February Meeting Roundup + Good News

If you didn’t attend last Saturday’s meeting with special guest speaker, Darynda Jones, you missed out on an energizing and inspirational day!

In the morning, Darynda shared with us the story of her personal journey to publication and literary superstardom. For anyone feeling the pain of rejection or the disappointment of failing to place in contests, Darynda’s experiences showed us anything is possible: after placing last or second to last in every single contest she entered, her first manuscript, First Grave on the Right, went onto win the Golden Heart, secure eight offers of representation in one week, sell as part of a six-figure, three-book hardcover deal, and eventually win the RITA in paranormal romance. Her story demonstrates the subjectivity of the industry, and should encourage all of us to never give up hope!Darynda speaking to RWA San Diego.

She shared her ten keys to success for aspiring authors:

  1. Write the best book you can. And do it again and again.
  2. Learn from rejection, and do better.
  3. Don’t rest on your laurels. When you finish one book, get started on the next one.
  4. Never stop learning. Read books on craft. Take classes. But don’t let it hinder your writing. The more you write, she says, the more creative you become.
  5. Know the rules… then break them.
  6. Own it! You’re a writer; it’s not just a hobby. Don’t compare yourself to others, either, because with every goal met, there’s another one waiting in the wings. It never ends.
  7. Read, write, and share. Thinking about writing is not the same as actually writing.
  8. Don’t ever take it personally. This is a business. When an agent or editor looks at your work, the question in the forefront of their mind is, “Can I sell this?”
  9. Finish the damn book. A debut author, especially, cannot sell an incomplete book, so get it done!
  10. Study the masters. Read books you love to find out why you loved them. Analyze why you dislike other books.

Most importantly, Darynda said to “do it with passion, or not at all. Go forth, write, and change the world!”

As if that wasn’t educational and inspirational enough, she also generously shared with us her “Four Essential Elements of an Opening.” They are:

  1. Draw the reader in. Use detail and description, particularly powerful verbs. Set a scene and show your character in their everyday life.
  2. Create empathy for the main character. This can be done using at least two of the following five ways.
    1. Making the character sympathetic.
    2. Putting the character in jeopardy.
    3. Making the character likeable.
    4. Giving the character power.
    5. Making the character funny.
  3. Set the tone. Let the reader know what your attitude is toward the story you’re telling.
  4. Elicit emotion. This is your primary objective. If you’ve done the first three correctly, this should come naturally.

Your opening pages are designed to seduce the reader, tempt them into reading the next sentence and then the next page. Overall, her biggest piece of advice was to use crisp, sharp writing that’s easy and pleasurable to read.

Aside from Darynda’s wonderful talks, we also handed out our Attagirl Award to Shirley Wilder, for overcoming her battle with surgery and being pronounced free of colon cancer!

As always, our members had a lot of good news to share:

  • Tessa McFionn’s debut novel, Spirit Fall, is a finalist in the Chanticleer Book Review’s Paranormal Awards.
  • Marie Andreas made PAN.
  • Demi Hungerford released book four in the Bowman’s Inn Anthology, Winter.
  • Toni Noel’s light romantic suspense, Lying Eyes, was released by Desert Breeze on February 21st. This is her tenth published book!
  • Shirley Wilder is one of three authors invited to speak and sign at the Brandeis University Reader and Author’s Luncheon on March 8th. She also made PAN.
  • Donnamaie White released her regency, Close Escape.
  • Cynthia Diamond entered Siren’s Song into the PRISM awards, and also made PAN.
  • Linda Seed published her second book in February.
  • Jeanne Dickson finaled in the Great Expectations contest.
  • Linda Thomas-Sundstrom’s Immortal Redeemed was one of April’s “Top Picks” in RT Magazine.

Please join us for a very special treat on March 19th: an all-day craft and branding workshop with USA Today Bestselling Author, Mary Buckham. Don’t miss it!


Meet the Chapter Mates: Tessa McFionn

Author picThis month’s Meet the Chapter Mates features our current RWASD treasurer, Tessa McFionn.  Tessa not only writes paranormal romance but has a ton of other talents including a wicked sense of humor.

