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Posts tagged with: 2015 Golden Heart finalist

Meet 2015 Golden Heart Finalist Alexa Rowan!

It’s hard to believe, but we’re at the end of our hosting season for the new class of Golden Heart Finalists. (RWA Nationals starts in a week, so I guess I really shouldn’t be all that surprised….) Our final Dragonfly guest blogger is Alexa Rowan, whose book WINNING HER OVER is nominated for Short Contemporary Romance.

An attorney by day, Alexa squeezes in as much writing time as she can for her steamy, intelligent contemporary and paranormal romances. She lives in a leafy New England suburb with her husband, two energetic children, five backyard chickens, a dumb but adorable cairn terrier, and a female leopard gecko named Fred. Alexa enjoys hiking and is an avid romance reader. WINNING HER OVER is the first book in Alexa’s sizzling-hot BigLaw Romance series, which portrays smart, ambitious heroes and heroines struggling with realistic conflicts as they seek love, success, and that elusive work-life balance.

Here’s a short blurb:

Massage therapist Brenna Johansen is struggling to keep her business afloat for another month and her dream alive. It’s a lonely, stressful life, and she has no time for dating. Besides, the only guys she meets are her clients, who are off limits. And most of them aren’t even cute. But her newest client, a hotshot attorney visiting Boston for a two-week trial, makes her wonder if it’s time to break some of her rules.

Cal Wilcox is on the verge of making partner at a prestigious law firm in Washington, D.C., and appearances are everything right now. A long-distance relationship with a sweet, sexy masseuse is a distraction he can’t afford, but his attraction to Brenna can’t be denied.
He persuades her they both need the same thing–friends with benefits, no strings attached–but Brenna soon wants more than he’s ready to give. When Cal realizes too late she means more to him than the partnership, can he win her over again–this time, for good?

Fabulous, Alexa! The Dragonflies have so many amazing stories to tell–I’m really eager to see you all start blowing up big time in the next couple of years!!

And speaking of being blown up big time: remember, this year for the first time, RWA is LIVESTREAMING the Awards Ceremony at Nationals via rwa.org, so the Dragonflies won’t just be blown up on the Jumbotron for the audience at the Marriott, they’ll be watchable on our computer screens at home. I’ll be watching and toasting you all with a big bottle of champagne!!

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Fittingly enough, Alexa’s here today to talk about the Golden Heart, and some helpful knowledge she’s gleaned about how to do your best in the contest.

One very lucky commenter will receive a line-edit by Alexa of her/his contest entry or other short or partial manuscript (up to 55 pages, double-spaced). Or the winner may choose to receive a US$25 Amazon gift card instead.

Take it away, Alexa!!

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Alexa Rowan profile 2015 300x300-1Four Things You Need to Know About Entering the Golden Heart® Contest

This year was my first time entering the Golden Heart contest. So before I did, I researched the heck out of related topics like synopsis-writing, formatting, and how contest entries are judged. (Because I’m a lawyer, and that’s how I roll.) Along the way, I learned a few things that might come in handy if you’re thinking of entering the premier contest for unpublished romance authors.

1. The Full.  A Golden Heart entry consists of three things: a partial manuscript, a full manuscript, and a synopsis. Only two of these will be judged: the partial and the synopsis. The purpose of the full, as I understand it, is to ensure that (a) you have, in fact, completed your manuscript and not just polished your first five(-ish) chapters to a fare-thee-well, and (b) your manuscript meets the contest’s length requirements (40,000 words is the minimum length RWA considers to be a novel; the contemporary category is further divided into under 65,000 words and over 65,000 words).

Meet 2015 Golden Heart Finalist Maria Powers!

Today we’re welcoming our second-to-last Dragonfly, 2015 Golden Heart Finalist Maria Powers, who’s nominated in the Paranormal Romance category for COYOTE WALKS.

Maria grew up in Southern California. She graduated with a degree in English and promptly entered the Business world. By day she works in Affordable Housing wrangling contracts and agreements with several government agencies, and by night she writes kickass heroines and tough heroes with sensitive hearts ready to be tamed by the girl next door or beaten into submission by the witch on the corner, whatever works. Maria’s current work in progress is a Paranormal Romance series set in the San Gabriel Valley. COYOTE WALKS is the first book in the series. Maria’s a member of the Romance Writers of America® and a member of three of the four local chapters, Los Angeles Romance Authors, Orange County Chapter – RWA, and East Valley Authors.

Here’s a blurb for COYOTE WALKS:

Prudence Porter, born a witch, is blood bonded to be the next family keeper of the Gabriel Hell Gate. But when her mother’s death is foretold, Prudence will do anything to save her mother’s life, even if it puts the entire human realm in jeopardy. Of course, the sexy coyote messenger who walks through her door may just have the power to change everything.

