Literacy Event Round Up + Good News

Its the most wonderful time of the year!

Time for RWASD’s Literacy Event!

Our November meeting was full of good cheer as we raised money for several San Diego literacy charities, enjoyed big name speakers, and handed out awards to some well deserving members.

Our speakers this month were New York Times best selling author Julie Kagawa and agent and founder of Fuse Literary, Laurie McLean.


Julie Kagawa and Laurie McLean

During our morning session, Julie and Laurie talked about Making a Million Dollar Deal. Together they spoke of Julie’s journey from novice writer to bestseller, sharing hilarious and enlightening stories. Laurie pointed out that you can meet an agent anywhere and that it doesn’t have to happen in New York. Take advantage of your opportunities in San Diego. Also, don’t be disheartened if your first book doesn’t sell. Julie didn’t get her first deal until her second book.

In the afternoon, we had a special Q&A session with Julie. (While Laurie took pitches from our authors!) Before she was a writer, Julie was a dog trainer, a vet tech, and a pet seller. She loves writing YA mainly because “I don’t like writing adults”and is lucky to have a very supportive family. She’s a pantser and finds her inspiration in The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, and Terry Brooks. Her tips for writer’s block? 1. Power through and write crap. 2. Take a break and talk it through. And 3. Skip the hard part and write where you’re not stuck.

And then there were awards!

Our Barbara Faith award went to Lisa Kessler. Her smiling dedication to RWASD and all the wonderful workshops she has taught has made this chapter a better place to learn.

And our Member of The Year award went to our current chapter President, Tameri Etherton. Tameri has helped our chapter thrive with millions sparkles and a can do attitude, no matter what the adversity.

Thank you both for you hard work and constant inspiration!


Lisa Kessler and Tameri Etherton. (Photobomb provided by Julie Kagawa)

And of course, our opportunity drawing was overflowing with goodies such as wine and chocolate baskets, Kindle Fires, and even full paid registration to the California Dreamin’ conference in 2017!  Many thanks go to our fabulous event chairs, C.J. Corbin and Demi Hungerford who worked hard to make this event something special.


They also made the beautiful themed center pieces for our tables!

And what better way to end this recap than with some Good News!

  • Carmen Paul submitted first three pages of her Sci-Fi to Hudson Valley RWA’s “Hook Line and Sinker” Contest
  • Tessa McFionn finaled in the 2016 Best Book contest in Romantic Fiction with her book Spirit Bound
  • Lisa Kessler’s Ice Moon won the International Digital Award for best Paranormal Romance
  • Marie Andreas Got a Top Pick review from RT Reviews
  • Aleigha Siron’s book comes out in print on November 4th
  • Kristin Koster signed with Melissa Jeglinski and The Knight Agency
  • Kathy Kravat’s new series Gormet Cat Mystery Series with Kensington
  • Donnamaie White has nine books back on Amazon with a 10th on the way
  • Jackie Leigh Allen sold Behind the Red Door to Desert Breeze
  • Demi Hungerford as four anthologies re-edited and re-published. Also all four in a yearbook.

As usual, the Literacy Event was a highlight of our chapter year. Thank you for joining us and we hope to see you in December for our Holiday Potluck!


Get Pumped for the Literacy Bash!

It’s that time again! RWA San Diego will be hosting its annual Literacy Bash on Saturday, November 19th. For those who’ve never attended, it’s a fabulous, fun-filled day filled with big names in the romance industry and a number of opportunity drawings. The proceeds from the event go to supporting some important local literacy nonprofits, such as READ San Diego and the CCA Writers Conference, supporting high school students across the county in their efforts to learn more about creative writing.

This year, we’re proud to announce our very special guests for the Literacy Bash: New York Times bestselling author, Julie Kagawa, and her agent, Laurie McLean, founder of Fuse Literary. They’ll be talking about the making of a million-dollar deal, specifically, how they worked together to craft their own million-dollar deal! The big bucks are still out there, and they’re going to give you some insight on how you and your agent can work together to get your own!

