Get Pumped for Nationals, Part 4: RITA and GH Awards

rwa_graphicWeek four of Get Pumped for Nationals! focuses on the most glamorous night in the world of romance: the RITA and Golden Heart Awards ceremony. These distinctive honors are bestowed upon members of RWA for excellence in romantic fiction. The RITA recognizes published novels, while the Golden Heart is awarded for unpublished manuscripts, and several are given away each year for outstanding efforts in various categories.

This year, one of RWASD’s very own members was honored with a prestigious RITA nomination: FACING FIRE, by HelenKay Dimon, has finaled in the Romantic Suspense category. HelenKay has graciously agreed to stop by the blog today, and answer some questions about her experience with the RITA, as well as her general writing practice.

1. Congrats on being a RITA finalist! Walk us through your experience with “the call.” Where were you when you found out about your nomination?

Thank you! I was actually parking my car and about to have lunch with fellow RWASD member and super agent, Laura Bradford, when the call came. Since I’m on the national RWA Board, I know that Board members who final get called early, the day before the finalists are announced. That happens because Board members are the ones who call the finalists with the good news in the morning, so we get a list by the night before so we can be ready. But when the call came it was noon and I didn’t think it was about the RITAs. I was worried something was wrong and there was some kind of emergency motion or something. Yes, I am a positive thinker. When RWA President, Diane Kelley, gave me the good news I screamed, likely said something profane that I’ll make G-rated here, like “get out!” and then rushed into the restaurant to tell Laura, who also happens to be my agent.

2. What (or who!) was your inspiration for your Bad Boys Undercover series, and in particular, FACING FIRE?

Inspiration comes from odd places. I loved this Cinemax show called Strike Back. It was about an undercover team, trying to stop international incidents. Every time I watched it I thought, this needs a real romance and bigger characterization and it would be perfect. So, I came up with Bad Boys Undercover about an undercover team called The Alliance, which is made up mostly of former MI6 and CIA officers. The team was founded by, and is run by, a woman. The settings are mostly international. The team is neither MI6 nor CIA, so I don’t have to abide by the real-life restraints on either. I think my agent pitched it like this: hot alpha guys who keep us safe and the woman who don’t take their crap. It must have worked because the first book sold in a five-way auction.

For FACING FIRE, I was intrigued by the idea of a hero, Josiah, who had lost so many people he cared about in terrible ways and the idea of him having this guilt from being one step too late. The book starts with a bang – literally. There’s an explosion and Josiah’s uncle is killed, and the wild ride starts. The heroine’s story merges with Josiah’s revenge because she is hunting the man who killed her mother years ago. Little do Sutton and Josiah know that their seemingly unrelated quests are linked. And then there’s the problem where Josiah isn’t sure which side Sutton is on…

3. Some of your stories take place in far-flung destinations that few of us will ever have the chance to visit, like the mountains of Pakistan or a resort in Fiji. How do you go about conducting your research for these remote settings?

I’ve actually been to Fiji! My husband and I honeymooned there. But, yes, I’ve never been to some of the places like Skardu, Pakistan or Ronda, Spain, or the Ural Mountains of Russia, where my newest release in this series, UNDER THE WIRE, is set. Sometimes the searches are easy. I can look up places. Find photos, read books and review first-hand accounts. Others, like Skardu, Pakistan and the information I needed about this specialized unit of the Pakistani Army that performs helicopter rescues on K2, the second highest mountain in the world, were harder. For the Pakistan information, I depended on the online journals and footage from Himalayan climbers. That was a huge help. For UNDER THE WIRE, I spent a lot of time researching the Ural Mountains, the geology of the region, the old labor camps there and talking to a geologist and a hiker with knowledge of the area. When people tell you contemporary romance is easier to write because you don’t need to research…yeah, give them my email.

4. You’re a prolific writer, with stories running the gamut from romantic suspense to steamy contemporary. Do you have one genre you prefer to write over all others? Any genre(s) you’re itching to try but just haven’t gotten around to yet?

A lot of my books have a bit of a suspense feel to them, even if they’re not traditionally what we think of as romantic suspense. I clearly have a love of thrillers and try to work that tone into a lot of the books I write, whether there are explosions or not. But despite the genre, I do think my books share the same basic principles: families are about more than blood, people can overcome their difficult pasts or at least learn how to survive them, trust is essential, and romance is about hope. As for what I’d like to write, I am dying to do a futuristic with thriller aspects, sexy times and a marriage of convenience trope (my favorite, but it’s hard to pull off in contemporary).