Alex Driscoll, a shape shifting coyote from the Messenger clans, is determined to finish one last assignment in Gehenna and then he’s leaving to find his brother. Trouble is this assignment bonds him to Prudence and now he must face the Prince of Hell or risk losing Prudence forever. Only how can he ever be sure that she loves him when it was magic that brought them together.

A shape shifting coyote and a born witch brought together by magic and betrayal must find the courage to trust each other and their love, or risk plunging the world into a new dark age ruled by demons and fallen angels.

That sounds like a fun ride, Maria!! I’ve always loved coyotes as trickster figures, but it sounds like your witch will give him a run for his money!

Okay, everyone—let’s pass around some witch’s brew (a.k.a. coffee…but put a little something special in it if you like) and settle in for a chat with Maria.

She’ll be giving a $15 Starbucks gift card to one lucky commenter!

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maria powers Welcome, Maria! Okay, so my favorite question first: What was it like when you got the phone call telling you that you were a finalist?

It was the best. It was everything you dream it will be and more. I woke up early that morning because I had to get ready to go down to the California Dreamin’ Writers Conference that I’d been working on for the last two years with nine other fabulous authors. I remembered that it was the day the Golden Heart® finalists would be notified. I checked my email and realized that it was still a little early even though I was on Pacific Time rather than Central Time. I lay in bed and did my speech to myself, the one all writers do, “If I don’t get the call, it’s okay. I am still a writer. I don’t write to get awards.” I got up and started to get ready for the rest of my very busy weekend.

I’d pushed the call to the back of my head and was cleaning out the kitty litter boxes, when my home phone rang. I normally don’t answer my home number especially for numbers that I don’t know, but there was something about the area code and the fact that a name appeared instead of, “toll free marketing number.” I picked it up and the woman told me her name – I forgot it within a minute; I still cannot remember who it was – and said, “Hi this is (blank)! I’m from RWA and I bet you know what this call is about.”

Meet 2015 Golden Heart Finalist Tosha Sumner!

Today we’re delighted to welcome another YA-writing Dragonfly: Tosha Sumner, 2015 Golden Heart finalist in Young Adult Romance for her manuscript THE CULLODEN IMMORTALS.

Forever optimistic and easily amused, T.L. Sumner is the author of magical stories about strong, athletic heroines chasing their dreams on and off the playing field. She holds both a B.S. and M.S. in business from Villanova University where she ran cross country and track on a full athletic scholarship. When not hiding in her writing cave, T.L. works in healthcare information technology, and enjoys running and being the number one fan for her kids’ sporting events. Her work has garnered several awards, including being named a 2015 Golden Heart® finalist for her YA novel THE CULLODEN IMMORTALS. Sometimes you can find her hanging out on Twitter or in TL’s Dreamworld.

Here’s a blurb for THE CULLODEN IMMORTALS:

Focused on getting a full ride to run track in college, seventeen-year old Kyra Siefert doesn’t have time for distractions like the daymares tormenting her since she was mugged; or Aidan MacGregor, the über chivalrous guy who sits next to her in Calc. As Kyra and Aidan spend more time together, a romance between them quickly develops. But bound by a strict code of honor, Aidan hides a powerful secret from Kyra; he is the son of Scottish immortals, guardians of ancient Templar treasure.

In this Romeo and Juliet meets Highlander, Kyra becomes the pawn for one rogue immortal pursuing a sacred artifact and another seeking to settle a centuries-old blood feud. Aidan must betray his family to protect the girl he’s forbidden to love; but haunted by visions of Aidan’s death, Kyra’s secret may cost her everything – including the boy she loves.

Awesome!!! Culloden and Scottish warriors are all the rage right now with the success of Outlander–may you book ride that wave!!

Okay, folks, it’s time to lace up your track shoes and grab a water bottle—Tosha’s going to take us for a couple laps around the track while she tells us about the connection between her life as a writer and her life as a runner.

Take it away, Tosha!

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TLSumnerRunning has always been a big part of my life.

I started running in high school and attended Villanova University where I was on scholarship for track. Post collegiately, I ran professionally for a couple years, tried out for the Olympics in 1996, and got to travel the world representing Goldwin Athletics, a Japanese clothing company.

Being a professional athlete was a lot of fun, and I learned so much about dedication, discipline and perseverance. All qualities I’ve segued into my writing life.

I still run mostly to stay fit, but also to try to keep up with my kids. It’s very humbling when you realize your child is as fast, if not faster than you. L

I run. A lot. So of course, I find a lot of parallels between writing and running. I think it comes down to four basic things:

Finish It. Prove It. Better It. Win It.

Let me elaborate…

Meet 2015 Golden Heart Finalist Diana Muñoz Stewart!