Laurie represents RWA San Diego’s own Lisa Kessler and Linda Wisdom. In the afternoon, while Julie discusses the ins and outs of writing YA romance, Laurie will be taking pitches. If you’re interested in showing her what you’ve got, be sure to perfect your pitch and sign up for some of the limited spots right away. Laurie is currently closed to unsolicited queries, so this is a fantastic opportunity to get your work in front of her.

This is always a popular event, and every year it reliably sells out. Don’t miss out – register today! The first fifty registrants receive a free Julie Kagawa book.

See you then!

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!

September Meeting Roundup + Good News

Today’s blog post is brought to you by RWASD’s own Tessa McFionn!


Wow! What an amazing meeting! Our guest speaker, Callie Hutton, gave some wonderful insight about writing historical characters that appeal to today’s readers.

She got down to the nitty gritty about character traits readers are looking for:

  • Alpha males with titles;
  • Characters who reach for personal goals over more traditional roles; and
  • Subjects not covered in history books, such as interracial relationships.

And what readers are not looking for:

  • Authentic period language that relies too heavily on accents, dialog tags, and colloquialisms;
  • Spunky, one dimensional heroines that flaunt convention at every turn; and
  • So much historical facts and research that overwhelm the romantic story.

She reminded everyone that historical romance reads are not just for “old people” any longer, but market trends show that most historical readers prefer physical copies to digital media.

Next up, Callie was joined by our own Georgie Lee, Regan Walker, and Sorcha Mowbray in an engaging panel discussion about the changes and trends in historical romances. Lisa Kessler did a great job as moderator, keeping things lively and highly entertaining.

A couple important takeaways:

  • A good way to keep histories fresh is to think about using modern, social issues as seen through the lens of history.
  • Even though your story and characters are living in the past, you are still world building. So be sure to remember the rules set up by you as well as by history itself.

For September, the Member of the month was Mary Galusha for her wonderful work on “Write for the Money.”


And the Atta Girl went to Lisa Kessler, who persevered through a difficult family trauma and met her writing deadlines.


So much Good News!

  • Jackie Leigh Allen released Thirst for Love in July.
  • Mickey Brent received a publisher’s contract for her first novel.
  • Susan Burns had a manuscript request from an agent and editor at TOR. Also, she pitched to agents and Entangled on Savvy Authors.
  • Teresa Carpenter’s newest release, The CEO’s Surprise Family, marks her 20th!
  • Mary Galusha had a book reading and signing at the CURVES luncheon in Escondido.
  • Demi Hungerford released her second book in Regency Banquet Entrée series writing as Roxanna Haley.
  • Lisa Kessler’s Ice Moon is a finalist in both Aspen Gold and NERFA. Harvest Moon won a PRISM for Best Paranormal, which was presented at RWA Nationals. Also, Lure of Obsession released on August 1.
  • Kristen Koster’s Jack of Hearts manuscript finaled in the Pages From the Heart Contest in the unpublished historical category
  • Georgie Lee had two releases, Miss Marriane’s Disgrace in August and The Cinderella Governess in September. Also, A Debt Paid in Marriage finaled in National Excellence in Romantic Fiction Awards (NERFA) and Pirate’s Bargain also finaled in Pages From the Heart Contest.
  • Claire Marti got a request from Entangled for her historical synopsis.
  • Tessa McFionn’s Lost in Transmigration took third place in FF&P’s On The Far Side Contest. Also, she had two releases, Detours in Our Destinations in August and Spirit Song in September. Plus, she received a revise and resubmit for Lost in Transmigration.
  • Ann Siracusa released The Last Weekend in October in July. Also, she sold five books in a romantic suspense series.
  • Regan Walker double finaled in Aspen Gold, plus she finaled in The Carla, Ancient Cities Hearts of Excellence, Las Vegas I Heart Indie and the RONE Awards.

Our next meeting will be Saturday, October 15 to hear Jill Badonsky talk on Six Ways to Keep Inspiration Flowing and our own Linda Thomas-Sundstrom will give us Tips and Tricks to Keep your Body Healthy as a Writer. We will also be holding our Annual General Meeting where the new board will be announced.

