Home    Workshops    Members Only    Contests    Join    Contact us                       RWA Chapter

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Writing Workshops: An Important Tool for a Delusional Breed of Winners by Melissa Arroyo

Every writer is perfect when we write our first story. At least we think we are.

We strut like Jagger and move like Elvis when it comes to presenting our masterpiece. Our delusion is such, we can’t see right from wrong. But then after one month, more or less, of sending out queries and entering contests, rejection letters from editors and agents start coming in, and judges’ critiques tear us apart.

Taking more hits than a UFC fighter, our pride falters waiting for the knockout that will never come for we are a stubborn breed. A breed that I believe has the right ideas and imagination from the beginning, yet knows very little about writing fiction.

Did I know about Deep POV? Nope.

Did I really know my grammar? Apparently not.

A writer’s world is as crazy and upside down as the ones we create for our stories. It can be scary; especially when we haven’t developed the crucially important thick skin that will help us survive rejections while learning new skills.

I was lucky Nalini Singh gave me wonderful advice. She suggested I join special interest groups where I could meet fellow writers and participate in workshops. Following her tips, I found the FF&P Chapter and realized I had a lot of homework to do, literally.

During my first year of writing my skin grew thicker, my characters and plot stronger. Assertive criticism and superb workshops helped me improve. However, the most important lesson I learned is being delusional is good for writers. It is what made us begin in the first place. It gave us the confidence to get out there and show those first steps.

Needless to say, my first story was and is awful. I keep it close to remind me of how far I have come and where I want to be. And even though my stories have not been published yet, I’m sure they will be.

Now, all I have to do is stretch out my days and abduct that pesky little thing called privacy. Easy right? Oh well, that’s another blog adventure.

Melissa Arroyo is an English teacher who loves reading and writing sexy stories with kick-ass heroines and super handsome and unconventional heroes.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Finding Your Audience by Suzanne Rock

Marketing your book can be an overwhelming task. There are so many options out there, some that cost money, others that cost time, and many that cost both. How do you know which one to choose? Well, before you do any book marketing campaign, you need to establish clear goals. What is it that you hope to achieve?

For most of us, the answer is easy: we want to sell books. Lots of books. Heck, we want to sell so many books that we retire from our day jobs and buy a sailboat and take off into the sunset. Am I right? (If I am, shout AMEN!)

It's important to get out of that small-world view, however. If you are in this for the long haul, then you want to write more than one book, which means that you want to sell more than one book, and that leads to building a fan base.

Instead of trying to push a particular book, it's more resource efficient to push your author brand. An author brand is a theme or slogan that goes across all of your writing. It's what people think of when they see your name.

Many writers think that this is genre specific (she writes dark paranormal romance), but this is not necessarily true. It can be a style of writing, or a theme. (She writes humorous, feel-good romances. He writes how one person's actions has a ripple affect in a community.). Before you begin any marketing campaign, it's critical to establish an author brand.

Once you have a brand, it's important to build an author platform that will promote your brand to readers. While your brand is your slogan, a platform is the tools you use to announce your slogan to the world. I'll be talking about the different things an author can use to build a platform over the next few months.
Promoting your author brand as a whole is much more effective than promoting an individual book. The hard truth is that it is tough to measure whether any promotion has worked or not based on book sales. Many won't buy your book, but your name will be cemented, or "sticky," in a reader's mind, and may cause them to buy your book over another one at a different point in time. For example, the next time the potential buyer wants to read a good cozy mystery, they'll think of you. When they browse Amazon looking for something to read, they'll recognize your name and read the blurb.

Things like this are difficult to measure. Take heart, however. The more you get your brand out there, the "stickier" it becomes in people's minds. Promoting an author brand is a compounding effort, meaning marketing that you do for your first book will help sell the second, third and forth. Marketing for your fourth book will help push your backlist, and so on.

Promoting a brand is more about promoting you as a person, rather than a story. People are online to make personal connections, not to hear a sales pitch. Forming these relationships is the first step to gaining a fan base who will not only buy your first book, but keep coming back for more.

For example, take my author brand. People know that I write dark, erotic romance. If they want a light-hearted chick-lit book, they know they won't find it there. If they want an emotional, fast-paced, sexy read, then they'll check out my books.

Who are your favorite authors? Do they have a brand? Are you an author with a brand? What is it? I want to hear about it!


Award winning and bestselling author Suzanne Rock resides in central Massachusetts with her college sweetheart and two daughters. She started writing paranormal erotic romance in 2009 and sold her first story, Spyder’s Web, to Loose Id in June of that year. She has recently added erotic contemporary stories to her list of works. In addition to writing, she teaches courses on craft and the publishing industry through Romance Writers of America and Savvy Authors. She’s also is the social media coordinator for Pink Petal Books.

Website: www.SuzanneRock.com
Blog: Romance on a Budget: www.suzannerock.wordpress.com
Facebook: www.Facebook.com/SuzanneRockAuthor
Twitter: www.twitter.com/Suzanne_Rock
Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/Suzanne_Rock


Ebook and Digital Publishing: Is it for me?