Welcome back from the holiday weekend, everyone! Today we’re delighted to welcome Diana Muñoz Stewart, 2015 Golden Heart Finalist in Young Adult Romance with her manuscript MIND TRAVELER.

Diana Muñoz Stewart’s award-winning young adult and adult romantic fiction includes paranormal, science fiction, and contemporary stories. No matter the genre or whether her characters face death, danger, or the daunting trials of everyday life, readers are guaranteed a fast-paced story along with all the tingly temptations of a swoon-worthy romance. 

In addition to writing multi-genre fiction, Diana runs her own company providing web content on health, writing, and family. She earned her Master’s degree in Creative Writing from University of Southern Maine and is an active member of RWA and SCBWI. When not writing, she can be found off-roading in her Jeep—easy to spot by the license plate WRITE ME—or behind her lakeside home, kayaking and hiking with her kids and the man who’s had her heart since they were teens. 

Diana is represented by the wonderful Michelle Grajkowski of Three Seas Literary Agency.

Here’s a blurb for MIND TRAVELER:

A time traveling teen struggles to save the world from her future self.

Sixteen-year-old Able McKinney just wants a normal life. Finding out aliens hijacked her future brain in order to carry out their evil plans—so not helping. 

She should probably give up and tattoo fatalistic poetry all over her face. Except, she’d rather fight back.


Allied with Rainer, present secret crush and future commando heartthrob, Able travels through her own mind and into her future body to wage a war through time. Her desperate actions could reverse the alien plague devastating her world, but could also separate her from the boy she loves forever.

Wow, Diana! I LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT THAT!! What a fabulous twist (in fact, a whole series of twists!!) on the whole time-traveling-to-save-the-world genre!! I will snap that up as soon as it hits shelves!

Okay, readers—Diana’s here today with a fascinating perspective on what it really means to write “strong female characters.”

 Take it away, Diana!

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dianamunozstewartA Strong Female Character?

Shortly after I received that exciting call telling me that my science fiction YA, Mind Traveler, was a finalist in the Golden Heart, I began to interact with the other 2015 Golden Heart finalist in a private online group.

People began introducing themselves and sharing stories. These women were unique, diverse, and had gone through a lot of adversity not just on their journey as writers but in their lives.

As well as successes, every day manias, humor, fashion choices, marketing strategies, and business tips, these women shared stories of children with learning disabilities, divorce, heartbreak, job loss, injury, and illness.

As I read their inspiring and touching stories, I also began seeing articles online on “How to Write a Strong Female Character.”

I have to admit that seeing that headline stung. It seemed to me that the headline assumed that we, the everyday women of the world, were not strong. And that somehow authors needed to rack their brains, test the very limits of their imaginative boundaries, have articles, and numbered lists in order to conjure up a strong female character.

Meet 2015 Golden Heart Finalist Julie Glover!

Today we’re welcoming Julie Glover, 2015 Golden Heart finalist in the Young Adult category with her contemporary novel manuscript SHARING HUNTER.

Julie Glover grew up reading Laura Ingalls Wilder, Judy Blume, and every Nancy Drew book she could get her hands on. Although she’d always dreamed of writing a novel, she didn’t write her first book until Hurricane Ike pummeled the Houston Gulf Coast and made her house off limits for a couple of weeks. Sitting at the in-laws’ house with her laptop, she set her mind to achieving her dream of penning books and began to write. These days, she writes teen fiction—indulging her desires to create interesting characters, express deep emotions, and add snark wherever possible. She lives with her heartthrob husband, two teenage sons, and a diva cat in Friendswood, Texas. Not to mention her ever-growing collection of boots. Julie recently signed with Louise Fury of The Bent Agency.

Here’s a blurb for SHARING HUNTER:
Some girlfriends share everything. Why not a boyfriend?
 
Rachel and Chloe are the best of friends, sharing everything since fifth grade. When the senior class’s complete-package guy suddenly becomes a free man, it’s open season on Hunter Mills, and both girls want a spring fling.
 
When Chloe suggests they share a boyfriend, Rachel goes along, knowing Chloe’s leap-first approach has given her some fabulous memories—not to mention Chloe has a history of winning contests, so sharing could be Rachel’s only shot at Hunter.
 
But sharing a boyfriend means they no longer fully confide their desires or their dates. And Hunter is falling in love with one of the girls—hard. Will romance and rivalry destroy their faithful friendship?

One lucky commenter today will win a copy of Julie’s published short story, “Color Me Happy,” a YA romance, along with a three-hearted gold necklace (picture below)—which stands for my odd love triangle and the Golden Heart final.

Take it away, Julie!

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Julie Glover Author Photo - face onlyThe (Pushy) People Who Believe in You

“You need to enter this in the Golden Heart.”

