October Meeting Roundup + Good News

The October meeting was all about how to stay healthy as a writer – both physically and spiritually.

To help feed and care for our muses, creativity coach, Jill Badonsky, author of The Muse Is In, spoke to us about how to knock down creative blocks and maintain a healthy dose of inspiration at all times. Creative blocks are called antagonists, and the first step to overcoming them, Jill says, is to accept them. Some common antagonists are:

  • Procrastination. This is a big one for writers, especially in the age of the ubiquitous Internet connection. As creatives, we’re more prone to getting distracted by Internet “research” than the average person, and if we’re sitting down in front of our computers to write all the time, the temptation is truly great. How to overcome it? One option is to create “Parallel Universe” time, where you check in with a creative partner before and after a writing session. By establishing accountability with another person, you are more likely to want to get your work done. (Psst… we’ve got a “Parallel Universe” going on in the RWASD Sprinters Facebook group! If you’re a chapter member and want in, let us know!)
  • Perfectionism. Expectations are one of the biggest blocks to creativity. If you think what you’re writing isn’t good enough, your motivation to write can disappear. How to overcome it? Give yourself permission to “write crap.” Sometimes, Jill says, if you write crap and put it away, when you come back to it later, it might not be as crappy as you thought it was when you wrote it. It could’ve just been the perfectionism whispering in your ear.
  • Comparison. It’s so easy to look at what other writers are accomplishing and say, “I’m not as good as them, and I never will be.” When other people are hitting bestseller lists and you’re still struggling with rejections, it can paralyze your efforts, and make you say, “Why bother?” How to overcome it? Look at what successful people are doing and ask yourself, “What can I learn from them?” You might find yourself being inspired instead of envious.

Ultimately, the goal is to rewire your brain to think positively. Instead of saying, “I have to write X words,” or “I should write this next chapter,” tell yourself, “I get to write today!” By viewing it as a privilege as opposed to an obligation, you change the story you tell yourself about your writing. You make it fun again.

Another way to change the story in your head is to keep a “Reminder Journal.” According to Jill, it’s an informal collection of thoughts, ideas, and quotes that remind you of why you like to write, and why you started writing in the first place. You can include compliments you’ve received on your writing, positive memories and emotions associated with your writing, tips and tricks that work for your creativity, and good reviews. Every once in a while, take it out and look it over. By doing so, you’ll replace the negative voices in your head with positive ones.

The creative process, Jill says, is a romance. When you first fall in love with writing, you become infatuated, just like you do when you fall in love with a person. And like any romance, enthusiasm can wane over time. You need to find a way to remember the initial sparks of excitement in order to stoke the fires of creativity and maintain your enthusiasm over the course of your career.

In the afternoon, our own Linda Thomas-Sundstrom spoke to us about caring for our bodies. While we know Linda as a prolific author of twenty-eight romance novels, she’s also a fitness professional who teaches on the faculty of two colleges in the Health, Nutrition, and Exercise Science departments.

Without our physical health, we wouldn’t be able to write at all, so one of the most important things we can do for our writing careers is to ensure we’re finding ways to include fitness in our daily lives. Linda provided us with some tips and tricks for incorporating movement into our normally sedentary schedules.

At a minimum, you should be getting at least twenty minutes of exercise every single day, at your optimal training heart rate. Which means more than a leisurely stroll. If your heartbeat isn’t speeding up, then you’re not getting a good workout. A brisk, steady walk would suffice, though anything that gets your heart rate up would work – jogging, running, or even just dancing around the room.

To avoid long-term damage to your health caused by extended periods of sitting, Linda says it’s crucial to get up from your chair every thirty minutes. Sitting down slows your metabolism and encourages a stooped posture. To combat the effects of slouching over your keyboard, Linda suggests keeping a resistance band next to your computer (I’ve got mine next to me now!). Set a timer for thirty minutes; when it goes off, stand up, walk around, and perform a few arm and shoulder stretches using the band. Just this simple movement, performed consistently, will make a world of difference in your health and posture.

Challenge your body to make a change, Linda says, and make conscious decisions to get fit. And if you feel your creativity lagging, go for a walk. You’ll feel more energized and creative after you get some exercise – a flexible body equals a flexible mind.

As always, our group shared their Good News for the month:

  • Tessa McFionn’s sci-fi series got picked up by an editor.
  • Cynthia Diamond’s Wyrd Love Books 1-3 boxed set is coming out next week.
  • Bob Richard published Angel’s Eyes.
  • Linda Seed published Fire and Glass, the fourth book in a series. Also, Moonstone Beach was Barnes and Noble’s Free Friday pick.
  • Anne Randerson signed a contract with a publisher.
  • Jeanne Dickson won a number of contests. Eire Ever After placed 3rd in the Sheila and the TARA, and Second Chance Ranch was a semifinalist in the Genesis Contest, and a finalist in Pages From the Heart.
  • Linda Thomas-Sundstrom will release A Wicked Halloween boxed set in October 2016.

Next month is our fantabulous annual Literacy Event! Registration opens on November 1st. Sign up early, because this event usually sells out quickly. This year, we’re featuring New York Times bestselling author Julie Kagawa and her agent, Laurie McLean. There’ll be giveaways, pitches, and free books to the first fifty registrants. See you then!

