Start Off 2016 with Some Education!

We’re all plotting out our goals for 2016, so why not plan to further your writing prowess? RWASD has two classes beginning right at the new year. What a perfect time to dive in!

You can register for any of our classes here:

Remember, if you’re an RWASD member, you get a discount on all classes.


PTSD for Writers

Date: January 4–31th, 2016

Instructor: Kathryn Jane

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

Open to: All

This class will offer the tools needed to respectfully portray characters dealing with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. This is a broad layman’s overview – who, where, what, when, why, and how – of PTSD’s effects on individuals, families, acquaintances, interpersonal relationships, careers and other situations.

  Bio: Presenter Kathryn Jane’s extensive academic research of PTSD was done as a mature student, and the information she will provide is based on research papers, research interviews, and personal experience.

She writes about kick-ass women and the men who dare to love them.  Her self-published novels span multiple genres—romantic suspense/adventure, paranormal, and women’s fiction.

She loves the beach, her cat, her dog, the man of the house, her faerie garden, and the color turquoise—in no particular order.

Home is near the ocean, on the west coast of Canada.





Character Cheat Sheet: Shortcuts to Writing Multi-Dimensional, Empathetic Characters

Date: January 11–24th, 2016

Instructor: Donna Alward

Cost: RWA San Diego Chapter members: $15 Non-members: $20

Open to: All

Great characters are the cornerstone of any story. The key to writing characters your reader will care about is by making them not only three-dimensional but empathetic. In this workshop you’ll come away with a “cheat sheet” guaranteed to help you discover your character’s qualities, flaws, and nuances – all in a direct, concise way – and how to use them to have your reader begging for more.

Bio: While bestselling author Donna Alward was busy studying Austen, Eliot and Shakespeare, she was also losing herself in the breathtaking stories created by romance novelists like LaVyrle Spencer, Judith McNaught, and Nora Roberts.  Several years after completing her degree she decided to write a romance of her own and it was true love! Five years and ten manuscripts later she sold her first book and launched a new career. While her heartwarming stories of love, hope, and homecoming have been translated into several languages, hit bestseller lists and won awards, her very favorite thing is when she hears from happy readers.

Donna lives on Canada’s east coast with her family which includes a husband, a couple of kids, a senior dog and two crazy cats. When she’s not writing she enjoys reading (of course!), knitting, gardening, cooking…and is a Masterpiece Theater addict.  You can visit her on the web at




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Seasons Greetings from RWASD!



Its the most wonderful tiiiiiiiime of the year!

Even through the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, writers still  find time to sit at their keyboards, tap-tap-tapping away at their latest stories. Combine that with present buying, family visits, and decking the halls, life can get pretty hectic. Yet though the haze of twinkle lights and too much egg-nog, we still have time to ask Santa Claus for something special.

Some of our fabulous authors shared their biggest holiday wishes with our blog today to spread the holiday cheer.


My Author Holiday Wish is that I could visit every town and have tea with all my readers. ❤ – Tameri Etherton

My biggest wish is for some serious alone time with my muse. – Tessa McFionn

 To finish my novel and publish it! – Kimberly Field

My holiday wish is that I can find more writing time, while helping to make Christmas magical for my family. – Linda Thomas-Sundstrom

To write faster! LOL *typetypetype* – Lisa Kessler

Finding a solid strategy for connecting with readers. – EmKay Connor

To stop cortical atrophy. 😉 In other words, be healthy. – Sally Orr

Finally release the first book in my Victorian GUILD OF HYBRIDS series, which has been just sitting around, waiting to see the world. I’ve been so caught up with life and focusing on my contemporary romance novellas, my poor series is collecting dust. – Alice Lake

To have my stories connect as deeply with a person as much as other’s  stories have connected with me. – Cynthia Diamond


Happy Holidays from all of us here at RWASD! May all your wishes come true.


Image courtesy of Pixomar at




Getting to Know Your 2016 Board Members

2016 is right around the corner, and with a new year comes a new RWASD board! For those of you who aren’t already acquainted with our incoming board members, here’s a chance for you to familiarize yourself with their faces and get to know a little bit about them.

Tameri Etherton, President

Tameri is the award-winning author of the Song of the Swords fantasy series. As a born storyteller, Tameri grew up inventing fictional worlds where the impossible was possible. It’s been said she leaves a trail of glitter in her wake as she creates new adventures for her kickass heroines, and the rogues who steal their hearts. She lives an enchanted life in Southern California with two dogs, a finicky cat, her two grown children and her very own prince charming.