Say WHAT?!!

I stood behind the head chair with my fellow writers, all friends, surrounding the rectangular dining table. They’d just listened to a large section of my young adult contemporary novel.

I’d brought my manuscript to a four-day workshop at the home of writing coach Margie Lawson. We’d been polishing and perfecting lines our works in progress for days, and it was time to share what we’d written and shined up during the week.

But even though I felt good about where my book was, my jaw practically hit my chest at the thought of entering the unpublished manuscript contest hosted by RWA National. Was my book good enough? Was I good enough?

Meet 2015 Golden Heart Finalist Brynn Kelly!

Today we have the pleasure of welcoming another Dragonfly guest blogger: 2015 Golden Heart Finalist Brynn Kelly, whose book DECEPTION ISLAND is nominated for best Romantic Suspense.

Brynn Kelly is an award-winning novelist and journalist, and bestselling non-fiction author from New Zealand. She could well be setting a RWA15 record for the longest non-stop journey to New York—35 hours straight, including stopovers. The flight goes via Sydney—which means she starts out flying three hours in the wrong direction. She’s viewing it as a long (and cramped) writing retreat. And, hey, when you’re a parent of young children, any time alone is a luxury.

Not only is DECEPTION ISLAND her Golden Heart book, it’s also going to be her publishing debut, to be released by Harlequin’s HQN imprint in 2016.

In DECEPTION ISLAND, an action-adventure romantic suspense, a rogue French Foreign Legion officer and a Californian conwoman reluctantly team up to battle modern-day pirates and slave traders in the steamy jungles and azure waters of an Indian Ocean paradise.

 Brynn’s here to talk with us about an issue so many of us struggle with as writers: the yearning for external validation, and the temptation to give up on our dreams.

Take it away, Brynn!

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brynnkellyLet It Go

We fiction writers are a neurotic bunch.

We’re forever waiting for someone to tell us whether our writing’s any good—and by extension whether we’re any good.

When we’re unpublished, we hang on the opinions of critique partners, beta readers, contest judges, editors and agents. After we’re published, we add reviewers and readers and booksellers to that list.

We think we’ll have made it if we can just win that contest, land that publishing deal, get that five-star review, hit the bestseller lists, gather 1000 likes on that Facebook post… We’ll be good enough. We’ll be a real writer.

If a publisher or agent passes on our story, we call it a “rejection”. Ugh. What an ugly word—it hits you like a punch to the gut. You can’t help taking a rejection personally. (I’ve launched a personal campaign to ban the word from my writing circles. The professional word for this, a “pass”, is much kinder, and more accurate.)

Meet Golden Heart Finalist Priscilla Kissinger!

We’re thrilled to welcome back Priscilla Kissinger, four-time Golden Heart finalist and newly-minted Dragonfly, whose book HIS PERFECT PARTNER has been nominated for the 2015 Golden Heart in Contemporary Romance!

Priscilla KissingerPriscilla writes romance with a Latino flavor. In addition to being the President of FCRW, she works full-time in marketing & publicity and, since earning an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, teaches an on-line romance writing course for ed2go. A single mom of three daughters, Priscilla spends her free time writing, reading, playing tennis, training for half marathons, watching sports and singing karaoke with her family. Find out more about her at www.prisakiss.com, follow her on Twitter with @prisakiss or catch her blogging on www.ghfirebirds.com.

Here’s a blurb for HIS PERFECT PARTNER:

His Perfect Partner shares the love story between two people headed in different directions—one to the bright lights of Broadway, the other determined to lay down roots in their close-knit community. Until their paths collide.

Yazmine Fernandez is an experienced Broadway dancer struggling with the need to meet her family’s expectations and the personal sacrifices her career demands. Tomás Garcia is a single father and advertising whiz that has convinced himself his daughter and career success are enough.

When his nanny is called away on a family emergency, Tomás realizes that instead of a nanny, he needs a partner to help parent his daughter. But after his ex walked out because she valued her job more than family, he vowed never to fall for a woman who would view him and his child as a weight slowing her down. For Yazmine, changing her career plans would negate everything her ailing father sacrificed for her and every plan she’s ever made for herself, leaving her uncertain of who she is and where she belongs. But when she steps in to take care of Tomás’s daughter, she can’t help but think about what-ifs. As they grow closer and she ultimately experiences a heart-breaking loss, their attraction sparks from initial awareness to a soul-stirring intensity. In the end, Tomás and Yazmine must choose between the separate paths they have been stubbornly trying to forge and a new one that could ultimately lead to their Perfect Partner.

On this day after Father’s Day, Priscilla is here to tell us about the man who set the bar for her vision of what a hero should be: her beloved dad.