Meet the Chapter Mates: R. Ann Siracusa

pose-2-288x288R. Ann Siracusais a long time member of RWASD with a passion for Rome, suspense, and romance. You can find more about her books at www.rannsiracusa.com


Tell us a little about yourself! Who are you? What do you write?
The short dull version: My name is R. Ann Siracusa and that’s the name I use when writing. You have to guess what the R stands for. I grew up in southern California (my father was a lawyer and a State Senator), I have a degree in Architecture from UC Berkeley, and I’m retired from a 37-year career as an architect/land use planner (which makes me older than dirt). I’ve been married to the same man for 53 years, and we have three grown children and eight grandchildren, and two great grandchildren.
The more interesting version. After graduating from Berkeley, I traveled to Rome to study at the University of Rome. After I found a pensione, I went looking for an American Bar I remembered. I was dying for a hamburger after a week in England.
The café I remembered is located on a major street that intersects with Piazza Della Republica. However, there are at least five streets intersecting that piazza. I planned sit down by the fountain in the center of the piazza to figure it out.
In those pre-air-conditioner-days, the Italians, seeking relief from the summer heat, sat around the rims of the fountains in the light fountain spray. When I got there and waited for a break in the traffic to cross the street, I noticed, sitting on the rim of the fountain, a good looking man who made me think of the Italian actor, Marcello Mastroianni
I didn’t delude myself that it was the actor, but still I skipped across the street and sat next to him. After a while, he started talking to me (heh, heh, heh). He spoke a little English, I spoke a few words in Italian from one semester in college. Despite the communication problem, I learned he was a Guardia of the Pubblica Sicurezza, a state policeman, who worked in the passport office. And when he invited me to dinner, I accepted. Oh, yeah.
We found other ways to communicate, as young people usually do. Things got very friendly on the steps of the Palazzo Della Civitá, but it was dark by then—thank goodness— and we were up a million steps from street level, under the arcade.
After that, I was smitten. A couple of months later, I had to look up the word fidanzata in my Italian-English dictionary to find out I was engaged, and in December we got married in a civil ceremony.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’ve always liked to read and write stories but, unfortunately, I never considered writing as a career because I wanted to be an architect. In my job I did a lot of non-fiction professional writing, which satisfied me for about twenty years.
My biggest regret is that I didn’t follow up on my interest in fiction writing until I was in my forties. At that point I read a romance novel that everyone was raving about and said, “Oh, man. Even I can write better than this.” So I wrote a novel. That’s when I realized writing was my calling, and I’ve considered myself a writer ever since.
P.S. My novel wasn’t better, but my feet were on the path.
What does RWASD mean to you?
Joining RWA was one of the two smartest things I did when I realized I wanted to be a writer. The other was to join a good critique group with a professional writer as our mentor.
I’ve been with RWA since the mid-eighties, almost from the beginning. After I retired in 2000, I began to write seriously with the intention of publishing and joined the San Diego Chapter. The group has been for me a never-ending and positive source of support, encouragement, and learning. Without it, I’m sure I never would have been published. RWASD is an integral part of my family whom I love very much.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced on your journey to becoming a writer?
Finding the time while working and raising a family to write in more than 10 minute segments.
From that I learned to always have something with me to work on (so waiting time isn’t wasted) and to write anywhere, including on a train with the old standard of pencil on notebook paper.
What attracted you to the genre you write? Why does it speak to you?
My genre, until now, has been romantic suspense, and I didn’t pick the genre so much as it picked me. My choice of reading material is eclectic, but I particularly enjoy complex plots and fact moving action stories. While is enjoy a good mooshy love story, am less attracted to novels that focus primarily on the development of the romance. Romantic suspense was the perfect answer.
My latest release is a murder mystery, as is the project I’m working on. I’m now into writing mysteries What I really love, and would like to write, is science fiction.
Where is the weirdest place or what is the weirdest thing that inspired an idea?
zipling-mexicoI can’t think of anything weird that has inspired me. Everything around us can inspire ideas. I listen to people’s stories and watch “incidents” that take place, particularly when I travel. Sometimes those things bring a story to mind all at once, other times I tuck it away until the right situation and/or characters come along.
This isn’t weird, but probably the most dangerous thing I’ve done was driving by myself from Messina, Sicily, to Palermo, over the Peloritani Mountains the other side of the Sicily and back. This was in the mid-eighties, and I’d gone to Sicily to do more research on my historical Mafia novel. I needed to figure out how long it would take my heroine had to drive the distance in the novel, and I wanted to see what the countryside looked like.
In retrospect, it wasn’t a very smart thing to do. If something had gone wrong, I didn’t speak Italian well enough to explain, I couldn’t have made a call from a pay phone (if there were any in the villages), etc. It wasn’t until I returned to Messina three days later that I realized how dangerous it might have been. As my father would have said, “Better luck than sense.”
Who’s a writer you would do backflips to meet and why?
Would that I could do a backflip!
There are many writers for whom I would flip if that were possible, but it would have to be Katie MacAlister, Janet Evanovich, Don Francis, or Issac Asimov. These writers have inspired me, particularly regarding how to structure and tell the story. Unfortunately, Francis and Asimov are deceased, and I’ve already met Janet E, so I guess it would be Katie..
If you could go back 20 years ago, what advice would you give yourself?
Twenty years ago? Let’s see. It would probably be “Don’t write about heroines who ann-1962-auto-correctare professionals, car racers, architects, doctors, spies, etc.”

