Tips on Reading to a Crowd: Guest blogger, Mary Galusha


Love at the Library returns! Join us at the Riford Library on November 5th to celebrate romance all afternoon! We will have workshops, signings, readings, and  ending with a screening of Love Between the Covers, a documentary all about the genre we all love.

You can find details on our awesome upcoming event here!

In May, we had  many of our authors read to new and eager readers, one of them was Mary Galusha. Today, she shares some great ideas for doing a public reading  of your book.

Take it away, Mary!

I was one of the lucky RWASD members whose name was drawn to read from my book at the Love at the Library at the Central Library. I would like to share some of the things that worked for me, and maybe some of this will work for you, too.

I had previously done a reading at a book signing at my gym and discovered some ways that made the whole thing more interesting. First of all I found that I am not only selling my book, I’m selling myself. That means I didn’t only read from my book, I did some talking, too.
I started by stating my name and the title of my book. I told what the story was about (similar to what the back blurb is) and the names of the two or three main characters.
To prepare for this, I selected scenes from the book (my favorites) to read, preferably ones with dialogue. I would recommend at least three scenes, but five would be better and seven would give you more, if you need it.
I didn’t start on the first page, I told my listeners what the first scene was about and a little of what had happened before, then I read the scene. The most important thing is to choose scenes that have a hook at the end.
A word of caution. Be sure you don’t give away your secrets (the answers to the hooks you have dropped) in the rest of the scenes. Feel free to edit your reading as you go along.
It’s important to look up and at your audience from time to time or is this makes you uncomfortable, look over their heads.
If you have a dynamite first chapter, by all means read that with gusto.
Remember to take your time. The bigger the audience, the slower you should read. They’re your words, cherish them, you worked hard for them.
When you have finished, look up and ask for questions. If there are none, don’t miss a beat and ask your own. You can say something like “I’m often asked where I got the idea for the character of Lili?” and if there are still no questions ask one more such as, “people want to know where in the world I got the idea for this book?”
If there are no other questions, you can thank you audience for listening, restate you name and the name of your book, holding it up so they can see the cover. You can add that you will be signing in the lobby.
I hope this can be helpful for those who will be reading at our next event.


Thank you Mary!

Love at the Library will be happening from 1pm to 6pm on November the 5th at the Riford Library in La Jolla (7555 Draper Ave. La Jolla, Ca. 92037). Hope to see you there!


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.
  • 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


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?