Don’t forget to vote and see you in October!

June Meeting Round Up + Good News

We had a wonderful June meeting filled with fabulous news and inspiring talks!

Last month, Angie Fox spoke about How to Quietly Make Six Figures in Indie Publishing which brought out a ton of RWASD members, hungry for knowledge.

In her talk, Angie discussed how to make a good living and spend time doing what we love to do – writing.  Being a “slower writer” she gave the low down on how you can be successful even if you’re not releasing a new book every 90 days.

She discussed:

  • Writing Smart- Write what you love. Series books sell each other, and how novellas and boxed sets can drive up your sales.
  • Marketing Smart – You don’t have to be everywhere or spend every dime on marketing. All you need is 20 minutes a day on Facebook or Twitter. And Newsletters will help drive your sales
  • Career Structure – Decide who your are, don’t follow trends, and put a good team in place.
  • And Future Planning – Indie publishing is always changing. Even if you don’t follow trends, you can use them to get noticed.

Angie lives by the 80/20 Rule: you get eighty percent of your results from about twenty percent of your effort. Make every effort count! Be smart about your time and energy behind your management strategies.

Next up was Lori James and Cassi Carver from All Romance eBooks giving us Tips From a Booksellers Perspective and How to Make Your Listing Sparkle. These ladies discussed  ARe’s robust search engine and how important metadata is.

A few tips they left us with:

  • Think hard about your key words
  • Don’t undervalue your work. (an average 50k novel sells for about 4.99!)
  • Test your book covers
  • Think about the heat level of your story

Also instead of one, we named FOUR members of the month!

Tameri Etherton, Lisa Kessler, Cynthia Diamond, and Rick Ochocki were honored for all their hard work on May’s Love at the Library event.


Tameri Etherton, Lisa, Kessler, Rick Ochocki, and Cynthia Diamond with president Elect, Tami Vahalik

And the best part of the meeting, Good News!

  • Lisa Kessler’s Harvest Moon is a Finalist in the PRISM Dark Paranormal category. her new book Blue Moon came out on 6/27.
  • Aleigha Siron was in the top 100 of Kindle’s Time Travel romances for an entire month.
  • Rick Ochock won 4th place in WisRWA’s 25th annual FabFive’s contest with his book Out of the Fire.
  • Cynthia Diamond is releasing her 3rd book in the Wyrd Love Series, Dyrad’s Vine on 7/7.

Remember, our next RWA meeting won’t be until August where we will have our after nationals potluck. Until then, have a great RWA Nationals conference and a fantastic month!


April Meeting Roundup + Good News

We had another educational and inspiring meeting last Saturday, with two phenomenal guest speakers: literary agent Kevan Lyon, of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, and writing coach Marni Freedman, the author of the recently released 7 Essential Writing Tools.

In the morning, Kevan untangled the twisted web of subsidiary rights, helping to demystify some of the more complicated elements of a publishing contract. Subsidiary rights are the rights pertaining to the production or publication of your work in different formats, such as audio, film, or foreign translations. Kevan explained the ins and outs of navigating this convoluted section of your contract, including how to determine the split on the payout, what a standard payout is considered (for example, 75/25 for translation rights vs 50/50 for audio), and when to expect to see your earnings (hint: it’ll take a really, really long time to see money from foreign markets).

She also discussed the advantages and disadvantages of signing your subsidiary rights away to a publisher as opposed to keeping them and trying to sell them elsewhere. The biggest advantage of selling them separately is that the author sees a higher cut; on the other hand, it can be hard to sell these rights, particularly if you’re a debut author. However, she mentioned that translation rights can be a negotiating point in your contract. For example, if your publisher wants to keep them, you might be able to obtain a higher advance.

Translation rights, according to Kevan, are the most valuable of all your subsidiary rights, followed by audio, and finally film. She encouraged us all to be realistic about our hopes of our books being made into a film or television show; the number of projects that are actually produced into finished films or television series are one in a million. Far more common, she said, is the sale of an option – where a producer, screenwriter, or other filmmaker reserves the rights to create an adaption of your novel for a specified period of time. The odds of those options progressing to a full-blown production, though, are slim.