In those days (maybe about 30 years ago) all the romance books had to be about school teachers, Nanny’s, nurses, or young women who live with their parents and do nothing. I couldn’t relate to that and wanted to use more professional heroines. Not good.
Tell us about your latest novel!
My latest novel, The Last Weekend In October, is an amateur sleuth murder mystery that takes place in Los Angeles in 2004.
Psychiatrist Mark LeBonge arrives at the group home for convicted teenage sexual abusers, where his sister has worked the night shift…and finds her murdered. When police Lieutenant Art Krantz, primary on the case, ignores Mark’s suspicions about one of the boys in the half-way house, Mark enlists his sister’s roommate, Karen Mitchell, to help him identify the murderer
 Can you share a little of your current work with us? 
I always do research before I travel, and when I was planning my trip to Antarctica, I learned a lot about the continent and the scientific research stations there. Fascinating stuff!
And I thought,What would happen if someone was murdered at one of the stations in Antarctica when winter was closing in and the station is completely isolated?
In this excerpt, Essi (the protagonist) is out on the ice shelf on a snow quad and is being stalked by someone who previously took a shot at him with a rifle. He is trying to distract the stalker so he/she won’t find the heroine who has in her possession critical evidence about the murder.

With the vehicle at full throttle, Essi kept one eye on the ice in front of him and one on his pursuer who was gaining on him from behind. Where the hell are my tracks? He’d lost sight of the marks his quad had left in the ice. He glanced around, frantically trying to find them. When he looked ahead…
A fissure!
Essi flung himself off the vehicle as it sailed across the ice and plunged into the open maw of the chasm. He followed it a second or two later, heart slamming against his ribcage.
The vehicle tumbled end-over-end into the fissure and smashed into the ice. The sound of it hitting the walls and the parts shattering rang in his ears for what seemed a long time but was only seconds.
He landed hard on the ice, momentum rolling him over the edge immediately behind the vehicle disappearing into oblivion. Frantically, he dug his gloved fingers into the snow which broke away under pressure, leaving only solid ice.
Sliding downward, he found the walls of the chasm were not vertical but sloped sharply, disfigured with a web of ledges and rough projections of ice. Gasping for air, he dug in his boots trying to find purchase. His descent slowed but he couldn’t get a firm grip on anything to halt the thrust.
What a stupid way to die!

Before you go, any advice to give to the new writers out there?
In general, my advice to aspiring authors: Run away from home!
Actually, that’s the best piece of advice I can give. Since that may not be possible, here are some practical ideas which nearly every author advocates in one form or another.
▪ Start today. Never think you’re too old or too young. Don’t put it off. The “right time” never comes.
▪ Set aside the time to write, and stick with it, in spite of your family
▪ Learn the craft of writing – Know the rules; when you break them, do it on purpose.
▪ Learn to take criticism – It’s no fun, but to learn you have to hear the bad news along with the good. But learn the difference between useful and hurtful criticism.
▪ Be persistent and never get discouraged
▪ Read, Read, Read – Write, Write, Write
▪ Be cautious who you take advice from
▪ Finish the damn book and send it out.

An Agent Has Offered You Representation… Now What?

The query process is often a long, draining one. While you’re busy sending out letters, refining your pitch, and collecting rejections, it can sometimes seem like you’ll never get an offer of representation. But then, after weeks, months, even years in the trenches, it happens: you get “the call.”Question Marks

Well… now what? As much as you might want to jump on their offer with a resounding “YES!” it would behoove you to ask some questions to make sure the agent is a good fit for you and your writing career. We’ve all heard that saying, “A bad agent is worse than no agent.” This is your chance to figure out if this agent is the right choice for you. So, what should you ask them?

Recently, this same question came up in a small group of RWA-SD writers, and some of the suggestions were so good, they deserved to be shared with a wider audience. So here are some questions you can – and probably should – ask a potential agent during that exciting offer of rep call:

  • Do you consider yourself to be editorial, or are you more hands-off? In other words, do they want to help revise your projects before sending them out on submission, or are they planning to send them as-is? Both agenting styles have their pros and cons, so this is really a matter of what you’re more comfortable with, and what you want out of your relationship with your agent.
  • What is your communication style? Find out how the agent prefers to get in touch with you – by phone, over email, etc. – and how often they plan to touch base.
  • Can you tell me about some of your recent deals? Get an idea of who they rep, what kind of work they’re putting out there in the world, who they’re doing business with, and what kinds of contacts they already have. Many times, this information is available on Publishers Marketplace, but if you don’t have a subscription, now’s a good time to ask about it.
  • What is your policy on self-published work? If you plan to self-pub your projects in the future, or are interested in becoming a hybrid author, you should find out their stance on self-published work ahead of time. Will they be involved or supportive? And do they expect a financial cut of your self-published projects?
  • What happens if my book doesn’t sell? Most likely, you’re signing with an agent based off of a single book or series, but there’s always a chance it won’t sell. Now’s a good time to discuss other ideas for future projects, to see if you and the agent share a long-term vision for your future and your career.

What about you? What are some things you asked your agent before signing with him/her – or what are some things you wish you’d asked?

September Meeting Roundup + Good News

Today’s blog post is brought to you by RWASD’s own Tessa McFionn!


Wow! What an amazing meeting! Our guest speaker, Callie Hutton, gave some wonderful insight about writing historical characters that appeal to today’s readers.

