Posted in For Writers, On Writing, Writing

Romance is necessary

I’m currently serving as president of Midwest Fiction Writers, a chapter of Romance Writers of America. The time I spend in service to my chapter comes at the expense of time spent updating my blog, but maybe I can double dip from time to time.

Each month, I write a “From the President” letter for our newsletter. Some are more chapter oriented, but others are not. All require me to think about what it means to be part of Romancelandia and the world of publishing.  I know a number of authors who are frustrated with the business and the world at the moment. Please don’t quit. This one is for you.

Between the #metoo movement, children dying at school, and all the other forces at work highlighting the chaos and cruelty in the world, writing romance can be a real challenge. Whether in social media or in conversations, I’ve heard a lot of writers question how they can continue to write romance in this climate. I myself have days where the news of the world both far-flung and close to home overwhelm my senses. Combine this with the struggle I’ve had to find a publishing home for my last two manuscripts, and giving up seems like a rational solution. Except, it isn’t.

To paraphrase Damon Suede, Romance is the literature of hope. Our happily ever afters (or nows) come only after the characters have struggled and sunk to their lowest points. Only by finding inner strength can our characters overcome obstacles and find themselves in better places by the end of the story. We can much learn from our fictional creations.

Our stories can help readers find hope. We provide a valuable service to our readers and the community at large. We don’t know exactly what word or plot line will resonate with any given reader. Maybe our words bring a smile to someone’s face. Maybe that person shares the smile with the next person they see. Maybe our stories offer aspirational relationships and help someone leave a toxic relationship, or maybe our stories help deepen already strong bonds by reminding a reader of what made them love their partner in the first place. Maybe our stories make someone feel less alone and that is enough to help that person reconnect with the world. That was certainly the case for me.

For those days writing hope does not come easy, please find ways to take care of yourself. Turn off the news and meet up with a friend or fellow writer for coffee. Take a walk in nature—sans earbuds—and tune into the sensory experience around you. Go to a concert or a party and leave your phone at home. Try something new or rediscover an old passion. We need you. We need your stories. We need your hope.

Posted in Books, Conference, First Friday Five, Lists, Writing

First Friday Five Lessons from #RWA16

Last month I attended the Romance Writers of America annual conference. Since embarking on my writing career, this is the third time I have been able to attend. The 2016 conference marked my first visit to beautiful San Diego, CA. I wish I could go more often, both to San Diego and to the conference. In the meantime, here are five lessons I learned.

  1. Romance authors are wonderful people. We are smart, funny, hard-working, determined, curious, gracious and generous.

    Fantastic keynote speaker Beverly Jenkins
    Fantastic keynote speaker Beverly Jenkins
  2. Always wear comfortable shoes, especially when volunteering as I did during the Readers for Life Literacy Signing. You never know when you will need to race through the building to lend a hand to one of those wonderful authors.

    Helping at Readers for Life: with author Camille Di Maio
    Helping at Readers for Life: with author Camille Di Maio
  3. Be ready with the one line elevator pitch ANYTIME. I am on cloud 9 that my dream publishing house requested a full manuscript based on a one minute interaction.
  4. Small mental shifts in how one approaches the business of writing can be powerful. Damon Suede and Heidi Cullinan shared ways to make promotion a more playful rather than dreaded part of of being an author. When Mary Burton quipped “It’s not concrete, folks, it’s words,” I found the idea liberating.
  5. Last, but not least, I learned I once again picked up too much amazing swag and too many books. This is small sample. RWA16swagThe books are in another room. I can’t keep it all. Over the next few months, I’ll draw names from my newsletter subscribers and send out some goodies. I even have a few things that I can ship overseas. If you aren’t subscribed, sign up here.
Posted in Books, Conference, For Writers, Guests, Talking with, Writing

Talking with Nancy Holland

Today I have my fellow Midwest Fiction Writer and contemporary romance author Nancy Holland on the blog. Rather than the usual questions, Nancy stopped by to share some of what she learned at the Romance Writers of America conference held earlier this month in beautiful San Diego. Take it away, Nancy

Three Things I Learned at RWA 2016

Thing One — Beverly Jenkins is the best!

I was able to go to two of the talks by romance legend Beverly Jenkins and both were amazing. She spoke at the Golden Network Retreat (GNR) on Wednesday about creating vibrant characters, and the first thing she said was that characters aren’t characters — they’re people. Light bulb! Then she went over a very helpful list of things that make your characters the people they are:  their inner and outer influences, their physical attributes, the things that symbolize their personalities (such as their homes or clothing), and their setting. She also had wise things to say about how plot is what lets your characters discover who they really are. Needless to say, she was also wildly inspiring in the bargain.

Beverly Jenkins also gave the keynote speech at the Thursday lunch, where she talked about the history of romance and specifically the role of African-American authors and stories in that history. Once again she was awesome and inspiring, especially for those of us who follow her on social media and know the challenges she’s faced lately. And the best part was everyone got a free book and cool Beverly Jenkins notepad!

Thing Two — Branding can be fun (no, really)

Damon Suede and Heidi Cullinan also spoke at the TGN Retreat (they did a workshop for the PAN retreat, but I had another obligation at that time). Damon and Heidi walked (well, more trotted) us through some fun exercises to help determine what our brand is and, amazingly, mine was pretty much what I already thought.  They also shared some great information about how to use your brand in promotions and marketing.  I strongly recommend checking out their website, http://www.your-A-game.com.

Courtney Milan and Alisha Rai did a workshop on how to identify the audience for your books, how to use that information in designing covers, etc., and how to connect with your audience on social media. The session was too short to cover everything they wanted to, but they gave a lot of helpful suggestions that dovetailed nicely with what Damon and Heidi had to say. Thanks to these workshops, I may just have this branding thing down. Sort of. Maybe.

Thing Three — Hanging out by the pool is totally part of the conference

Since the AC in the meeting rooms was set on “arctic,” I left one session early to sit out in the sun by the pool. On the way out the door I met an author with a charming British accent, and we fell to talking (as one does). She looked vaguely familiar, but it took a while before we exchanged names. Turns out she was Stella Cameron, one of my late mother’s favorite romantic suspense authors. We had a lovely chat about anything and everything (as one does), including her personalized recommendations of places to stay when my husband and I go to England next year.

The take-away? Always take time to make new friends at RWA — you might meet someone like Stella Cameron or, as two of my fellow Harper Impulse authors did, end up having lunch with the real-life Rita for whom the Rita Awards are named!

***

Found-OSBLola here, hopping in to add that Beverly Jenkins is amazing. She is a master of research and character and hope. Nancy learned some new promo tricks, but in her note above she was too humble to mention her latest book, Found: One Secret Baby which came out days before we left for the conference.

I make no guarantees regarding the cost and how long the discount will last, but I picked up my copy for the unbelievably low cost of $.49.

LA lawyer Rosalie Walker will do whatever it takes to protect her adopted son. She promised his mother before she died that she’d look after him and keep him safe from his paternal family. So when delectable Morgan Danby walks into her office in search of his nephew, she must keep the baby in her care a secret—even if one look from Morgan makes her want to share everything with him…

As a favour to his step-mother— the woman who actually raised him, unlike his real mother who abandoned him as a child—successful businessman, Morgan is searching for the son of his incarcerated step-brother. He can tell Rosalie is hiding something and the temptation to seduce her for her secret is strong, but will he be able to handle the consequences once all is revealed…?

Found: One Secret Baby is available at Amazon and Barnes&Noble