 Etherton_Tameri Bio Pic
Tami Vahalik, President-Elect

Tami writes contemporary romance with a kick and a twist that includes the sports world. Her stories are inspired by her time on the field as a certified athletic trainer. In other words she takes care of boo boos and owies that can and can’t be seen, then writes about them. It’s all fair game. Each story she writes has at least one real life incident. Can you figure out the reality from the fantasy? You might be surprised.

Eleanor Nystrom, Secretary

Eleanor Nystrom writes paranormal romance with badass heroes and badasser heroines. She is thrilled to be next year’s secretary.

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Tessa McFionn, Treasurer

Tessa McFionn is a very native Californian and has called Southern California home for most of her life, growing up in San Diego and attending college in Northern California and Orange County, only to return to San Diego to work as a teacher. Insatiably curious and imaginative, she loves to learn and discover, making her wicked knowledge of trivial facts an unwelcomed guest at many Trivial Pursuit boards. When not writing, she can be found at the movies or at Disneyland with her husband, as well as family, friends or anyone who wants to play at the Happiest Place on Earth. She also finds her artistic soul fed through her passions for theater, dance and music. A proud parent of far too many high school seniors and two still living house plants, she also enjoys hockey, reading and playing Words With Friends to keep her vocabulary sharp.

Lisa Kessler, Vice President, Programs

Lisa has been a member of RWASD since 2009. Since then, she’s had 11 books published, with 3 more due to come out in 2016. In our chapter, she has served as President, VP of Programs (twice), and Publicity Chair. She also worked on the California Dreamin’ Conference board. When she’s not writing, she sings professionally and teaches writing courses online as well as at San Diego Writer’s Ink in Liberty Station.

Cassi Carver, Vice President, Programs

Cassi writes spicy urban fantasy, contemporary romance, and paranormal romance. She lives in sunny Southern California with two dogs, four kids, varying numbers of pet chickens and tropical fish…and one very patient husband. When Cassi isn’t busy plotting or writing, she enjoys reading, gardening, horseback riding, spending time with family and friends, caring for pets, volunteering at the local animal shelter, drinking copious amounts of Diet Dr. Pepper, and watching sappy movies that deliver reliably happy endings.

Kristin Rockaway, Communications Director

Kristin is a native New Yorker who spends her days writing contemporary romance and women’s fiction. Her latest novel placed second in the 2015 Orange Rose Contest for Unpublished Writers, finishing first in the Women’s Fiction with Romantic Elements category. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with her husband and son, and planning her next big vacation. RWA is an important part of her life, and she’s thrilled to be able to serve on the board this year to give back to the organization that has given so much to her.

Diane Kennedy, Hospitality Director

Diane is a native San Diegan who joined RWA and the San Diego Chapter in 2014 while in the midst of writing her first novel, a contemporary YA romance.  She’s happy to say that she completed the manuscript and made PRO this year.  Now her work is focused on final polishing and word-tweaking so she can go to Nationals in July with the confidence to pitch her debut novel. Along with being a writer, she is the proud mom of a grown up son and daughter, the grandmother of two beautiful granddaughters and one darling baby grandson who fill her life with joy.  She is also the bride-to-be of the perfect man for her; proof that we’re never too old to find our true love.

Cindy Kinnard, Outreach Director

Starting her adult life as a theater nerd, Cynthia earned her Masters of Fine Arts in Costume Design and worked as a designer for many years. But her first love since childhood was telling stories. After some encouragement from a couple of authors, she decided to go down the rabbit hole and write paranormal romance. When not telling tales about hot dragons and werewolves with tight behinds, Cynthia is an SCA geek and an amateur artist. She loves costume dramas, horror films, zombies, steampunk, pirates, historical costumes, RPG games, Indiana Jones, bright colors, and LUSH. Cynthia resides in sunny San Diego, California with her husband Max, two cats of varying intelligence, and a ton of goldfish.

Rachael Davish, PRO Liaison

Rachael Davila, writing as Rachael Davish, has been a member of RWA-San Diego since 2012. Joining the board as the newsletter editor, she’s held the position of treasurer and co-PRO liaison. With Laura Connors, she will continue as co-PRO Liaison for 2016. When she’s not handling her board and family responsibilities, she’s writing contemporary romance with touches of paranormal.