You can find out more at her website: TessaMcFionn.com


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

Hellooooooo! So, I’m Tessa McFionn. I’m a Gemini and I like long walks on the beach. Okay, so that last part might be a stretch. I write paranormal and sci-fi romance.


When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Well, like most published authors, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing. Be it little kid poetry or high school journalism, I ran the gambit. But it wasn’t until about seven years ago, in a rather dark period in my life, when I seriously picked up the pen again. I finished the first draft of Spirit Fall and it sat on a virtual shelf for years until a good friend talked me into sending it out. That was back in Fall 2013 and Spirit Fall hit the public December 2014.


What does RWASD mean to you?

Oh wow. That’s a great question. The amazing camaraderie, the support, the chance to get honest feedback and spend an afternoon with inspirations writers. It has been such a godsend to me. It’s wonderful to be able to openly talk about the writing world and to get insight and advice. I just love it all.


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

Time. Hands down. I have a full-time day job which has a tendency to leak into my freeSilly selfie time as well. So, I have to carve out writing time whenever I can and it can be frustrating when the only time I can find is so late in the day that my brain refuses to function. But I do cherish my weekends and spend most of that time glued to my laptop.


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

Super easy. I love make believe. If it was fantastical, I loved it. I still do. I remember my mother reading The Hobbit to both my brother and me when we were kids and Fantasia was my favorite movie at age five. Read Dracula at a very early age and my mother also bought me Dune and An Interview with a Vampire when I was in junior high. So, when I started my own writing, it seemed natural for my stories to be infused with elements of other worldliness.


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

LOL! Weird, huh? I love hunting for locations in various neighborhoods. Found a really creepy looking gated house in San Francisco. Hanging on to that one for someone. As for weird things, I have a horror short inspired by a leaky faucet. I guess since I consider myself as weird, all these things seem normal to me. 😉


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

Oooh. There are so many and I feel lucky to say that I’ve been blessed and have had opportunities to met and talk with several of my inspirations. So, of the ones I haven’t met, it would be Anne Rice. I met her at a book signing back in 1994 but that was before jumping off the deep end into the writing pool. Now, I would love to talk to her about the craft.


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

Follow your gut; you’re on the right path! During this time, I was transitioning out of a toxic relationship and returning to the person I love. So I would tell myself to keep going.


Dual coversTell us about your latest novel!

YAY! I’d love to! So, I’m working on the third installment on my currently published series. This goes way beyond a trilogy since the fourth Guardian is already waiting less than patiently for me to get to his story. But in this tale, we move out of California to the Windy City. Here we meet immortal Guardian Sebastiani Cristofano Lamberhetti, or Bastian, an Italian Renaissance assassin who isn’t the cuddliest of guys out there. It’s got intrigue, slimy mobsters, a beautiful singer, gambling and a crazy stalker. And of course, lots of vicious fight scenes and hot, steamy sex.


Can you share a little of your current work with us? 

With pleasure 😉

“Not blonde.” Bastian whispered half to himself and Miranda raised her gaze. Her deep sapphire orbs, hazy with passion, shifted to include a trace of expected rejection. The combination of her flushed ivory cheeks, piercing blue eyes and mahogany tresses was sheer perfection.

“I’m sorry. I know that gentlemen prefer blondes.” Her seductive voice carried a tinge of sadness. Cupping her face, he placed a tender kiss on her lush lips, a light brush to tide him over.

“You are beautiful, tesorina. Never be sorry for who you truly are.” He slid his mouth along her jaw, licking his way to her tempting lobe. “And for the record, I don’t prefer blondes.” Twirling his tongue around the slender shell of her ear, he breathed hotly against her skin. “Nor am I a gentleman.”


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

Don’t give up!!! If you truly believe in your words, you will find an audience who believe in you enough to love your stories. One of my amazing chapter mates, Lisa Kessler, gave me some awesome advice that I truly believe needs to be shared. “Being an author is a marathon, not a sprint.” Be ready for the long haul but never give up.


