RWA 2015: The NYC Conference Recap

How was your experience at RWA Nationals in NYC this year? Today, RWA-SD member L.H. Marley shares her conference experience in the city that never sleeps.

#RWA15 was awesome!

View from the One World Trade Center Observatory.

View from the One World Trade Center Observatory.

The iconic clichés about New York City are true! Rattling subway trains…yes. Spectacular views in Times Square…yes. Hot FDNY…YES! If you go to NYC, my advice is:

  1. Buy a Metrocard when you arrive,
  2. Make a list of your top three sites, and do it, and
  3. Bring comfortable walking shoes!

The RWA National Conference lived up to my expectations, and the app gave me reminders and kept me informed of changes, When one class was too full, I could refer to them for alternatives. Very helpful!

Here are some quotes, tips, and trends I spotted, loosely translated from my notes:

  • “When business starts to suck, go back to the craft” – Barbara Freethy
  • Speaking of her daily routine Nora Roberts, she said “It’s a job!” adding later to “get your job done.”
  • Agents – they can manage your career, best at selling manuscripts, communicate with them on making deadlines, know what you want from one
  • Multicultural Romance — #WeNeedDiverse
  • Ten Tweaks to Perk Your Prose by Grace Burrowes & Joanna Bourne (my favorite class)
    1. Surprise your nouns (cowardly lion)
    2. Micro symbols (smudged glass when someone is confused)
    3. Sometimes you tell (tell the character is soft spoken but has large vocabulary)
    4. Hot tip (go to the emotions like desire & joy)
    5. Loading Backstory (just in time delivery, only give reader what they need to know when they ask the question, not two/three chapters earlier)
    6. Pacing (1st job is to establish connection with reader, reader must care about your character)
    7. Bunch of Words (sensory vs thinking – ie He thought envy was a louse. USE> Envy was a louse.)
    8. Uncertain person would say he thought envy was a louse
    9. Dialogue (weak modifiers ‘peered’ ‘glanced’ and let the room react to what is said not just internal monologue
    10. Action tags (position in room, attitude of words, story action, remove double tagging, use “he said” 1 in 100x)
  • Invite your reader to be “present and in awe” – Virginia Kantra
    • Add in your story three forms of LOVE:
      1. DUH! — Revelations of love.
      2. YES! — Declarations of surrender and love (sometimes unequal)
      3. AWE! — The emotional payoff and emotional satisfaction
    • Feel. Suffer. Rejoice!
  • Survival for Writers by Michelle Grajkowski & Kerrelyn Sparks
    • We can ALL Survive (cheer for all successes in RWA)
      • Be a FIGHTER > be determined to succeed
      • Be a THINKER > make a plan, achieve it
      • Be a CONNECTOR > network, band together
      • Be a BELIEVER > grow faith in yourself and your talent
  • What do you want in your reader’s mind? Use your words carefully.
Jewel Quinlan (l.) and L.H. Marley, all dressed up for the award ceremony.

Jewel Quinlan (l.) and L.H. Marley, all dressed up for the award ceremony.

There were many more notes, but I think that’s all I’ve got time to share.

RWA-SD writers: there is a definite advantage to being part of RWA – you are a step ahead of the rest by being part of this wonderful group. Seize opportunities to make your stories great… super cheers!

Hope to see you in San Diego for #RWA16 and my advice:

  1. Bring sunscreen & wear it,
  2. Take advantage of meeting with editors & agents, and
  3. Listen & learn to perfect your craft!


Anna aka L.H. Marley


Meet The Chapter Mates: Margaret Taylor

CHP Graduation Photo CTC-III 83 colorFor July we talk to Margaret Taylor, someone the chapter knows for her warm smile and  vast knowledge of law enforcement.

She’s currently working on a new contemporary romance  series called The Delinquency Club.

You can learn more about Margaret at her Facebook page, M.A. Taylor.

Tell us a little about yourself! Who are you? What do you write?