The biggest takeaway from this discussion was that we should all keep a close eye on our contracts to make sure we’re protecting ourselves and our work.

While Kevan took pitches from our members in the afternoon (good luck to everyone who is sending in requested material!), we were treated to a speech from Marni Goldman, who inspired us to take our writing career into our own hands. We live in one of the best times for writers ever, she said; agents are accessible, self-publishing is possible, and hybrid careers are taking off. In many ways, though, our self-limiting beliefs can block us from achieving our true potential.

Marni said that there are several ways we can bust down those blocks we’ve placed in our way.

  • Find your unique voice. Realize that they’re just words, and words can be moved around. Think of your book as a sandbox; before you can build a castle, you need a little sand to play with. So allow yourself to fail, to write those crappy first drafts. The important thing is to make progress, to let go and trust yourself.
  • Make a bold plan. Push yourself beyond your comfort level when setting your career goals. When you feel like you’re in a place of discomfort with your ideas and your aspirations, you’re doing the right thing.
  • Submit like a maniac. If you don’t send your work in, you’ll never win that contest or get that contract. Success comes from being tenacious and never giving up, even when you’re at the end of your rope.

She encouraged us all to embrace the “Feisty Writer” within us and shift our internal attitudes from one of self-defeat to one of self-surrender and “authentic courage.”

Member of the Month Lisa Kessler (l.) with President-Elect Tami Vahalik

Member of the Month Lisa Kessler (l.) with President-Elect Tami Vahalik

Speaking of “authentic courage,” our Member of the Month was Lisa Kessler. While Lisa routinely goes above and beyond her duties for our chapter, she was nominated by Megan Just for her extraordinary support and mentorship in helping her fellow chapter mates succeed in their quests for publication.

Additionally, our chapter members celebrated all of the following Good News:

  • Carmen Paul applied and was accepted to the Writers Guild of America (WGA) Veterans’ Writing Retreat.
  • Tessa McFionn signed a contract for her third book.
  • Tameri Etherton’s Developing Cassandra won the silver medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards.
  • Bob Richard had a full request of his manuscript from Harlequin.
  • Donnamaie White released seven books, with three more in the pipe.
  • Sarah Richmond sold her book, Do Be Sensible, Miss Wynchcomb. Also, her workshop, A 19th Century Fashion Show, was accepted for presentation at RWA 2016.
  • JQ Anderson’s debut novel, Intercepted, hit #2 on the Kindle Best Sellers lists for Romance: New Adult and College, as well as Kindle Free Books.
  • C.J. Corbin made PAN.

Join us next month for an extremely special event: we’ll be hosting NYC Medical Examiner Jonathan Hayes and Detective Tenaya Webb to discuss how to get our murder scenes right, and uncover how police solve crimes. Don’t miss it!

March Meeting Roundup + Good News

I don’t know about you, but it’s been four days since our monthly meeting wrapped up, and my head is still overflowing from all the valuable, thought-provoking information shared by USA Today bestselling author, Mary Buckham. She hosted a very special all-day, four-part, interactive workshop, full of ideas for taking your career to the next level.

The morning was spent focusing on building strong characters. In what was perhaps my favorite activity of the day, Mary had us strengthen the characters in our current works-in-progress by forcing us to see their personality traits from a different point of view. Every character attribute, she said, can be seen in both a positive and a negative light. For instance, a stubborn character could also be described as determined; an analytical character could be described as nitpicky. By viewing the positive sides of what are generally considered negative traits (and vice versa), we can avoid bland, stereotypical characters and give them depth. (Also? We came up with the idea of an exhibitionist Sunday school teacher. If that’s not a plot bunny, I don’t know what is.)

Mary also covered body language and how to incorporate it effectively into our writing. Body language is a method of non-verbal communication, including:

  • posture
  • gestures
  • eye movement
  • touch
  • facial expressions, and
  • proxemics.