Laura Connors, PRO Liaison

Laura has been a member of RWASD since 2012 and is grateful for this organization. She has acted as the hospitality chair for a year and a half and is about to take over membership responsibilities. An ADD writer, she has 15 books in progress in such categories as Historical Fiction, YA, fantasy, paranormal and contemporary. Her completed manuscript, Sea of Fate has placed third in multiple contests and second in FF&P’s On The Far Side. She has always wanted to be a writer, but it wasn’t until she met the amazing people at RWA that she found the courage to try. Some of her best friends belong to RWASD and she can’t imagine her life without it.

Jillian Stone, PAN Liaison

Multi-published, national award-winning author Jillian started out as an advertising creative. And her career did seem to suit her as she won many national ad awards including the Clio and the New York Art Director’s Club Gold. What more could she ask for? Create her own worlds? Become goddess of her own universe? Yes! So, she began to write fiction. Her Victorian Romantic Suspense novel AN AFFAIR WITH MR. KENNEDY (The Gentlemen of Scotland Yard series) won the Romance Writers of America 2010 Golden Heart Award and sold to Pocket Books. Her steamy paranormal detective novel, THE SEDUCTION OF PHAETON BLACK sold to Kensington Brava. Jillian lives in Southern California and is currently working on a sexy horror zombie novel serialized in the Sexy to Go anthologies, as well as the sequel to her erotic contemporary novel, THE DO IT LIST.

Ava Blackstone, Webmistress

Ava writes contemporary romance. She is a winner and two-time finalist in the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart® contest, and has published five short romance stories in Woman’s World magazine. She loves reading, traveling, cooking, hiking, eating, and sleeping (not necessarily in that order). Her first romance novella, Marriage: Impossible, will be available in January.


Meet the Chapter Mates: Joel Dorr


Joel white shirtJoel Dorr is a born storyteller, athlete, and a complete delight to talk to. He has a deep love of the craft and is always eager to share a story or two.  You can find more information about his work at


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

I grew up in Montana and Wyoming, where as a young boy, my brothers and I raced by horseback across the grass pastures of my grandfather’s ranch. There is no video game that can match the exhilaration of riding full speed on the back of a galloping horse. With a full access nature pass, I swam, rafted and fished many of the lakes and rivers of Wyoming. Early inspiration hit when I located and walked down the same dirt path Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid used to hunker down in their Hole in the Wall hideout. My brothers and I carried fishing poles, instead of guns, that is when we didn’t have a pretend posse chasing us. I was able to put myself through college playing basketball, getting degrees in Theatre and Broadcasting. Later I began writing and developing stories for film and television, until 2006 when I became the Editor of Dramabiz Magazine, a theatre business management monthly.

How does a writer describe himself–with a story, of course? About 20 years ago, I flew to Wyoming to visit my family. Seated next to me on the airplane, was a gentleman with long, white hair, pulled back in a ponytail wrapped in leather ties with beautiful beads. We fell into an easy conversation telling each other our “stories”. He spoke of his tribe, their history and traditions. I countered with my clan, cowboys and Irish and German ancestors. In true “cowboys and Indians” fashion, the conversation turned to the Battle of the Little Big Horn and “Yellow Hair”. Generations of Dorrs living in Wyoming and Montana heard the stories—and not the kind you read in history books. We had much disdain for George Armstrong Custer, the great injustice the U.S. Government put on the native Indians and the fiction portrayed as historical fact. Finding common historical ground, the gray haired man shared how this too is a story passed down through the generations in his family, in fact some of his relatives died as they fought the American encroachment led by “Yellow Hair.” At the end of our trip, my new friend revealed that he was the official storyteller for the Oglala Sioux Nation. He expressed honor in meeting another tribe’s storyteller, which struck me. He said that I, just like him, was destined to be a storyteller, and that it was my responsibility to pass down my tribe’s history. Years later, I have come to realize what he meant. I have always felt a need to tell stories, as did my father and his father. Ironically, as I reflect back, I remember that I wrote my first play after my father took me to the battlefield at Little Big Horn and explained the truth behind the Indian Nations last great victory. I was in third grade. Who am I? I’m a storyteller from Wyoming.