Take it away, Pris!!

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pic 1A True Romance Beta Hero

All you writers and readers out there who are looking for a true beta hero role model, look no further.

 I give you my dad, Joe Hettler—living, breathing, golfing, karaoke-ing, joking, salsa dancing, romance reading real hero material.

 And no, that last descriptor wasn’t a typo. My dad is a card-carrying member of the romance reader club.

pic 2In fact, years ago when I was a high school student stuck in a hurricane shelter in the Keys with my family, complaining about being bored, Dad’s the one who reached into his shopping bag full of romance novels—yes, the man brought a shopping bag full of romance novels as part of his hurricane shelter supplies—and handed me my first Harlequin Romance. And that, my friends, is how this budding romance writer (me) was introduced to the world of category romance.

I remember seeing dad walk out the door for work with a romance tucked in his back pocket. And once, we left for a family vacation, then had to turn the car around because dad forgot his eyeglasses and no way could he go the whole trip without reading one of the several romance novels he’d packed for himself.

In a world of hyped up alpha males—on the big screen, on television, on the page—not too many people appreciate the sensitivity a beta hero brings to the table.

Here’s what I know about my dad and what makes me love him even more every day:

Meet 2015 Golden Heart Finalist Seana Kelly!

Today we’re welcoming another Dragonfly! Our guest is the lovely Seana Kelly, 2015 Golden Heart Finalist in Short Contemporary Romance with her book WELCOME HOME, KATIE GALLAGHER.

Seana is a high school English Teacher-Librarian who writes in the wee hours of the morning when her husband and daughters are sleeping. She was born and raised in the California Bay Area but believes she must have lived on the East Coast in a previous life as she feels a ridiculous connection with an area she’s only visited once. She is an avid (obsessive) reader, who has been known to pull out her Kindle at a stop light (Don’t judge!). She is excited and overwhelmed to be a Golden Heart finalist and can’t wait for New York. Seana is seeking representation.

Here’s a blurb for Welcome Home, Katie Gallagher:

This isn’t how she envisioned her life. When she dreamt of her future, she never once imagined depression-induced insomnia, being wedged into a rental car with 140 pound dog, grape soda splattered in her lap, a fecund, mushroomy odor she wasn’t entirely certain she could pin on the dog, and a cop tapping at the window. Nope, she sure didn’t see this coming.

Kate Gallagher is running away from home. Better late than never. Since the beginning of her marriage, she’s been corrected and improved, worn away and refashioned, never reaching the perfection asked of her, not in her husband’s eyes.

When she finds evidence that marriage hasn’t curtailed his dating, Kate decides his beloved BMW could use a little refashioning of its own. Now she needs to either hire a defense attorney to deal with her overzealous auto makeover or run like hell. Kate and her Newfoundland dog return to the only place she’s ever been happy, her late grandmother’s home in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Chief of Police Aiden Cavanaugh has been in love with Kate since that first summer she’d visited her grandmother. She was six years old and he thought she’d shone like she’d swallowed the sun. For the next nine summers, he’d pined for an oblivious Kate, until the summer she’d stopped coming and all the light and life had run out of his world. Now, fifteen years later, the woman he needs to take in for questioning is the same one he’s spent half his life trying to forget.

Each will need to make peace with the past if they can ever hope for a brighter future. The question is, will that future be together?

Yay! You’re pushing my buttons here: childhood crushes and small town romance (and Newfies!!)! I hope we see it on bookshelves soon!

Readers, Seana’s here today to talk about an aspect of Romance we don’t often talk about here on the Ruby blog, but I’m sure it’s been important in all our lives: the way Romance novels lift us up when life gets rough. (And one lucky commenter will win a $20 Amazon gift card!)

 Take it away, Seana!

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Seana KellyRomance as a Non-Prescription Anti-Depressant

There has been a great deal written over the years about Romance, a genre written primarily by women and for women, one that serves as an expression of female empowerment. I agree with that but today I’d like to take a minute to highlight its benefits as an over-the-counter anti-depressant.

Happily Ever After isn’t just a fairytale. It’s a promise of hope, a light to help us navigate the darker alleyways in life. The belief that the good are rewarded, the evil are punished, and that no matter what we have to live through now, our futures will be happier, is what helps many of us get through the grim days. At its core, Romance is about hope and redemption.

I started reading romance when I was in middle school. I spent whole days mired in the trials of my heroes and heroines. As soon as I finished one happily ever after, I picked up the next and started reading again. Now, some of that is just being an obsessive reader but, looking back on it, I think it also served as an escape from school bullying. I may not have understood it as such at the time but what are the cruel vagaries of mean girls when compared to larger-than-life challenges and the course of true love?