5. What’s your advice for romance writers who aspire to their own RITA nominations? (Hey, an author can dream!)

We need to dream. Man, do not stop. But I do have to admit that I’ve never written a book hoping or thinking it would be a RITA finalist. The RITA finalist part is just a huge, unexpected extra for which I am incredibly grateful. I think the key to surviving and thriving in this genre, and really, that should probably be the real goal, is to be willing to adapt, to keep writing in a way that feels authentic to you (i.e., don’t chase trends) and to aim for each book to be better than the one before it. It took me 30+ books to get the RITA finalist nod, so do not give up hope. Ever.

Thanks again for stopping by, HelenKay! We can’t wait to cheer you on during the awards ceremony. And for those of you won’t be able to make the ceremony in person, you can catch a live webcast at rwa.org! The ceremony will take place on Saturday, July 16th at 8:00PM PST.

That’s about it for Get Pumped for Nationals! We’ll see you all in San Diego, two weeks from today!

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Meet the Chapter Mates: Kitty Bucholtz

Kitty Bucholtz Author Photo2 smallOur own Kitty Bucholtz is always full of smiles, laughter, and a joke for everyone at RWASD. She also is an accomplished writer and teaches some wonderful workshops on self-publishing as well.

You can find out even more about her at www.kittybucholtz.com.

 

 

Tell us a little about yourself! Who are you? What do you write?
I have a T-shirt that says, “I’m just a Michigan girl in a California world.” Sometimes I think that says everything about me – haha!! I’m partly practical and logical, partly whimsical and emotional, and I’m a lot about laughter and encouragement and Love. So I end up writing a very similar character most of the time – a woman who is faced with a situation she doesn’t want to or know how to deal with, but who finds it inside herself – often with a little divine inspiration – to find a way through it and learn that she’s stronger than she knew. I don’t know if I always write about her because I hope I’m her, or because I want to be her, or…I don’t know. But she’s my girl. I put her in romantic comedies, and superhero urban fantasies (with romance, of course), and supernatural suspense.

 

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I remember writing stories on a chalkboard my mom leaned against the wall in the hallway at home when I was five or six. I wrote stories throughout school, but I grew up in a pragmatic, Puritan work ethic kind of culture, so artistic pursuits were considered nice hobbies. It wasn’t until I moved away from home that I first submitted my work for publication – and I was accepted my first time! I had a devotional published in 1996, and that was when it really became real to me. Once that happened, I couldn’t stop writing, couldn’t stop trying to get published!

 

What does RWASD mean to you?
My fabulous friend gave me a year’s membership into RWASD last year when times were tough in my life. Over time, I’ve found that she’s not the only wonderful and generous person in RWASD. 🙂 I’ve so enjoyed the laughter and encouragement at the meetings, the amazing online encouragement to write more and make our deadlines, and the amazing speakers we’ve had since I’ve joined!

 

 

What is the biggest challenge you have faced on your journey to becoming a writer?
I think the hardest thing for me is that my personality and my upbringing have mostlyKitty at Carlsbad Beach Apr16 pushed me to accept what those in authority say to be true. So when editors said chick lit is dead, I believed them and tried to think of something else to write. When agents said, don’t write other books in your series if you haven’t sold book one yet, I agreed that that sounded logical and I wrote the first book of the next series and the next. When other professional writers told me, don’t worry about writing the full book, write great proposals until you get an agent who will tell you which book they can sell, I took their advice and wrote a dozen three-chapters-and-a-proposal.

Following all of that advice not only didn’t help me sell a book (although I did get an agent), but when I decided to self-publish, I didn’t have a dozen completed books like so many other writers who chose to self-publish had ready to go. So in some ways, my biggest challenge has been trying to learn how to make wiser decisions that work for me. The number of “experts” in publishing has only grown, so it will continue to be a challenge for me to find my own way, taking into consideration what works for other professional publishers, but making decisions that will hopefully work best for me.

 

What attracted you to the genre you write? Why does it speak to you?
I love “love”! I love happily ever afters and great endings and good winning over evil. I also love what happens after two people in love get married, so I had to write about newlyweds in my superhero series! I’ve been married to my college sweetheart for 26 years now, and there is so much laughter and good times to tell people about, I think I’m just compelled to write it down in fiction! But I also have to write about action sometimes, and spiritual goings on, and stuff that I can’t figure out.