By incorporating our characters’ movements into our scenes, we can communicate subtext, and evaluating whether the body language messages are congruent with what our characters are saying allows our readers to gain an understanding of our characters’ feelings and motivation without us having to say it outright – it’s the difference between showing and telling. We reviewed many different kinds of body language and what they might possibly mean.

In the afternoon, Mary moved onto the concept of active hooks, and described how to use these to draw readers into our stories and keep them turning pages. The strongest hooks, she said, raise questions or reactions in the reader. She identified ten different kinds of hooks, and walked us through examples – then gave us the opportunity to design our own hooks and see how many different ways we could elicit a reaction in the reader. (It turned into a friendly little competition — and I sat at the winning table!)

Finally, Mary walked us through the concept of “primal branding” for authors. Building your brand, she said, is an important way to make yourself stand out in a crowded market. Writers must overcome the resistance by readers to spend their time and money on a book by an unknown author. If you’re new, you must establish a “promise to your readers,” describing the heart of what you’re writing and giving them a sense of what they will be getting when they purchase and read one of your books. On a fundamental level, people swear allegiance to brands because of the basic human need to belong, and to establish human connection. People don’t buy what you do, she said, they buy why you do it. If you can establish your brand early and remain consistent in your platform, you may naturally attract the people who believe what you believe – and therein lies your core readership.

Aside from the fantastic workshops, we also handed out our Member of the Month award to Patrizia Hayashi, for all the wonderful work she does behind the scenes to help our online classes run smoothly. We were fortunate enough to have Patrizia join us in person this month, a rarity seeing as she lives in Japan!

Patrizia Hayashi and Tami Vahalik

Member of the Month Patrizia Hayashi (l.) with President-Elect Tami Vahalik.

Additionally, our readers shared the following Good News:

  • Kimberly Field entered Cherry Adair’s Finish the Damn Book contest.
  • Donnamaie White created an author page on Facebook and self-published Close Escape.
  • Susan Burns finished edits on Fly Like an Eagle.
  • Megan Westfield signed with agent Melissa Edwards of Aaron M. Priest Literary Agency, and also signed a two-book contract with Entangled Embrace. Her debut new adult, Lessons in Gravity, will be released in Fall of 2016.
  • Judy Duarte will be writing Book 4 in the 2017 Fortunes of Texas series.
  • Pamela Moran made PAN, and released Sexy to Go anthologies, Volumes 11-12, as well as the Christmas and Valentine’s Day editions.
  • M.A. Taylor will be on a panel at RWA National, as well as teaching a class for Writer’s University in May.
  • Kristin Rockaway sold her debut novel to Center Street, an imprint of Hachette. The Wild Woman’s Guide to Traveling the World will be released in Summer of 2017.

Please remember to join us next month when we’ll be hosting acclaimed literary agent Kevan Lyon. She’ll be taking pitches and telling us why we shouldn’t sign away all our subsidiary rights. Please note, this meeting will take place on the fourth Saturday of the month – April 23rd – to accommodate all the members who’ll be going to RT the weekend before. Hope you can join us!

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!

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!

January Meeting Roundup + Good News!

Our first meeting of 2016 was an exciting one — featuring Patience Bloom, a senior editor at Harlequin, and author of the memoir, Romance Is My Day Job. Patience has spent the past eighteen years at Harlequin, currently works with over thirty authors, and edits between two and six books per month. With such extensive experience in the world of romance, she had plenty of words of wisdom to share with our chapter members, such as tips to keep our stories moving (managing pacing, balancing action with dialogue, avoiding contrivances), as well as Craft Do’s and Don’ts (do know where you fit in the genre, but don’t go chasing popular themes).

Patience Bloom, Senior Editor at Harlequin

Patience Bloom, Senior Editor at Harlequin

She also shared ideas for setting an action plan in 2016. Struggles are universal, she said, but if you have a plan you can help yourself stay on track to achieve your goals. Before you can do anything, though, it’s important to gather four critical pieces of information:

  1. Know exactly what you want.
  2. Know who you are.
  3. Know your limits.
  4. Know what excites you.

After you have this knowledge, “close the door and get to work.”