Because I’m dyslexic, reading was a slow, sometimes arduous process. Once I started high school, I had to put my romances away. Just keeping up with assigned reading was tough enough. College with an English Literature major meant no free time for pleasure reading. After I graduated, I continued to read but I’d forgotten about those Romances I’d inhaled in my youth.

Many years later, when I was pregnant with my second child and received an abnormal result on my amniocentesis, I rediscovered Romance. The geneticists told us that our baby’s extra chromosomal material in a portion of her cells could cause anything from severe physical and mental retardation (their words) to slight learning disabilities. They couldn’t guess because it would depend on exactly which of her cells contained the extra genetic information. I couldn’t deal with reality, couldn’t watch TV, and didn’t want to discuss it. I buried myself in books. The NYT best sellers about dysfunctional families, wars, and memoirs of abuse were untouchable. As I’ve stated, reality was not my friend. I yearned for strength and hope. I immersed myself in urban fantasy. Werewolves and vampires? Hell yeah. The emotional and societal effects of poverty on children? Sorry, I can’t. It was a daily struggle just to keep my shit together.

It was also at this time that I started writing seriously. My first book was an urban fantasy/paranormal romance set in San Francisco. It isn’t easy to write when you’re dyslexic. It’s mostly slow and tortured, but it served to keep my mind off the child growing within me who may or may not be born with horrible birth defects. When I finished, I asked a fellow book lover to read it. CR Grissom has since become a beloved friend and invaluable critique partner. During our initial manuscript critique and discussion, she recommended some favorite authors and books for me to read (Nora Roberts’ Angels Fall and Northern Lights, Jennifer Crusie’s Bet Me, and Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Chicago Stars series). As I mentioned, I hadn’t read any romance since middle school (Danielle Steele) so I didn’t know any of these authors. I’d heard of Nora Roberts but I’d never read any of her books. So, I can credit CR Grissom with my renewed love of romance, the subsequent contemporary romances I wrote, and my Golden Heart nomination.

I took her book recommendations and ran with them. I gorged on romance, all kinds of romance, and I fell back in love with the genre. The stories were filled with strong, funny women, pushing themselves beyond their perceived limits, facing up to their demons (sometimes literally), and finding the courage to fulfill their dreams, all while finding a love that respected and cherished them. It was heady stuff. I read obsessively, finding solace in women who battled with the impossible, eventually finding their happy endings. As my daughter grew within me, I read and prayed, prayed and read, hoping for that happy ending.

My youngest is six years old now and she is the light of my life. Yes, there are problems but nothing severe. She is smart, funny, and shares my love of romance. When asked her favorite part of a story, she invariably says when they danced, kissed, or got married. I’m pretty sure all the Romance I read when I was pregnant traveled through the umbilical cord. Her imaginary friend is a boyfriend and she’s already asking about dating. She loves making up stories and has complete faith in Happily Ever Afters.

So, while I agree that the Romance genre empowers as it instills the message that a woman’s concerns and pleasures are not secondary to a man’s, it is Romance’s inherent message of hope, that the journey and struggle are worth it, that has had the most profound effect on my life.

How about you? In which books or stories have you found much-needed hope? Who are the authors who inspired your love of Romance?

One lucky commenter will win a $20 Amazon gift card!

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Connect with Seana on social media:

www.seanakelly.com

Seana’s facebook

@SeanaKellyRW

 

Meet Golden Heart Finalist Alice Faris!

Today we’re welcoming another Dragonfly, 2015 Golden Heart Finalist Alice Faris, whose book, GOOD GIRL’S GUIDE TO TALKING DIRTY is nominated for Contemporary Romance.

Alice Faris grew up in a small community in Northern California that proudly boasts of having more cows than people. She raised Guide Dogs for the Blind, is dyslexic, and can shoot a gun and miraculously never hit the target (which at some point becomes a statistical improbability). Alice also publishes science fiction and fantasy under the pen name Tina Gower, has won the Writers of the Future, and the Daphne du Maurier Award for Mystery/Suspense (paranormal category). Alice is represented by Rebecca Strauss at DeFiore and Company. 

Here’s a blurb for GOOD GIRL’S GUIDE TO TALKING DIRTY:

When budget cuts slash her school psychologist job, relationship-shy East Winters lands an interview across country for her dream job. She breaks all her strict rules and works as a phone sex operator to finance the trip. Worse, she hitches a cross-country ride with a hunky, emotionally unavailable truck driver. Soon she’s counseling him for his intense anxiety issues from surviving a school shooting. Close quarters ignite an attraction that forces her to decide which is more important, her job or her heart. 

Wow! Fabulous title and great premise!! I do love a good close-quarters, slow-melt story, especially when both hero and heroine need to let down their guards….yum!!

