven’t yet met.

Meet 2014 Golden Heart Finalist Shelly Alexander!

Today, we’re joined by the lovely Shelly Alexander, 2014 Golden Heart finalist in Contemporary Romance with her book LOVE IN LIVING COLOR.

Shelly grew up traveling the world, earned a BBA in Marketing, and landed a corporate job in Dallas, TX before marriage lured her to Albuquerque, NM in the early ’90s. After growing up with four older brothers and having three sons of her own, Shelly decided to escape her male-dominated world for some “girl time” by reading romance novels. While reading in the New Mexico sunshine on the banks of the Jemez River, she began to dream up love stories she would like to write herself someday. Years later, when she survived invasive breast cancer, she decided it was now or never and bought her first laptop so she could start writing down her stories.

Now, Shelly spends her days writing steamy romances while tending to an overweight English bulldog named Lola. Her stories feature strong, independent heroines and heroes, and her plots are filled with real-life issues, unexpected twists, and subtle doses of humor.

In the past year, her manuscript LOVE IN LIVING COLOR has been named a finalist in many contests, including Touch of Magic, Great Expectations, The Smooch Contest, and Hook, Line and Sinker. Here’s a blurb:

 Ella Dennings has a scandalous secret. Cooper Wells has a scandalous legal problem. And neither is on each other’s top ten list of People To Call If You Need A Friend.

When they both end up at the same Red River retreat, an altercation that involves wrestling an overweight English Bulldog, a baseball bat named Old Faithful, and a hefty dose of pepper spray rekindles an old grudge that started long ago.

 The last thing they expect is for their passionate dislike of each other to erupt into a romantic entanglement that neither can walk away from. Until Ella’s secret is exposed, threatening to send Coop to jail for a crime he didn’t commit.

I love the sassy voice! And clearly so have lots of contest judges. Congrats, Shelly!

Shelly’s going to be talking with us today about the Top Five Things her Golden Heart final has changed her writing life. Take it away, Shelly!

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shelly alexanderThank you, Ruby Slippered Sisterhood, for inviting me here today. The Golden Heart® experience has been amazing. It’s expanded my writing life in a way I never expected.

First, it’s provided a sense of affirmation that I’m on the right track. My GH novel is my fourth book, but my first contemporary story and the vehicle in which I finally found my writer’s voice. It’s been a great feeling – knowing that I found my place in the world of romance writing.

Second, it’s motivated me to continue to learn and grow as a writer. Now that I’ve found my voice and found the sub-genre that’s best suited to my voice, I’m fired up and ready to delve deeper into learning more about the craft. I don’t think we should ever stop learning. Every new project presents multitudes of learning opportunities, and that’s very exciting for me.

Third, it’s expanded the circle of writers that I can interact with, make friends with, learn from and share victories and defeats with. Since writers sit in front of a computer all day, every day, it’s easy to feel alone and isolated. The benefit of being part of the RWA organization is the incredible field of talented writers that are always available to talk things out with a fellow writer.

Fourth, it’s providing a whole new perspective to the National Conference. I showed up to my first RWA conference a few years ago in Anaheim. I was new to the RWA, I hadn’t joined a local chapter yet, and I didn’t know a single person there. Not one! Yet, everyone accepted me with open arms. I remember seeing other attendees with badges that had a million and one pins and ribbons that said ‘Pro’, ‘Pan’, ‘Golden Heart Finalist’ and ‘Rita Finalist’. Needless to say, it was a little intimidating. But they were all so friendly and welcoming. I’m excited to pay it forward this year in San Antonio.

Fifth, it’s created a Golden Heart Sisterhood that I’m proud to be a part of. I’ve enjoyed getting to know each of the finalists this year, and I know we’ll stay in touch for years to come.

There are so many more things I could include, but simply put, being a Golden Heart finalist has been incredible.

Here’s a question to get the conversation rolling today:

Have you ever vacationed in Red River or Northern New Mexico? If so, I’d love to hear your impressions on the area. If not, what’s your favorite vacation spot?

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You can find Shelly online at:

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1639772782

 

https://twitter.com/ShellyCAlexander

http://shellyalexander.net/

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The Latest Comments

  • Autumn Jordon: Thanks, Shelly. The more I think about what he said, the more I see my characters becoming much more.
  • Shelley Coriell: Big Michael Hauge fan here! I was able to sit in on one of his two-hour RWA workshops seven or eight...
  • Shelley Coriell: Fascinating post, Ava! I’ve never tried to write one of these, but I’ve read a number of...
  • Autumn Jordon: I’m in. Work on the next story is underway, so I’ll need to start germinating another idea.
  • Autumn Jordon: You’re welcome, Cyn. Anytime you have a question feel free to ask.

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