She got down to the nitty gritty about character traits readers are looking for:

  • Alpha males with titles;
  • Characters who reach for personal goals over more traditional roles; and
  • Subjects not covered in history books, such as interracial relationships.

And what readers are not looking for:

  • Authentic period language that relies too heavily on accents, dialog tags, and colloquialisms;
  • Spunky, one dimensional heroines that flaunt convention at every turn; and
  • So much historical facts and research that overwhelm the romantic story.

She reminded everyone that historical romance reads are not just for “old people” any longer, but market trends show that most historical readers prefer physical copies to digital media.

Next up, Callie was joined by our own Georgie Lee, Regan Walker, and Sorcha Mowbray in an engaging panel discussion about the changes and trends in historical romances. Lisa Kessler did a great job as moderator, keeping things lively and highly entertaining.

A couple important takeaways:

  • A good way to keep histories fresh is to think about using modern, social issues as seen through the lens of history.
  • Even though your story and characters are living in the past, you are still world building. So be sure to remember the rules set up by you as well as by history itself.

For September, the Member of the month was Mary Galusha for her wonderful work on “Write for the Money.”


And the Atta Girl went to Lisa Kessler, who persevered through a difficult family trauma and met her writing deadlines.


So much Good News!

  • Jackie Leigh Allen released Thirst for Love in July.
  • Mickey Brent received a publisher’s contract for her first novel.
  • Susan Burns had a manuscript request from an agent and editor at TOR. Also, she pitched to agents and Entangled on Savvy Authors.
  • Teresa Carpenter’s newest release, The CEO’s Surprise Family, marks her 20th!
  • Mary Galusha had a book reading and signing at the CURVES luncheon in Escondido.
  • Demi Hungerford released her second book in Regency Banquet Entrée series writing as Roxanna Haley.
  • Lisa Kessler’s Ice Moon is a finalist in both Aspen Gold and NERFA. Harvest Moon won a PRISM for Best Paranormal, which was presented at RWA Nationals. Also, Lure of Obsession released on August 1.
  • Kristen Koster’s Jack of Hearts manuscript finaled in the Pages From the Heart Contest in the unpublished historical category
  • Georgie Lee had two releases, Miss Marriane’s Disgrace in August and The Cinderella Governess in September. Also, A Debt Paid in Marriage finaled in National Excellence in Romantic Fiction Awards (NERFA) and Pirate’s Bargain also finaled in Pages From the Heart Contest.
  • Claire Marti got a request from Entangled for her historical synopsis.
  • Tessa McFionn’s Lost in Transmigration took third place in FF&P’s On The Far Side Contest. Also, she had two releases, Detours in Our Destinations in August and Spirit Song in September. Plus, she received a revise and resubmit for Lost in Transmigration.
  • Ann Siracusa released The Last Weekend in October in July. Also, she sold five books in a romantic suspense series.
  • Regan Walker double finaled in Aspen Gold, plus she finaled in The Carla, Ancient Cities Hearts of Excellence, Las Vegas I Heart Indie and the RONE Awards.

Our next meeting will be Saturday, October 15 to hear Jill Badonsky talk on Six Ways to Keep Inspiration Flowing and our own Linda Thomas-Sundstrom will give us Tips and Tricks to Keep your Body Healthy as a Writer. We will also be holding our Annual General Meeting where the new board will be announced.

Don’t forget to vote and see you in October!

Upcoming Workshops from RWASD!

RWASD is always ready to offer quality online courses and we have two fantastic ones coming at you this fall.  These courses are open to anyone who wants to learn with us but remember, if you’re a member of RWASD, you get a discount on the class rate.

Check out what we have in store!


Writing Erotic Romance and Erotica

Date: October 3 – 30, 2016
Cost: $20.00 (RWA-SD members) / $25.00 (non RWA-SD members)

Ever thought about stepping up the heat in your romance novel? Considered writing a sexy story that has your readers becoming hot under the collar as they take in each word? Or maybe you’ve even wondered what it would be like to pen erotica. In this workshop, you’ll learn what exactly defines an erotic romance and erotica. Learn what separates a good one from a not so hot one. The taboos and where to draw the line. What erotica is and is not. Different kinds of erotic romances, and finally, markets for your story.

Because of the subject matter of this workshop it’s intended for mature audiences only. Those easily offended by the discussion of sex, various sexual practices and frank language shouldn’t enroll.

Instructor: Susan Palmquist

Susan Palmquist is the author of romances, mysteries, cookbooks and instructional writing how to’s. Under her pen name, Vanessa Devereaux, she’s a bestselling author of erotic romances and erotica and writes three ongoing series, Perfect Pairing, Big Sky County and Kalispell Shifters. She’s been a writing tutor for a writing school for seven years and also teaches workshops and boot camps for many of the chapters of RWA.


Enroll Here



Scrivener for Writers

Date: November 1 – 30, 2016
Cost: $20.00 (RWA-SD members) / $25.00 (non RWA-SD members)


As writers, we’ve all spent time hunched over a keyboard trying to get our thoughts into some word processor. Word processors such as Word and Pages work ok when it comes to writing fiction but their focus is much more on processing your words (layout, font, headers, footers, etc) than on the creative process. Enter Scrivener.

Scrivener is the premier application for the creation of novels, novellas, and like works. It allows you to write your story the way you want and helps you integrate your research, planning, writing, etc. all into one tool. This course will teach you, the writer, how to best use Scrivener for everything from planning your scenes to generating output for your publisher.