I’m Margaret Taylor, I’m the youngest of ten children. Both of my parents were in the military so it’s no wonder most of my siblings and I ended up in either military or paramilitary occupations. I worked law enforcement all of my adult life until a back injury derailed my career and forced me to retire.

As I fought to keep my law enforcement job, I began assisting my sister as she wrote a Romantic Suspense. LOL – at the time we thought writing a book consisted of BIC (Butt-In-Chair) and not much else. Happily, we stumbled across RWA and realized all of what we didn’t know, but needed to learn. I currently write Non-fiction research books for Writers regarding various aspects of law enforcement and have finished the first story in a Mystery Series. Currently, I am working on a Contemporary Romance Short Series titled The Delinquency Club.

When did you first consider yourself a writer? 

Being completely candid, I still don’t consider myself a writer. I’m a storyteller. I love telling a story and pulling listeners into the tale with me. I’m working hard to transition my verbal storytelling skills into written ones. Commas had me on the ropes several times, but with Pamela Moran as a critique partner I can actually see a future where I get a handle on them. OR end up in a shallow grave covered in Lime (at least that’s what I heard her mutter a time or three).

What does RWASD mean to you? 

I skipped over this question and came back to it, I needed the time to figure out how to describe how much RWASD means to me. From the first RWASD meeting I attended, I fell in love with the writers in attendance. It was not just their knowledge, friendliness, or positive attitudes that endeared these women to me. All of the writers I met from RWASD were professional, focused and worked hard at Pay-It-Forward practices. I was assisted, encouraged and mentored into completing my first book through RWASD, something I wasn’t sure I could ever do. RWASD is my second family, great as individuals, unstoppable as a group.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced on your journey to becoming a writer? 

Sitting down and writing. It is way too easy to allow low priority items to take precedence over writing. I’m an extrovert, not used to sitting alone at my computer for hours at a time writing especially about <EEEK> emotions.  

What attracted you to the genre you write? Why does it speak to you?

Mysteries and Romantic Suspense, it’s a genre and characters that I’m comfortable Investigations1with. I understand how the characters and world fit together. Not to mention it gives me the opportunity to workout ‘What-If’ events that occurred when I worked the field. My Contemporary Romance Series is about delinquents so it’s safe to say I feel pretty comfortable exploring and writing about characters on both sides of the law.

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

Well . . . the idea of The Delinquency Club came to me as I sat outside the Principal’s Office, yet again, of my son’s school waiting to gain an audience. I was greeted, by name, by the various staff members who passed by or through the area. That started me thinking what if a single parent with a challenging child . . .

Love Scenes. Steamy or sweet? Why?

Steamy of course, because who doesn’t love that kind of research. LOL

Who’s a writer you would do backflips to meet and why? 

Actually, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet and chat with my favorite authors. Nora Roberts, Frank Miller (he even drew me two pictures of his characters), Linda Howard, Stan Lee, to name a few.

If you could go back 20 years ago, What advice would you give yourself? 

Work less, live more in the now.

Tell us about your latest novel!  

The Delinquency Club is about single people (they’re not always biological parents) who end up with or have a vested interest in children who need reinforced boundaries and very structured goals. The children are the catalyst for the adults learning more about themselves and helping them realize love like life is not perfect.

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

No one can write flawlessly, so write fearlessly and from the heart.  Now, if I can only follow my own advice. ;}

An Evening with Christina Lauren

20150708_210932Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings call themselves “brain-twins.” When you consider they’re collaborative accomplishments, it’s easy to understand why. Under the pen name, Christina Lauren, they’ve written ten New York Times bestselling novels, had their books translated into 29 languages, and scored a movie deal for their smash hit, Beautiful Bastard. Last week, they were in town for Comic-Con, and I had the pleasure of attending their happy hour event at Eclipse Chocolate Bar, where they shared cheese, chocolate, and chit-chat with their adoring fans.