Okay, everybody—let’s all grab a 7-Eleven Big Gulp and climb into a (virtual) truck cab with Alice to learn more about her book and her amazingly inspiring writing life.

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tina-croppedWelcome to the Ruby blog, Alice! You write Sci-Fi AND light-hearted Contemporary Romance? Interesting combination. How did your Golden Heart book come to be?

I’d just finished a science fiction book with elements of romance and it was pretty gritty and heavy. I had this idea for a really funny humor story, but I really fought it for a while since it’s hard to write in two genres and I was trying to stick with one to “break out.” I would write scenes here and there between other projects. I sell SF/F short stories, which is how I afford to be an at-home-mom writer. After a while I couldn’t stand it anymore and I broke down and wrote the novel rough draft. It only took about two and a half months writing sometimes two or three thousand words a day, because I had to finish my other work before I could justify working on Good Girl’s Guide. And gosh darn it, more characters from the same world keep popping into my head, so I’ve already got some ideas on another contemporary humor book.  

I thought I would self-publish it, but my agent talked me out of it. “This is really good. I can sell this,” is what she said. Then I entered it into the Golden Heart because I loved it too.

And you snagged a Golden Heart nomination!! Good for you! When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

This is a tough one for me. I didn’t really accept that I could write for a very long time. I loved story and plot. I loved sitting for hours on end outwardly staring at nothing, but inwardly creating an entire world in my head. I was pretty much a space cadet growing up—mostly dreaming of what was going on beyond the stars, so I was naturally drawn to science fiction and fantasy. Reading was difficult, but if the story was engaging I’d battle it out to find out what happened. It was probably my intense thirst for a good story that saved me (writers have the power to help children overcome dyslexia, yo!).

I won’t lie, I was an honors student, but it was a strange thing to be talking remedial classes and honors classes at the same time, especially in college. Meanwhile I’d jot down story notes, I’d sketch pictures of characters or scenes from my head, I’d write scenes when I’d get bored with homework. I had a lot of little stapled-together books that I’d proudly display. Most of the time people wouldn’t comment on the great ideas, but on the horrible spelling, handwriting, or grammar. Worse, I’d have people laugh and make fun of the mistakes and how funny the sentences sounded. So I learned to hide it and just keep it for myself. If it was something only I could understand, I didn’t want to burden others with it. Remedial college English classes were awesome, because I think it was the first time I’d been taught the actual rules for grammar in a way that made sense to me. Or maybe my brain was finally ready to absorb the information.

I probably would have never gone any further than to write up stories nobody else would ever see, except for one thing. After my son was born, I had a freak medical mystery/accident. I’d suffered severe nerve damage in my hips and was paralyzed. I always feel like I’ve tazered people when I lay out that life detail. Just know that I can walk now, and I did about two years of physical therapy. During that time I promised myself that I’d try to get one thing published. So I took writing classes from a local writer who took the individual time to go over sentence structure with me, along with word choice, emotion, all the basics. I wrote non-fiction humor pieces and one day I saw a call for Chicken Soup for the Soul and I happened to have a story that fit the theme. I sent it in and didn’t hear from them for nearly a year, but it sold. I now had $200 dollars from a thousand word story and ten free copies of the book. I was floored. I knew it couldn’t be that easy again (and it wasn’t, it took me years to sell another story), but I took it as a sign that it would be possible to be a writer. It was possible for someone like *me* to be a writer.    

Best of all, there are more of us. There are a lot of dyslexic writers out there. I admire them for overcoming that huge barrier into this field.

Wow! And you’re right—there are lots of dyxlexic writers. In fact, you’re the SECOND Dragonfly guest this week who’s dyslexic. And you didn’t let a little thing like paralysis stop you either…you’re a powerhouse!! Your writing process must be interesting. What’s it like?

Since my writing process is likely really weird and different than what I see most people talk about, I’ll explain it. I don’t know if it’s because I’m dyslexic or what, but I don’t like to write in order. So I plot out a rough outline and write some scenes that are burning a hole in my brain. At that point I’ll write the first chapters. Then I flesh out the book even more. I like to know about how it will all end before I really go too far. When I get the first rough draft I start adding in more layers, because I’m terrible with setting, so that goes in after as well as some other plot details. The later revisions are usually adding in layers and cutting out the dead wood. I think of it as constantly remolding clay.

I write a lot–usually at least a thousand words or more a day on average. Being dyslexic, a lot of that gets thrown out. Editing (mostly clarifying what I wrote) is the hardest stage for me.

Any hot tips for other folks trying to write with dyslexia?

I was once a school psychologist and counselor. I taught life skills classes and had a special place in my heart for other kids who had reading/writing disorders like me. So I have lots of little strategies we teach students who struggle with learning disabilities.

