Posts tagged with: dance competition romance

Meet 2017 Golden Heart Finalist Alexis Daria!

Today we’re welcoming another Rebelle, 2017 Golden Heart Finalist Alexis Daria, whose manuscript TAKE THE LEAD is nominated for Best Contemporary Romance!

Alexis Daria is a romance writer, artist, and native New Yorker. She has a BFA in Computer Arts, but her most fulfilling job was as a group facilitator for a women’s empowerment community, where she coached other women in following their creative dreams. On Sunday evenings, Alexis co-hosts #RWchat, a weekly Twitter chat for romance writers. She also serves as PRO Liaison for the New York City chapter of RWA, and is represented by Sarah E. Younger from Nancy Yost Literary Agency. Alexis’ debut, TAKE THE LEAD, is a 2017 Golden Heart® finalist and will be released in Fall 2017 from SMP Swerve, closely followed by the sequel, DANCE WITH ME.

Here’s a blurb for TAKE THE LEAD:

Gina Morales wants to win. It’s her fifth season on The Dance Off, a top-rated network TV celebrity dance competition, and she’s never even made it to the finals. When she meets her latest partner, she sees her chance. He’s handsome, rippling with muscles, and he stars on the popular Alaskan wilderness reality show Living Wild. With his sexy physique and name recognition, she thinks he’s her ticket to the finals—until she realizes they’re being set up.

Stone Nielson hates Los Angeles, he hates reality TV, and he hates that fact that he had to join the cast of the The Dance Off because of family obligations. He can’t wait to get back to Alaska, but he also can’t deny his growing attraction to his bubbly Puerto Rican dance partner. Neither of them are looking for romantic entanglements, and Stone can’t risk revealing his secrets, but as they heat up the dance floor, it’s only a matter of time until he feels an overwhelming urge to take the lead.

When the tabloids catch on to their developing romance, the spotlight threatens to ruin not just their relationship, but their careers and their shot at the trophy. Gina and Stone will have to decide if their priorities lie with fame, fortune, or the chance at a future together.

Yummy!! That sounds utterly delicious!! I love all the built in conflict and drama! I’m sure it’s a really fun read…and how fabulous that we know it WILL be out on bookshelves this fall!!!! Can’t wait to buy my copy!

Readers, Alexis is here today to talk about a powerful lesson that it behooves all of us to learn in this crazy business we’re part of.

Take it away, Alexis!


Write the Next Book

Angsty immortals. Long lost dragon princesses. Ice planet aliens. Whether it’s sci-fi, fantasy, paranormal, or urban fantasy, I’m here for it. So it’s no surprise that most of the half-finished drafts languishing on my hard drive have magical or supernatural elements. I wrote the kinds of stories I like to consume. When I finally had a book ready to query last year, it was a cute, light paranormal romance with bits of magic and mythology. In hindsight, I didn’t really know how to pitch it, and the agents I queried probably didn’t know what to do with it, either.

Paranormal is down, they told me. Genre hybrids are a tough sell. It’s not paranormal enough. You’re a good writer, but do you have something else?

After fifty rejections (or silence), it was time to reassess my strategy. I knew I wanted to build a career as a romance author, and I wanted an agent to help me make good decisions. With that in mind, I weighed my options.

I could:

  1. Expand my agent list and continue to trot this book around in the hopes that it would resonate with someone.
  2. Revise the book again, then re-query the agents on my list who allow that sort of thing.
  3. Write a new book.

The first choice didn’t appeal. I’d heard a bad agent was worse than no agent, and I’d already sent to everyone who seemed like a good fit. The second option didn’t seem like a great idea, either. Many agents don’t allow resubmissions, and I had already revised the book with the help of a mentor. Clearly the story still needed more work, but I didn’t want to get stuck in the cycle of revising the same manuscript over and over.

I chose the third option, because these rejections weren’t personal. It wasn’t me they were rejecting, it was the book. I’d done my best, but this manuscript wasn’t going to get me signed with the agents I wanted to work with. So I set out to write a book that would.

This time, I did a few things differently. I figured out how to pitch it first, writing the query letter before I even wrote the outline. I also switched genres. Since paranormal wasn’t working for me, I decided to write a contemporary romance instead. And I checked my outline against Gwen Hayes’ Romancing the Beat guideline, which I’d just read, to make sure the romance structure was sound.

Rejections continued to roll in on the mythology manuscript as I worked on Take the Lead, but I took them in stride, absorbed in my new WIP. I knew that this book was it. This was the one that would get me an agent and a book deal. It would mean debuting as a contemporary romance author, but I have plenty of plot bunnies, and I had already decided I would stick with whatever genre sold first, at least for a while. (Still, when I queried Take the Lead, I made a point to reach out to agents who were paranormal-friendly. I love the genre way too much to let it go forever.)

The same day I submitted my manuscript for the GH, I sent out my first round of queries—five times as many as my first round the previous year. (Yes, I was that much more confident, but I was also completely out of patience.) My strategy worked. Two months later, within the span of a few weeks, I had an agent, a two-book deal, and the news that Take the Lead was a Golden Heart finalist.

If you feel like you’re beating a dead horse—or a dead manuscript, as the case may be—try shifting gears. While one book is being queried or out on submission, work on the next. The only thing we can really control in this industry is ourselves. So keep writing. Try new things. Every story is its own challenge, no matter how many books you’ve written or where you are in your author career. If your writing is starting to feel stale, shake it up. Write in a different romance subgenre, or explore a trope that seems tricky. Experiment with different character archetypes, settings, or themes. Focus on craft. Actively seek out inspiration, and keep the creative well full.

I’m not sure where I’d be now if I’d kept my attention on revising old manuscripts instead of writing a new one, but by shifting genres, I kept my enthusiasm fresh in the face of rejections. I was able to query my top-choice agents again, because I had a new project. And I increased my chances of selling the book by improving my craft and writing something with a clearer hook.

Through it all, I reminded myself that a career as a romance author is not about one book. Creative work is doing the thing, over and over, and continuing to improve your skill. If you look at the well-known romance authors, you’ll see it’s not just about one book, one series, one genre, or even just one pen name. Think of it as a body of work, and each book is one piece of the whole.

Don’t get stuck. Write the next book. And the next. And the next after that. We’ve got stories to tell, and they aren’t going to write themselves.

What about you, readers? What shifts have you made in your writing journey, and how have they worked out for you?


Connect with Alexis Daria on social media:

Author Website & Blog:

RWchat Blog:







The Latest Comments

  • Jennifer Bray-Weber: Great tips! Love what you did with this. Thanks so much!
  • Bev Pettersen: She really is amazing. I’m learning a lot, Beth!
  • Elizabeth Langston: What a great idea–and I think you’re really close! A meticulous Horseman of the...
  • Lydia Stevens: I went and grabbed the revised pitch from the first post and this is what we came up.with: When mother...
  • Jennifer Bray-Weber: You make it sound so easy, Beth! I’ve always struggled with elevator pitches, but these...