Spotlight On: Darynda Jones

Our February meeting is only a week and a half away, and we’re excited to be hosting the talented Darynda Jones as our guest speaker. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Darynda, she is a multi-published author of paranormal romance and romantic suspense. Her debut novel, First Grave on the Right, won both the Golden Heart and the RITA. Since then, she’s gone on to publish over a dozen books with St. Martin’s Press, hitting the USA Today and New York Times bestsellers lists along the way.Darynda Jones

With such impressive accomplishments under her belt, Darynda will have a lot to share with RWASD members. In the morning, she’ll be sharing the inspirational story of her breakout success – from winning multiple awards to seeing her debut novel published in hardcover. Like most of us, the road wasn’t a simple, straight, clear one; according to her biography, it came with a lot of interruptions. But caring for her family, going to school, and taking on three (or more!) jobs at once, didn’t deter Darynda from pursuing her dreams. Hearing her story will help encourage us all to never give up on our path to publication (and beyond).

In the afternoon, the discussion will take a craft-related turn, and Darynda will speak to us all about how to craft opening pages that will keep your readers begging for more. If you’ve ever perused Darynda’s website, you’d know she’s a plotter to the extreme – in her own words, she “plots like there’s no tomorrow.” If you’ve ever had a question about outlines or openers, she’ll be the perfect person to ask!

Don’t miss out on what’s sure to be an exciting meeting. Register today!

Meet The Chapter Mates: Alice Lake


Its time to meet another of our talented chapter mates!

Alice Lake is a self published author of historical romance. She also writes contemporary romance under the name Mila Rossi. You can find more about her work at her website, MilaRossi.com. Lets find out more about her!


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

I’m originally from Romania and grew up in Austria. I came to the US as a teenager and am still very homesick. Luckily my husband likes to travel. I’ve been a member of RWASD for a couple of years now and I write historical romance under the name Alice Lake and contemporary romance under Mila Rossi.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I’ve always written something, whether in school (I was an English major) or at work (as a technical writer), but I didn’t tell others I was a writer until I published my first book.


What does RWASD mean to you?

I’ve been so grateful to join RWASD because I met wonderful writers, learned valuable information and improved my craft as a result.


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

Goodness, everything has been challenging. Writing has always been a passion, so I don’t feel like that’s hard to do. I have so many ideas, but not enough time to write them all down. The business aspect is a big pain in the butt, especially if you self-publish. I had to learn all sorts of things I hadn’t considered before, such as book covers, formatting, beta readers, reviewers, the hassles of dealing with anything technology-related….It’s a long list.


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

a5I started out writing Victorian-era romance because that’s what I liked to read. In the last year, I’ve branched out to contemporary romance, which is much easier to write. There isn’t as much research involved, and it’s a relief when a character can just pick up the phone and call somebody, as opposed to my Victorian ladies who have to make a social call.



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

I was watching a show called House Hunters and saw a couple checking out tree houses to move into. I thought this was so crazy and exciting. Suddenly, my WILD GAMES story was born.


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

A couple of years ago, I would have named a few, but after actually meeting some, I realized that I apparently get very starstruck and clam up. I waited in line several hours to meet Janet Evanovich and then barely said Hello to her when it was my turn to see her.


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

Start now! I waited a long time to start writing and even longer to become organized. After learning so much these last few years, the writing flows much better and the publishing process is not nearly as gruesome. I should point out that I self-publish, so I have everything down like a well-oiled machine.


WILD GAMESTell us about your latest novel!

WILD GAMES was released just before Thanksgiving and is a contemporary romance novella set in the Costa Rican jungle. It features a feisty botanist and the security guard hired to keep an eye on her research team. It was fun to see how these two hotheads bickered and overcame the challenges of sharing a tree house. I had a great time writing it.



Can you share a little of your current work with us?

I am finishing up CHANGE OF PLANS, my latest Mila Rossi novella, which deals with the consequences of the characters’ one-night-stand. It was interesting to write since I hadn’t written about one-night-stands before, but I like to challenge myself. Also, the first Victorian-era book in my Guild of Hybrids series is being published on February 1st, so I’m very excited about that. It’s called DANGEROUS KISSES and features a secret female society. Lavinia, who is a Guild of Hybrids member, is hired to ruin her client’s fiancé, whom she of course falls in love with. It’s never easy falling in love.


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

Yes, read and write with an open mind. Be open to new ideas and don’t be scared to try new genres, different POVs and considering input from others. With my first couple of books, I was so stuck on doing only what I thought was right, but now I value the opinion of others.