One of them is writing in one font, then changing to a different font when you edit. I change from a fancy font that Scrivener gives me to Times New Roman and I catch a lot more mistakes this way. Aside from reading the manuscript out loud, this is a hint that I don’t see as often mentioned on writing sites.  

And okay, yeah, my GH novel is about a school psychologist; I feel I need to walk around with a sign over my head that states my GH book is not about me. I was never a phone sex operator, nor did I hitch-hike across country with a hunky truck driver. I did experience a potential school-shooting scare (everyone was fine and they caught the culprit before any harm came to the students) and it did give me the idea to add the things I learned from that experience in a book someday.

The font change trick for editing sounds like a great addition to every writer’s editing arsenal! Thanks!! Any other general tips for writers?

Don’t give up. If something doesn’t work, try a new thing. If you’re the best in the room, find a new room. You won’t get better if you’re not always learning.

Spoken like a true counselor! I’m assuming you’re a big reader, too. What are some of your favorites?

When it comes to books, I’m a total whore. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Indy stories, librarians…all my pimp daddies. I stick pretty close to the romance genre–especially all subgenres of speculative romance, historical romance, contemporary romance. Amish? Sure. Bikers? *holds up a shy hand* Seriously, did I just list them all?

My MUST BUY authors are Darynda Jones, Kristan Higgins, Nalini Singh, J.R. Ward, Suzanne Brockmann, Diana Gabaldon, Susan Andersen, Colleen Hoover, Jennifer Crusie—I’ve probably read everything they’ve ever written that was available and even searched down out-of-print stuff, too. But like all good romance readers, I’ve been known to dabble in a little Nora Roberts and other classics.

And I have a slight addiction to certain TV shows like: Outlander, Vikings, Big Bang Theory, Downton Abbey, and Game of Thrones. Although Game of Thrones is making me feel dead inside.

LOL on Game of Thrones. I haven’t seen the season finale yet. I’m scared. Speaking of things that scare people, are you going to Nationals? Have you ever been before?

Never been. Come find me and makes sure I don’t walk into the wrong bathrooms and be kind to me.

Everyone at Nationals is incredibly nice! Don’t worry. And—this is awesome—they convert almost all the bathrooms at the hotel over to Ladies, so you can pretty much go into any one you want. (For once, I pity the men.) Before we say goodbye, is there anything else you think we should know?

My blogging partner, Pam Stewart, and I were hoping to entice some of you like the pied piper to follow us over to www.smashedpicketfences.com where we’re talking today about yard sales, trash, and treasure—and how that perspective can help writers deal with conflicting critiques. We’re giving away first five pages critiques to two random lucky commenters!! You can see my credentials above (aside from finaling in the Golden Heart, I’ve won some contests and published several short stories in professional magazines). Pam just recently won the Silver Quill Fab Five contest (and she’s finaled/won others). So help us celebrate!

Cool! I’ll stop by. I love the name of the blog! Thanks so much for joining us today, Alice! Anything you’d like to ask our readers to get the conversation going today?

Since my book is about two characters stuck in a truck together on a cross-country ride…: If you could choose a writer or character from a book to hitchhike with, whom would it be? Choose wisely.

**************************************

Connect with Alice on social media:

 Twitter:

@tinagower

@tinaalicefaris 

blog: www.smashedpicketfences.com 

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

Meet Golden Heart Finalist Elle Mason!

Today we’re delighted to welcome another Dragonfly, Elle Mason, a Finalist in the brand-new Erotic Romance category with SORTING OUT THE KINKS. (As Elle says, the category is “probably obvious by the title alone!”)

Elle is a wife, mom of a preschooler and terrier, social worker, the person people seek for advice when visiting The Mouse, wannabe photographer, and a jokester. She’s lived in the West, Northeast, and has called South Florida home for the past ten years. In her relatively short history as a writer, she’s learned she has a thing for gerunds, British spelling of words (though American), and that she loves to write steamy sex scenes.

While we were talking about the Dragonflies, Elle sent me a world map showing where the 2015 Finalists live—across three continents!—and (mostly because I love anything that suggest Romance World Domination) I wanted to share it with all of you:

DragonfliesWorldMap 

Now here’s a blurb for SORTING OUT THE KINKS:

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  • Fenley Grant: Hi, Elly! I loved hearing more about you, my fellow Omega, and can’t wait to meet you in NYC! To...
  • Elly Kate: I’m doing my best to get it published, but you know how it is… 🙂 Some day, I hope. I...
  • Elly Kate: Oooo I watch basically zero movies, but I DO want to see that one! I’ve heard only good things about...
  • Elly Kate: Can’t wait to see you there!
  • Elly Kate: Oh, yes – as someone with some chronic health conditions… And I’ll be real here,...

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