Patience also stressed that, as you are working, it’s important to forget about the outcome. As you craft your story, don’t worry about what an agent, publisher, or audience might think. Writers have no control over the endgame, and it’s not worth wasting your time doing something you don’t love. So concentrate on what you can control, while you can control it.

It’s also helpful to narrow down your list of goals to three major ones. After Patience shared her own goals for the year, our chapter members did the same. Many of us had similar goals, such as finishing our books, building our platforms, writing blog posts, committing to our craft and generally putting ourselves out there, pushing ourselves to be better writers. As Patience said, there is “no fear, no guilt, and no limits.”

Patience’s inspirational speech was followed by a stellar panel from RWASD’s own Harlequin authors.

(l. to r.) HelenKay Dimon, Judy Duarte, Melissa Cutler, Georgie Lee, Linda Thomas-Sundstrom, Christy Jeffries

(l. to r.) HelenKay Dimon, Judy Duarte, Melissa Cutler, Georgie Lee, Linda Thomas-Sundstrom, Christy Jeffries

With representation from six of the Harlequin lines, they discussed everything from their favorite parts of writing for the publisher, the challenges they face under such tight deadlines, and shared advice for those of us who are interested in writing for one of the lines. The one suggestion that kept coming up time and again: if you want to write for Harlequin, do your research. Pick up the most recent releases in the line you want to target in order to get a feel for it before you submit.

As always, we handed out some awards. Our Member of the Month was awarded to Janet Tait, for all the hard work she’s been doing for our successful online class program.

Tami Vahalik (l.) and Janet Tait

Tami Vahalik (l.) and Janet Tait

In addition, we handed out the Marian Award for 2015 to HelenKay Dimon.

HelenKay Dimon (l.) and Christine Locksy

HelenKay Dimon (l.) and Christine Locksy

The Marian is a lifetime achievement award given in recognition of significant contributions to the romance genre. As a current national board member, past chapter president, and multi-published author who’s always willing to share her knowledge and expertise with other writers, this was a well-deserved award.

We were also fortunate enough to have three past Marian Award winners with us during Saturday’s meeting: Jill Limber, Judy Duarte, and Teresa Carpenter.

(l. to r.) Jill Limber, HelenKay Dimon, Judy Duarte, Teresa Carpenter

(l. to r.) Jill Limber, HelenKay Dimon, Judy Duarte, Teresa Carpenter

Here’s all the Good News our chapter members had to share this month:

  • Lotchie Burton hit USA Today’s Must Read Romances of 2015 list with her novel, Nothing’s Sweeter Than Candy.
  • Greg Godek will be publishing his first erotic romance, A Hard Day’s Night, on February 1st.
  • Julieta Querol self-published her debut contemporary romance, Intercepted, under the pen name, J.Q. Anderson.
  • Bob Richard published 101 Tips, primarily writing male characters and Wings By Christmas & Other Shorts.
  • Susan Burns, writing as S.B.K. Burns, self-published Love Me, Bite Me in paperback. She also was a winner in the Savvy Authors pitch contest, and still has a manuscript out with Samhain.
  • Regan Walker entered three contests this month, self-published The Road to Winterhill with Kindle Books, and released We’d Rather Be Writing, a romance authors’ cookbook.
  • Ava Blackstone published the first book in the Voretti Family series, Marriage: Impossible.
  • Marie Andreas entered the FF&P Prism Awards.
  • Georgie Lee entered four contests, and will be releasing A Too Convenient Marriage on February 1st.
  • Linda Thomas-Sundstrom was an RT Reviewers 2015 Finalist in Best Paranormal for Wolf Born.
  • Sarah Richmond will be interviewed by Sandra Beck’s radio show, Motherhood Talk Radio, on March 3rd.

Join us for our next meeting on February 20th, when we’ll be talking goals and characters with New York Times bestselling author Darynda Jones.