Lectures will be presented using recorded videos so you can hear and see as your instructor explains and demonstrates everything you need to become effective with Scrivener. Each lecture will be announced through the email list and will be accompanied by a brief timeline. Students will then be able to use the same forms/list to ask questions, discuss lectures, etc. Lectures will be given on both Mac and Windows versions of Scrivener wherever substantial differences in the interface are present.

Course Outline:

I opened Scrivener and it is absolutely nothing like Word

Why that’s a good thing
Getting around the interface
Learning enough to get writing now
Starting a new novel
Editing basics

I can’t just start writing, I need to plan first

Capturing your plan and synopsis
Setting up the Corkboard
Using and organizing notecards

I need to get my chapters and scenes organized, my way

Organizing and reorganizing with the Binder
Creating parts, chapters, and scenes
Sorting things the way you want
Mapping into a template
Editing options and views

Whew, my book is ready, now how do I get it out?

Compiling to the final output
Controlling formatting
Compiling to PDF
Compiling for Kindle
Revisiting the template and formatting options

I’ve lost work before and now I’m paranoid, how can Scrivener help?

Configuring Scrivener’s automated backup
Backing up to the cloud (Dropbox) automatically

A little Lagniappe before you go.

Instructor: Patrick Haggerty

After a failed attempt at college and four years in the USMC learning to be a better apex predator, Patrick Haggerty attended Georgia State University where he studied to be an Actuary. Not a very romantic or literary major, but a good paying one. He started consulting on software development and design in 1995 and has spent most of the time since developing and delivering technical training courses for Learning Tree International.

In 2004, while stuck reading a mediocre book in yet another hotel, Patrick decided to try his hand at writing fiction. He may not be published but these days you are much more likely to find him spending his evenings writing romance, than code. Patrick is an active member of RWAmerica, RWAustralia, RW New Zealand, is President of his local RWA chapter and Director of Virtual Meetings for Outreach International RWA.

Enroll Here

What’s Your Plan?

Do you have a business plan? If not, you aren’t alone. Many authors don’t have one, for any number of reasons. It can be scary to actually put your dreams into words. It can be intimidating to look at how much work you need to do to get to where you want to go. And it can be embarrassing to admit you haven’t a clue as to what you even want to achieve. But, according to Stephanie Bond, an MBA-holding author of over seventy mystery and romance titles, a business plan is a necessity. In her 2016 RWA Nationals workshop, “Plan for Success: Create a Motivational Business Plan for Your Writing Career,” she discussed the benefits of creating a business plan, and shared a rough outline for how to write one for yourself.Plan for Success

Perhaps writing a business plan came naturally to Stephanie, since she holds an MBA and spent many years climbing the ranks of the corporate world before quitting to write full-time. But it doesn’t have to be a formal process. According to Stephanie, we can start out by asking ourselves questions. Questions like: What do you want to do with your writing? What do you want to achieve? How do you want to affect your readers? Just forcing yourself to think about the big picture like this is an excellent tool for establishing focus and figuring out what you really want to accomplish as a writer. This is the foundation of your business plan, and allows you to lay the groundwork for the future of your writing career.

An important component of your business plan should be setting your goals and objectives, which Stephanie described as two separate things. Goals, she said, are under your control, while objectives are not. Objectives tend to be lofty and long-term – Earn enough money to live off my writing! Hit the New York Times bestseller list! – while goals are short-term and achievable – Enter that contest! Query that agent! Focus on what you can control, she said, and figure out what kinds of short-term goals you can set that might help you to achieve those lofty, long-term objectives.

She also stressed the importance of adopting a business mindset in your everyday life, and recommended paying attention to business blogs, such as Seth Godin’s, keeping CNBC on in the background as you work, and reading Entrepreneur magazine.

In my opinion, the most important takeaway from the workshop was the following sentiment:

You are a business that creates entertainment for consumption in multiple formats.

Think of yourself as a “content generator,” creating novels, blog posts, audiobooks, novellas, short stories, nonfiction articles, and more.

There was so much to this wonderful workshop, including discussion of branding strategies and instructions on how to maintain a body of work document. I came away from it inspired to create my own business plan, which has left me more motivated and inspired than ever before. If you’re an RWA member, you can purchase the audio recording at rwa.org to get all the details. The return on investment could be huge.

Meet the Chapter Mates: Caliente Morgan


From technical writer to romance author, Caliente Morgan has done it all!  She also writes under the names Lady Morgan and Donnamaie White.  You can find out more about her at her website, WhitePubs.com




Tell us a little about yourself! Who are you? What do you write?
For over 30 years I wrote technical papers, conference papers, three theses, dozens of seminars, more dozens of application notes and data sheets and user manuals. I ran publishing operations for high tech companies (AMD, AMCC).
During all that time I wanted to write fiction. I wanted to be a writer when I was eight!
I finally started in 1971 by writing a Star Trek Novel that came out with names changed and self-published in 2000. (I am a Trekkie.) The long road from inception (1971) to pubbed (2000) was dotted with writing classes and writing conferences I could get to. I was into writing science fiction. For myself. The web was the breakthrough for me. In 1993 I saw eBooks and eLearning. I wrote two textbooks and one seminar in HTML 1.0—look where we are today!