I just completed my first novel, Those Crazy Notions of Otherwise Intelligent People, a contemporary romantic (dramedy) comedy about making bad choices good again. As a writer in film and television, I never thought of myself as a writer in any one genre because I wrote action, adventure, children, comedy and drama. One day, a friend that I trusted to read my work, asked me if I realized that everything I wrote had a touch of romance in it? When I went back and looked, he was right. Love is powerful. I write about it and all the aspects associated with the feeling. Through my writing, I get to experience it all over again and creating that emotion can be exhilarating or devastating. Many wonderful conflicts arise from being in love and lend themselves to all genres. The most heart wrenching stories of all time, like Doctor Zhivago, use love as the catalyst to propel the story forward.


When did you first consider yourself a writer?

JD BeachI think it was the day I was going down an elevator from a meeting with a management company in Century City (in L.A.). Minutes earlier, my pilot for a television series, called WITNESSED, was optioned. I looked at my producing partner, trying my best to control my emotions as I’m sure they would be captured on the security camera, and asked, “Did what I think just happened, really happen?” When he smiled and shook his head yes, I was convinced that I could truly write, well, a TV script anyway. As the editor of Dramabiz Magazine, I had to interview, write and edit a monthly magazine, which taught me discipline and what to look for in quality writing. Those two experiences gave me the courage to write my first novel.


What does RWASD mean to you?

Always feeling a bit out of place, I would say RWASD feels like “being home.” I’ve never fit in with any one group. I was a basketball player who studied theatre in college. Theatre students disliked athletes and jocks didn’t understand the arts, so I was in the middle somewhere. As a writer, I sort of white knuckled my way along learning what I could from where I could find it through sheer determination. I’ve never established good working relationships with agents because I didn’t want to high concept a package of my work. I chose to work in the background, finding producers who preferred working directly with writers (through layers) to get the project done. But that is a lonely way to go about things. Film and television writer groups were not open or friendly, but rather competitive and secretive. For someone to help you in L.A., they wanted something in return. It was true quid pro quo that usually meant a part or a percentage of your good idea or project. And sometimes, they just took. It wore you down.

RWASD was like walking into a meeting of old friends who insisted you let them into your life, to help YOU make your writing better and the process of self-publishing easier. Everyone is caring, positive and nurturing–sincerely asking what you are working on and sharing information to help. Even from a personal perspective, I felt supported after sharing the ups and downs of my wife’s battle with breast cancer. They supported me while I was tired and struggling to find focus and strength. Finding this group was the best thing I’ve done for myself in many years. I can’t thank everyone enough for their help in my writing and personally.


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

The biggest challenge for me is to remember to make writing daily a priority. It’s a gift to have the ability to create a story in your mind and then translate an idea into words so that others can enjoy your thoughts. Sometimes, I get so wrapped up in life that I miss a day or two of writing. I loose touch with that joy of pushing a story along. It is an adrenaline rush to read what I have written after toiling late into the night. Never knowing if it is reader-ready as I boot up the computer, I oftentimes get excited at reading something special that I don’t remember writing (and no I don’t late night binge drink). On my list of loves, writing has surpassed basketball and sits right below family.


What attracted you to romance? Why does it speak to you?

I can tell you exactly what attracted me to romance and when. I was in the eighth grade and had my first crush. She was sitting next to me, both of our hands resting alongside our legs, fingers barely touching watching a film with really strange dialogue. I was totally caught off-guard and sucked in by the infatuation of Romeo for Juliet. I had never seen the brilliance of ingénue love and replicating it became engrained in my writing DNA. Can you think of a story line without love or romance at the core? Well, a story or movie worthy of your time anyway. It drives motives, good and bad, and intensifies the conflict due to the heightened sense of desire. Plus, sex drives people crazy.


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

I once met a stuntman who was missing his arm below the elbow.One Hour Warriors Among his many jobs, he was a stuntman for the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, Predator, in a scene where they blew the Predator’s arm off. Anyway, I shook the man’s hand and suddenly I got this idea for a children’s action film featuring broken toys that come to life as imperfect super heroes. The toy’s broken body parts were remade with non-lethal weapons, like goo guns, which shot sticky stuff instead of bullets. They only came to life for one hour. The idea developed into a script called One Hour Warriors and was optioned but never made into a movie.


Love Scenes. Steamy or sweet? Why?