 

Where is the weirdest place or what is the weirdest thing that inspired an idea?
LOL! My husband knows this story, so I don’t mind putting it in print again. I was mad at him one day because he spent all of his free time playing Xbox, reading comic books, playing D&D, and hanging out with people who did the same. I was bored and lonely and irritated (and probably wrong about how much time he actually spent doing those things!), and I came up with a story about a woman whose husband was doing all this and ignoring her, and she created her own superhero who would be there for her. Eventually it morphed into Unexpected Superhero, about a woman who not only marries a superhero (unbeknownst to her), but discovers she has a super power as well. So I guess the moral of the story is – sometimes being mad at your husband turns out well in the end. Haha!

 

Who’s a writer you would do backflips to meet and why?
Ooo, that’s a hard one because I’ve met three of my favorite writers already! I met Jennie Crusie at RWA in New York, and another fan took a terribly fuzzy picture of us that I still have. Haha! I met and was able to have a conversation with Jim Butcher twice in the last few years. And I met my all-time favorite graphic novel writer, Mark Waid, author of Kingdom Come, and had a terribly embarrassing fan girl moment that turned into a memorable, lovely conversation. I’d LOVE to spend more time with any of the three of them!

 

If you could go back 20 years ago, What advice would you give yourself?
Listen to others, weigh their advice, and trust yourself to make the decisions that work best for you. Then don’t stop writing!

 

Tell us about your latest novel!
COVER_FINALI’m so excited about this one! Love at the Fluff and Fold has been a long time coming. It’s book one of The Strays of Loon Lake romantic comedy series, and I expect to have it out in the fall (working on the edits now). The prequel short story, “Welcome to Loon Lake,” was formerly published as “Rescue at Loon Lake” in the anthology Moonlit Encounters, but I’ll be re-issuing it this month as a freebie to introduce the series. I’m also working on book two, Love at the Sea and Ski, right now. I hope to have that out by the end of the year.

The most fun part of this series is that I set it in the real location of the little lake community where I grew up, combined with some larger nearby towns. Then I added in all the fun things that make up quirky towns with funny characters, and I added some rather ridiculous plot twists. The point of this series is good, clean fun! I’ve had a blast writing it.

 

Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Here is the first meet between Danny and Cassie after a long time apart near the beginning of Love at the Fluff and Fold:

His steps slowed as he came around the corner of the building and looked up the stairwell. She’d heard him coming. Her feet flew down the steps and she jumped the last two to land in arms.
There wasn’t anything he could do but crush her to him, pulling her back into his heart where she belonged.
A voice in his head told him he was a dead man. No pun intended. If it wasn’t for Uncle Wille, this would be the Worst. Idea. Ever.
But for now…

 

Before you go, any advice to give to the new writers out there?
Keep writing. Enjoy yourself. Write what makes you happiest. You’ll do your best work that way, and other people will be most likely to enjoy it!

Get Pumped for Nationals, Part 3: Readers for Life!

rwa_graphicLet’s continue to Get Pumped for Nationals! by exploring the details behind the “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing. This fabulous reader-focused event provides authors with two hours of uninterrupted time to meet with fans and sign books, making it a great way to connect with old and new readers alike – all while raising money for a good cause.

Since 1990, RWA has raised close to a million dollars in charitable donations thanks to these literacy signings. This year, proceeds will be going to benefit ProLiteracy, an organization that promotes and champions adult literacy. Among other things, ProLiteracy supports hundreds of adult literacy programs around the world, develops teaching tools for tutors and students, and advocates for funding and awareness to create a more literate society. With over 36 million adults in the United States struggling with their reading and writing skills, these efforts are needed to “break the cycle of poverty” and improve overall quality of life.

Over 450 romance authors will be donating their time – and their books – to this year’s event. In addition to big names like Nora Roberts and Sylvia Day, they’ll be featuring several members of RWA San Diego, including:

  • Teresa Carpenter
  • C.J. Corbin
  • Melissa Cutler
  • Cynthia Diamond
  • HelenKay Dimon
  • Judy Duarte
  • Tameri Etherton
  • Georgie Lee
  • Tessa McFionn
  • Sorcha Mowbray
  • Linda Thomas-Sundstrom

“Readers for Life” takes place on July 13 at the San Diego Marriott from 5:30 to 7:30 PM. Even if you’re not scheduled to sign, swing by to show support for your fellow authors – and maybe buy a book or two (or ten) while you’re at it. It’s for a good cause.

Next week, we’ll be talking all about the most prestigious awards in the world of romance: RITA and Golden Heart awards. We’ll also be featuring an interview with RWASD’s own RITA nominee, HelenKay Dimon!

May Meeting Round Up + Good News

Wow! What a fantastic meeting!