San Diego holds a special place in Christina and Lauren’s hearts: it was here that they met in person for the first time, six years ago. (If you’ve ever wondered why our city is used as a backdrop in some of their stories, that’s why!) Back then, they attended Comic-Con together as enthusiasts; fast forward to Comic-Con 2015, and they were guest speakers on a panel about the evolution of fan fiction – a topic they’re quite versed in, considering they got their start as writers in the world of Twilight and Hunger Games fanfic.

I was curious about their writing process – how do two different people living in two different states (Christina hails from Utah, while Lauren calls Orange County home) work together to develop a cohesive novel (or twelve), even if they are self-proclaimed “brain-twins?” Answer: by plotting ahead of time, and splitting up the POVs.


Even so, they said they each approach their writing a little differently. For example, Lauren said the steamy scenes are the easiest for her to write, all in one fell swoop – while Christina is a “tinkerer” who’ll fiddle with her scenes for as long as she possibly can. They both agreed, however, that their favorite books are the ones where, at the end, they felt they grew as writers – the ones that took them on a journey, and improved their craft.

Christina and Lauren are as funny and charming in person as they are in their writing, and it was a pleasure to spend time talking with them. Next up, they’ll be signing at RWA 2015. If you’re in New York, stop by their booth and say hi!

Share Your Story: Overcoming Insecurities

Every-writer-I-know-hasOne of the worst things I battle with is insecurities with my writing. I’m still rather new to this wild and wooly world so finding my footing has been tricky. One day I’ll think that I’m pretty good at this writing thing, the next I want to set my computer on fire and pretend I never wanted to be a writer at all. This happens a lot while I’m actually working on a manuscript. I am constantly bombarded with “those thoughts”.

You know “those thoughts”.

I believe they go something like this:

  • “Oh God! Oh God! This is the worst first draft in the history of first drafts!”
  • “Perhaps its time to give this up and become an accountant.”
  • “This manuscript is a mess! I’m a mess! Everything is a mess!”
  • “You’re not really a writer. And all those real writers know it.”

There are days when that little jerk in my head just won’t shut up. It’s like hearing that line from Carrie on a loop; “They’re all gonna laugh at you! They’re all gonna laugh at you!”. Soon I’m on my third bottle of wine and tearing my hair out over if I should use the Oxford comma or not.

Yes, sometimes that little jerk wins and I am stuck with one heck of a hang over the next morning. Then there are days when I find ways to battle her.

Over the years, I’ve collected different mantras and locked them in a  brain file. When my little jerk starts in on her ranting and raving, I open that file and bombard her with positive words. Eventually that shuts her up and I can work.

Here are a few that have helped me during my battles:

  • “She believed she could. So she did.” I actually wear this one on a charm around my neck. When I doubt myself, I look at it then realize that yes, I can. Because I want to. I believe I can.
  • “Only you need to see your first draft.” This one pushed me over my biggest hurdle, perfectionism. We all know a first draft isn’t going to be amazing right out the gate. Like with any art, you have to mold it, craft it, and refine it into your vision. No one, not even your most beloved author will write a brilliant first draft. The best part? No one has to ever see it until you are ready to unleash it. Give yourself the freedom to suck.
  • “Write drunk. Edit sober.” Alright, so I am making myself sound like a heavy drinker in this post but Hemingway was onto something. Be as wild and ridiculous as you want with your first draft. Have your hero get abducted by aliens! Use all the exclamation points! Typo the word the into teh! It doesn’t matter, just get it out on paper. You can fix it later.
  • The worst thing your write is better than the best thing you did not write.” Lets face it, everyone wants to be a writer but not everyone will be a writer. We are the ones who pushed through those obstacles and wrote. Whether you’re published, indie, or waiting to be published you did it. Be proud of your art. You were brave enough to create it.

We’re always going to battle that nagging voice on insecurity as long as we create. After all, we’re only human. What makes us writers? We fight though the securities and we write. Just write.

I welcome you to share your favorite mantras and methods on battling your  own little jerk in the comments.  Do you use mantras? Have inspirations that smash your insecurities? Are you the Zen master and can shut out that voice in your mind?
Please share your story!