When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I was having a temper tantrum with my kids in the room, fed up with things stopping me from becoming a writer. I was still producing volumes of technical documents. Big documents. Family demands (they were grown!) and just stuff. While stomping around the room I had an epiphany. I have been writing my entire career. I realized, “You idiot! You ARE a writer!”



What does RWASD mean to you?

I have been in one other chapter forever and visited a few others. I like being in a room with women who read and write – as opposed to the men at work who have trouble forming intelligible sentences and can’t document their designs if their life depended on it. I mostly like speakers who bring new ideas, tricks and tips, how to do, and inspire me to run home and do something.


What is the biggest challenge you have faced on your journey to becoming a writer?
I think I said that – WORK. KIDS. I was a high-adventure Boy Scout Leader for 11+ years. Then my younger son got Leukemia. Life will interrupt you.



What attracted you to the genre you write? Why does it speak to you?
I write several genres. Because I’ve been around so long.
Whatever my mood is. I wrote SciFi to start because I was a Trekkie and had met 3everyone on that show. I wrote Jettison and outlined Kali’s Song and Hellsfire. All three will be re-released.
Then I realized I live for the PBS period pieces (Like Jane Austin – at the time the 5 hour versions) and realized I read a LOT of Regencies so I tried writing them. And have more story ideas then I will ever publish. Three of them came out last year. One came out this year.
I hooked up with Christine Feehan at SVRWA and tried Vampire stories (I have four) – I love her Vampire stories! Dark Eros has a cover and is behind the Italian Vampire.
I also wrote another Sci Fi piece, this with erotic sex all over it. Assembly Line is a novella that will come out maybe in 2017. (OK Sex toy factory on an asteroid…) (HBO ran a piece on the creation of the Real Doll full-sized sex toy. I said – why only female dolls? And there you go.)
And of course I went to the Fremont PD Citizen’s Academy and started writing Hot Cops, to the bemusement of the Captain (female) who ran the classes. Six have been released.



Where is the weirdest place or what is the weirdest thing that inspired an idea?

That would be the ride in the $400,000 anti-terrorism Fremont PD Bearcat SWAT truck and taking note of the internal grab bars while sitting on my hands so I didn’t molest the adorable driver….close call.


Who’s a writer you would do backflips to meet and why?
Met quite a few at RT conferences – I try not to be a fan-girl. If I meet them I try to stay calm and polite. I am a silent supporter of my fav authors. Ann Cleeves (Vera, Shetland), Andrew Camilleri (Commissario Montalbano) – some of my favorites have died. I would have loved to have met Georgette Heyer. As a child I was groomed not to read ANY romance stories. I have been trying to make up for that.


If you could go back 20 years ago, what advice would you give yourself?
Do NOT wait until you are older. MAKE THE TIME.
You may have to put your kids to bed earlier. Or you get up before they do. Have a temper tantrum if necessary. Sooner rather than later.


Tell us about your latest novel!
2The next one up is the Italian Vampire. Drako Lanzoni Du sang – the fan club and my son were involved in his name. Fabio’s office approved.

Written for a fan club member who asked me to write her a story while she was trapped in a New England winter. I said sure – but he has to be a vampire! The fan club has been reading initial drafts and going gaga. They have space in their drawers waiting for the PRINT copy. I’m working! I’m working! The office has approved the first draft (The office is Fabio’s manager and agent – I work with him on the fan club). Eric also loves the cover.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?

The Italian Vampire
Their fear could be felt as an almost tangible thing. Their fear was justified. But he was well fed. The women were safe from him.
The women stood in the shadows, the night mists swirling about them. They would step no further. He had watched them approach, hesitant, arguing, reluctant. Beads and crosses dangled from their fingers, clicking as they chanted the rosary prayer while they walked. They were near the door to the side chapel. They refused to tread into the dark.
Dawn was coming. The birdsong had not begun, nor would it while he waited, also in shadow. Even the rustling of small creatures had stilled in his passing.
He watched them, as silent as the crypt behind him. They clung to their cloaks, coarse homespun fabric, dull colored. Servants then. All but the one.
The graveyard was silent, except for the rustling of the skirts of the one older woman who broke apart, a rich dark cape clutched tightly around her, swirling about her booted feet, she was carrying a handful of flowers, a small tribute, gripped in her free hand. Her jewels winked in and out from her fingers, and her boots were of supple leather, like his own. She was rich then, and had kept her status.
Her head was covered in the soft fabric of her cloak, and her head was bowed. She walked like she carried the weight of the world, or at least years of it, on her own shoulders. Stooped and somehow broken, she moved slowly forward. There were murmurs from the other women, clustered still in the shadows of the stone wall. Like the others, this woman had a rosary in her hands, the cross dangling from her fingers.
The church was ancient, and so was the graveyard in which they trespassed. But here and there, a newer stone glittered in the moonlight. It was to one of these that the woman walked.
It glittered in the slender moonlight that winked in and out as clouds skirted across the moon, drifted aimless in the night sky.
She came close to the headstone then, stopped and cried out, falling to her knees. She sobbed and laid the pitiful flowers on the flat grave. She touched the stone, but she did not touch the soil it rested on. She whispered a name, his name. She crossed herself and kissed her rosary cross. She murmured prayers. She raised her hands to the heavens. She cried softly.
The other women pleaded for her to return to them.
He would have called to her, but dared not. He wanted to run to her, hold her, and tell her that he was alive, that her son was still with her, still of this Earth.
But he could not because he was not.