C’mon, I’m a guy. Do I need to answer this question? Bring on the heat! Well…after thinking about this a little more, I’m not into hot sex just for the sake of hot sex–I would be too exhausted. But when writing a story, it really depends on the story itself and what feels right. In Those Crazy Notions of Otherwise Intelligent People, I developed each love scene so there is an emotional response true to the characters and that escalates the intensity. Sometimes that intensity isn’t always a good thing. In one love scene, the reader learns the honest feelings of one of the characters, but I find it sexy that sex isn’t good when you can’t connect. I like unexpected love scenes at the point where the character leads can’t take it any more and they must have each other in a vivid and high-voltage experience leaving the reader in need of change of underwear or finding someone to help them with their pent-up needs.


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

I would have liked to have met Michael Chrichton before he passed away. He was a brilliant man (he wrote a novel to pay for medical school for crying out loud) and was able to write novels for all ages with storylines that pushed the envelope of controversy while being entertaining. I miss him and his books.


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

You’ve got potential, kid. Don’t let anyone steal that from you. Stay focused and work harder. Then get some humility.


Tell us about your latest novel!

Those Crazy Notions working Master 120115 copy copyThose Crazy Notions of Otherwise Intelligent People

Ilena Doran is a dedicated therapist with a serious problem, and not the lousy haircut or closet-full of outdated clothing kind. Ilena’s big challenge comes in the small, 7 year-old package of her son, Sammy, traumatized by his father’s death.
Percy Powers is a psychiatrist’s wet dream; a wayward rocket fueled by tequila and hard-wired to locate any party starring scantily-clad women in need of his company. Following a chance meeting with Ilena and Sammy, the morning radio star offers to help the little fella, hoping Ilena might entertain a subtle invitation to have a little adult fun along the way.

From what Ilena has seen and heard from the media, she doesn’t like or trust Percy. She knows the type all too well and her professional instincts scream ‘all Mr. Party Pants really wants is inside her lace panties’.

The story is about two people who have ridiculous notions about themselves and others when the truth contradicts what is right in front of them. Sometimes you have to learn to accept help even it if comes from the unlikeliest of places.

I think readers of romance will find the complicated male lead, Percy, to be fascinating and might just break down their stereotypical assumptions of how men think and act when it comes to women, love and relationships. This story is rich with eclectic characters including several strong women, who match wit for wit with the egotistical Percy. The best wit-matcher is Ilena, a warm, loving mom and therapist, who tries to dodge the Percy curveball that is on target to destroy her perfectly, organized imperfect life.


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

Don’t write what you think will sell–write what you love to write. I’m finding the preconceived notion of a man writing romance to be a challenge, but with the support of RWASD (which all new writers should join), I’m learning my way.

Then read everything you can get your eyes on. Write every day.

The Spirit of Giving

Yesterday was Giving Tuesday, a yearly event started by the 92nd Street Y cultural center in New York City, designed to celebrate and support the idea of making charitable donations of time and resources during the holiday season. In the wake of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which are focused primarily on consumerism, Giving Tuesday focuses on ways in which we can give back to our communities to bring about positive change in the world. But there’s no need to limit our charitable efforts to a single day; kindness and generosity should be perennial acts. And as writers, here are some ways in which we can harness our love and passion for the written word to improve the lives of those around us.

  • Participate in literacy programs. According to RIF, “ninety-three million adults in the United States read at or below the level needed to contribute successfully to society,” and literacy is strongly linked to socioeconomic background. There are several organizations in our community devoted to improving these statistics by helping both adults and children from all walks of life increase their reading skills. READ San Diego and Words Alive are always on the lookout for literacy tutors and other program assistants. (Coincidentally, these are two charities to which we’ll be donating proceeds from last month’s Literacy Bash fundraiser!)
  • Lend a hand at the library. Our public library exists to provide our community with so many wonderful, free programs and resources: classes, workshops, and let’s not forget the treasure trove of books to borrow. As a result, they’re always in need of assistance, be it in the form of volunteers or financial support. Locally, the San Diego Public Library Foundation website has information on how you can make donations of both time and money.
  • Give books. You can donate your gently used books to your local library or to Better World Books, who resells donations to raise money to benefit literacy and libraries. You can also encourage reading by giving books to your friends and family as holiday presents. And finally, if you have a Twitter account, use the hashtag #giveabook until December 24th, and Penguin Random House will donate a book to the literacy nonprofit First Book, which provides new books to children in need.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. What about you – what are some of your favorite ways to use your love of reading and writing to help uplift our community?