In the morning we had a fascinating talk with forensic pathologist, Dr. Judy Melinek. She and her husband, writer T.J. Mitchell, told us all about the ins and outs of “Getting Your Murder Scene Right”. The two discussed the differences between coroners and medical examiners, what exactly Dr. Melinek’s job entails, and the details of what goes on during an autopsy.

Continuing on our crime themed meeting, Detective Tenaya Webb spoke on “How Police Solve Murders”. Ms. Webb filled us in on the ins and outs of police procedures, what really happens during a crime scene, and what TV and movies get wrong and what they get right.

Our Member of the Month was Eleanor Nystrom. Ellie has been working hard behind the scenes for quite some time, quietly making sure everything at out meetings run smooth without anyone even noticing she’s there. She is also one of our main forces behind our RWASD Sprinter’s group, and helps our writers put words down almost every.

Our Atta Girl/Guy went to Cynthia Diamond, who has kept writing during a very tough couple of months of life exploding.

ellie_mom_may2016

Eleanor Nystrom with President-Elect Tami Vahalik.

 

cindy_attagirl_may2016

Cynthia Diamond with President-Elect Tami Vahalik.

We also had Good News!

  • Linda Rice released Book #5 of “The Necklace” series on 5/20
  • Regan Walker release Rebel Warrior, Book three in her Medieval Warriors series
  • S.B.K Burns pitched her erotic romance, space opera, and steampunk books to the agents of Savvy Authors
  • Kitty Bucholtz entered 3 entries int the California Hooker Contest
  • Kristen Bentz received four requests for manuscripts from the SDSU Writers Conference
  • Shirley Wilder finished writing “Double Vision.”

Our June meeting will feature “How to Quietly Make Six Figures Self-Publishing” with NYT Bestselling Author Angie Fox  and “Best Practices for Self-Publishing from a Book Seller’s Standpoint” with Lori James.

You can sign up here! Hope to see you there!

Get Pumped for Nationals, Part 2: Networking

rwa_graphicIn today’s installment of Get Pumped for Nationals! we’re talking all about the exciting networking opportunities available at the 2016 RWA Conference.

If you’re looking to connect with fellow romance writers and rub elbows with industry professionals, there’s arguably no better place to do so than the annual conference. Over 2,000 people from all corners of the romance world are expected to converge on the San Diego Marriott in July. According to the RWA website, past conferences have seen over 800 published authors, more than 50 agents, and an average of 150 industry experts.

But the only way to connect with these people is to put yourself out there. Here are some tips to help increase your chances of making new friends and establishing business contacts.

  • Say hi to strangers. In my experience, romance conference attendees are super friendly and genuinely eager to get to know fellow writers. Whether at the buffet breakfast, the Keynote Luncheon with award-winning, bestselling author, Beverly Jenkins, or one of the two general speaker sessions with Dr. Valerie Young or author Sherry Thomas, take the opportunity to sit at a table with people you don’t know. Share your stories and experiences, including all the ways in which the speakers have educated and inspired you.
  • Take advantage of the fun. The conference isn’t just about workshops and speakers (and food). It’s also about relaxing and having a great time! To that end, there are several events planned which will allow romance writers to put down the pens and let loose. Avon will be sponsoring a trivia Happy Hour to celebrate their 75th anniversary; there will be a screening of the romance industry documentary, Love Between the Covers; and the Killion Group will be putting on a mock photo shoot – complete with a live cover model! These are all great ways to connect with people in informal, lighthearted settings.
  • Indulge in some swag. Promo opportunities abound at the conference, and exchanging promotional materials with other writers is a great way to help get your name out there, as well as to learn about other authors. The Goody Room will be open daily from 8AM to 5PM. Stop by early and often, both to drop off your swag (space is limited, and first come, first serve!) and pick up some others.
  • Pitch to an agent or editor. If you’re pursuing a career in traditional publishing, you might just meet your future representatives at the RWA conference. Face-to-face pitches are a great way for industry professionals to put a face and a voice to your name before they read your work. Signups for agent and editor pitch appointments are open now, and filling up fast. (If you’re looking for some tips on perfecting your pitch, check out our post from a few weeks back.)

Above all, make sure you’re wearing your extrovert hat. The conference is a fleeting three days, and will go by in a flash. Take advantage of every opportunity you get to make a friend, share a smile, hand out a business card (don’t forget them!), and learn from other authors.

Make sure you come back to the blog for our next installment, which will dive into the amazing reader-focused event taking place at the conference, “Readers for Life!”