Before you go, any advice to give to the new writers out there?

JUST DO IT! Toss all excuses to the wind and just do it. Make the time. Get into a routine. Do something for your career or your writing every single day. Don’t keep letting things get in your way (even family) or you will end up like me – staring at my 75th birthday and wondering where the time went.

Updates from the RWA National Board

Last Saturday, RWA San Diego hosted its annual Post-Nationals Potluck, where we shared our experiences and stories from the July conference. We discussed our favorite workshops, including memorable quotes from instructors, tips and tidbits we learned along the way, and the lowdown on what editors are looking for. Additionally, we were briefed by local chapter member and national Director-at-Large, HelenKay Dimon, on some of the big changes that have occurred and are on the horizon for RWA.

The board met on July 10th and 11th in San Diego, during which several important decisions were made that affect the membership. Among others:

  • The “Mainstream Fiction with a Central Romance” category was added to the RITA and Golden Heart contests for 2017, with a provisional status.
  • In an effort to make the “Inspirational Romance” category more inclusive, the name and description were changed to “Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements.”
  • Qualifications for meeting the Honor Roll were modified.

For details on any of these highlights, please see the news posted on the RWA website.

If anyone attended the board meeting, or even just heard HelenKay talk about it at last week’s potluck, you know how hard our board works to make sure RWA respects and values the opinions and feedback of all of its members. Each board member receives hundreds of emails everyday – each of which is read and considered. They spend hours debating the details of amendments to ensure they best meet the needs of all our members, and they take their jobs very seriously, committing a significant amount of their time and effort to making RWA the best it can possibly be. We’d like to extend a heartfelt thank you to all the members of our national board for all the work you do for us!

For voting members: Elections are coming up in a few weeks! The voting period is from September 1st through the 15th, and there are a whopping six spaces up for grabs for Director-at-Large. With three times as many candidates as there are positions to fill, we as members need to do our best to research their platforms and make sure our elected board reflects our values. Please take some time to review their bios and put some thought into who you’re voting for.

There are also some proposed changes to the bylaws being put up to a vote. These changes would affect general membership and move certain items from the bylaws to the Policies and Procedures. Details of these proposals can be seen here; please review them so you know how you’re going to vote in September!

If you have specific questions, you can always reach out to the board members. Their contact information is available on the RWA website. This organization is only as strong as its members – do your part to participate in our election as an informed voter!

Check Out Our Awesome September Classes!

We have two fantastic online classes coming up for RWASD next month that you all should check out. You don’t have to even be a member to attend! But it does help because a membership to RWASD will get you a discount.

Check out these great courses!


Contraception, Pregnancy and Childbirth in History

Date: Sept. 12–25th, 2016

Cost: RWA San Diego Chapter members: $15 Non-members: $20
Pregnancy and childbirth are a natural part of life that women of the past looked on with both excitement and fear. They never knew if it would be the beginning of a new life with a baby or the end of theirs. For those wishing to prevent a pregnancy, contraception was available, a lady just needed to know where to find it.

During this two week class, participants will be taken through the ins and outs of the history of contraception, pregnancy and childbirth from medieval times up through the Victorian era, from a writer’s perspective. Lectures will cover the training and techniques of midwives and doctors, as well as the medicines, pain relief, complications and mortality rates surrounding childbirth. Period nomenclature, tools and other details necessary for writers looking to craft realistic scenes will be discussed, as well as methods of contraception available and how information about it was disseminated. Firsthand accounts from medical practitioners and their patients will help provide a full picture of pregnancy and childbirth in the time before antibiotics, epidurals and germ theory.

Instructor: Georgie Lee

Award winning author Georgie Lee was born and raised in San Diego where she also attended college, majoring in television and film production. She began her professional writing career at a local cable TV station writing marketing videos, promotional spots and public service announcements, some of which still haunt the airwaves.

Blinded by the dazzling lights of Hollywood, she headed north to Los Angeles where she earned her MA in Screenwriting, met her husband, and settled into a career in the interesting but strange world of the entertainment industry.

A lifelong history buff, Georgie hasn’t given up hope that she will one day inherit a title and a manor house. Until then, she fulfills her dreams of lords, ladies and a season in London through her stories. She writes Regency set historical romance for Harlequin Historical and Carina Press. When not writing, she can be found reading non-fiction history or watching any movie with a costume and an accent.

You can Register here.


What Reading Top-Selling Authors Can Teach You About Writing

Date: Sept. 1–28th, 2016

Cost: RWA San Diego Chapter members: $20 Non-members: $25

This is the course that was never offered in your English department! We will look at bestselling romance from a critical perspective and learn what these authors are doing right—and how we can do these things in our own books.

But the word “critical” sounds so negative, doesn’t it? The focus of this course will be on what is effective, not on what we do or do not like about the books. We will take apart the first chapters of four bestselling romances and learn about their approaches, figure out what make them work, and look at other readers’ responses. Then we’ll write our own versions of fan fiction, applying these writers’ strategies in short weekly writing assignments.

We’ll have fun with the process, and you’ll leave the class with the beginnings of four new stories of your own.

What people are saying about the class:

“ I learned more in this class than other more expensive ones offered online by junior colleges and writing sites” – Mary

“I had never thought to use the different lenses as a way to analyze what makes a romance work. The challenge of using bestsellers (especially not the best written ones) as models to explore how the lenses work was an eye opener.” – Zara
Note: Participants are responsible for finding and reading the first chapters of the four books on the syllabus, but I’ll give some budget tips at the beginning of the class. Participants can read these first chapters beforehand or read them as we work through the lesson.


Instructor: Rebecca Hunter

Rebecca is the author of the steamy contemporary romance series, Stockholm Diaries. She earned a Bachelor’s in English from the University of Michigan and a Master’s in English Education from New York University, and she had worked as an English teacher in a wide range of schools, from a community college outside of Stockholm to a New York City public high school.

Under various names, she had published in the Colombia Review, Vestkusten, The Lansing State Journal, and BonBon Break, and she was a regular contributor to The Local, Sweden’s News in English, when she lived in Stockholm. In addition to writing, Rebecca edits books and articles, mostly academic, and she has translated everything from magazine articles to memoirs.

Rebecca grew up in Michigan, but after college, she moved around quite a bit. After their most recent move back to the San Francisco Bay Area, she and her husband swore they’re never move again. Well, probably not.

You can Register here


Navigating the Twitterverse

Confession time: participating in social media does not come easily to me. For one thing, I’m sort of a private person, and uncomfortable with the idea of someone knowing my every move, or worse yet, my every feeling. I’m also not much of a photographer – I mean, have you seen my Instagram lately? The artistry of the snapshots leaves much to be desired. And when it comes to turning the camera on myself, I’d rather get a deep cleaning in the dentist’s chair than take a selfie.

But there’s one social media platform that I’ve become comfortable with, maybe even grown to love, and that’s Twitter. Designed for brevity, Twitter limits your updates to 140-character posts, or “tweets.” These bite-sized morsels of information allow you to compose quickly, peruse at a glance, and connect with everyone from Harlequin to the President.

It took me some time to figure out how best to use Twitter as an author. But with a few years of experience under my belt, I’ve come up with some tips and tricks worth sharing that can help you to use Twitter most effectively.

Kristin’s Totally Subjective Dos and Don’ts of the Twitterverse*

  • Do make connections. I’m not talking about getting as many people to follow you as possible. I’m talking about connecting with people on a very real, authentic level. If you’re having a hard time thinking about what to add to your Twitter feed, start with your writing: What are you working on? What are your challenges? Where are you going to set up your writing space today? Find other writers who are writing in your genre and tweet at them. Participate in hashtags like #1linewed and #amwriting, which implicitly invites other people to tweet at you. Take part in Twitter chats like #RWChat. By putting in the time and effort, you can build your community organically.
  • Don’t wallpaper your feed with promo. If all you do is show up on Twitter every once in a while to promote your book – or worse yet, schedule the same tweet over and over and over again – you’re not going to get a lot of people who really care about you or your books. When it comes to Twitter, canned promo is just another reason to scroll. However, once you make those authentic connections, you’ll have people who really care about you, are interested in what you have to say, and maybe, they might even want to buy your book! As long as there’s a high ratio of entertaining or educational tweets to promo or marketing, then when you do send out a promotional tweet, you run less of a risk of scaring off potential, or even existing, followers.
  • Do get educated. Opportunities for writing advice abound on Twitter. Some of my favorite accounts to follow are:
    • Jami Gold. A writer herself, she links to articles – some her own, some from others – on many different topics, ranging from setting career goals to editing your story. (Side note: If you’ve never checked out her worksheets, I highly recommend them.)
    • Naomi Hughes. A freelance editor, Naomi frequently posts tips on story structure, pacing, conflict, and much more. Many of her tweets are storified, as well. I’ve saved so many of her informative tweets, and reference them often.
    • Chuck Sambuchino. A contributor to Writer’s Digest, he posts a lot of information on how to query, how to find a literary agent, and perhaps most importantly, provides links to new agents who are actively looking to build their lists. His Twitter feed is an invaluable resource for someone who’s in the query trenches.
  • Don’t worry (too much) about followers. A lot of people seem to be concerned with hitting a certain number of followers – if I can just hit 100, 500, or 1000, then I’ll totally be dominating Twitter! But the truth is, having a lot of followers doesn’t necessarily mean a whole lot. There are even services out there that offer followers for pay, and people are catching on to that, rendering follower counts less significant. Of course, you do want to have an audience, though. So worry more about the content you’re creating – this will help you attract real followers who are actually paying attention to what you tweet.
  • Do seek out representation or publication – if that’s what you’re looking for. There’s no better way to connect with agents and editors than on Twitter. Many of them have a strong Twitter presence, and freely interact with other publishing professionals and aspiring authors. Many of them post their manuscript wishlist requests under the hashtag #MSWL. And several times a year, there are sponsored “pitch parties,” such as #PitMad and #DVPit, which agents and editors will scroll through and favorite – essentially, a request for a partial or full.
  • Don’t pitch your book. Unless you are participating in one of the pitch parties described above, agents and editors will bristle if you attempt to pitch them on Twitter with your book. Think of Twitter as a water cooler, where everyone from publishing gathers to take a five-minute break to chat. You can ask them questions – many of them will gladly clarify questions on their wishlists or submission requirements if it’s not already clear from their websites – but don’t expect to get a request for pages by tweeting them an unsolicited blurb of your book.

What about you? When using Twitter, what’s worked for you and what has been a total failure? Share your experiences in the comments!

* As always, YMMV.