Digital books are becoming more and more popular. Devices such as the Kindle, iPAD and Nook have brought ebooks into the limelight and provided many new and exciting publishing opportunities for writers. Despite this, many are still confused about the epublishing process. This course is for beginners who want to learn more about digital publishing and determine if it’s a good fit for them. We will touch on big vs. small epress, self-publishing, vanity publishing, contracts, promotions and dealing with epirates. By the end of class, the student should have a good understanding of the options available and have the tools they need if they wish to move toward digital publication.
Here's the link for more info on the workshop:  http://my.rwa.org/p/cm/ld/fid=377

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Skinwalking: Worldbuilding Beyond The World by Renee Wildes

              Independence Day got me thinking about my approach to worldbuilding. July 4th is uniquely American – I guarantee they aren’t closing federal institutions elsewhere in the world on this day! We celebrate with parades, fairs, picnics, fireworks.
We watch The Founding Fathers and The Patriot and Independence Day.
I write fantasy romance. Worldbuilding is my life’s blood, because I truly build something from nothing. But I’ve discovered worldbuilding is more than geography & technology, religion & politics. It’s the beliefs & customs & traditions & relationships of both society & individual.
SKINWALKING, living inside the character’s skin. The woodcutter in the forest and the blacksmith in town lead very different lives, but they’re interdependent. The blacksmith makes the ax the woodcutter uses to cut the wood that fuels the fires the forge needs to produce the ax.
Worldbuilding is how everyone lives and gets along.
Conflict arises when they don’t, and conflict is story.
SKINWALKING is how the characters see & interact with their world.
I adore the movie Romancing the Stone. Heroine Joan Wilder leaves her NYC world of tailored suits & Italian high heels for the jungles of Columbia, but she brings along her suits & heels. They’re all she has. They’re what she is. Hero Jack Colter tosses her suitcase of tailored suits off a cliff and lops the heels off her shoes with a machete. All she sees is he’s wrecking her things. He’s destroying what she believes she is. He’s just trying to be practical, but she makes it personal.
SKINWALKING. Your world is developed and maintained by the view and experiences of your characters. A character only knows what he knows. What they want and how they view things differ depending on their experience, needs and background. A shepherd traveling cross-country looks for open grasslands for his flocks. A warrior traveling cross-country looks for ambushes & cover. He’ll avoid that shepherd’s paradise like a plague. A healer will test unfamiliar plants for healing properties. An assassin will look for the deadliest poisons. Same methods, different goals.
Take a werewolf from the inland mountains to the coast. (I did in Lycan Tides.) Imagine his awe at entire racks of seawater drying to salt. The locals take for granted one of his greatest luxury items. It takes weeks of hard travel to bring salt back to the mountains – every pound measured in blood, sweat and tears.
Put a character in a different environment than he’s used to, where none of what he knows applies. What does he notice? What does he miss most? What does he use? What does he adapt to suit his own needs? What does he learn to do that he never did before? What old beliefs/truths fly out the window and what new beliefs/truths take their place?
 What if a peace-loving miner discovers a new metal to makes tougher tools—but also stronger weapons? Does he reveal his secret and take the bad with the good, or does he hide it? How does his family, his village, his country view him either way? What makes a villain a villain and a hero a hero? When is a villain a hero and vice versa?
Think Robin Hood.
We are shaped by our family, our friends, our jobs, our experiences. So are our characters. Worlds build our characters, but never forget that our characters build their worlds, too.
In my newest fantasy romance released from Samhain, Riever’s Heart, my hero Aryk defies tradition and his best friend Valkyn in order to unite warring clans into a peaceful nation. A warlord hellbent on peace? Because he’s tired of women starving and children growing up only to die in battle. He has a son, and visions of Joro being slain with his own sword haunt him. Heroine Verdeen is assigned to him by her king to help him in his quest for peace. But they fight an uphill battle against hardheaded traditionalists who fear laying down arms turns them from wolves into sheep for the shearing. Weapons turned into plows? Warriors turned into craftsmen and farmers? It’s really personal beliefs vs. traditions, the one vs. the many, that’s at the heart of my worldbuilding.
Independence Day is here because a few determined that what had always been was no longer good enough. They took on the impossible because they thought it was right. And they changed their world—and ours.
Worldbuilding is so much more than the world...
My SKINWALKING class is being run here at FFP next month, from August 13-19, 2012. Prepare to go in-depth, and learn how to walk in the character’s skin, BECOME the character. I hope you’ll join me!  Here's the link:  http://my.rwa.org/e/in/eid=26

Renee Wildes is a local Wausau writer who grew up reading fantasy authors Terry Brooks and Mercedes Lackey and is a huge Joseph Campbell fan, so the minute she discovered romance novels it became inevitable that she would combine it all and write fantasy romance. Renee is a history buff, from medieval times back to ancient Greece and Sparta. As a Navy brat and a cop’s kid, she gravitated to protector/guardian heroes and heroines. She’s had horses her whole life, so became the only vet tech in a family of nurses. It all comes together in her Guardians of Light series for Samhain – fantasy, action, romance, heroics and lots of critters!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Intro to MyRWA-Part Two-by Elizabeth Schechter

Okay, if you followed alone with Part One of Intro to MyRWA, you are now signed up for MyRWA, and subscribed to all the chapter mailing lists (remember, they're not forums!) This week, we'll be exploring what else you can do on the MyRWA site.
Once you sign in to MyRWA, you will need to go to the Connect menu. It is the same thing you did to find your chapter information. Pick Communities off that menu.

The Communities Home page will have a list of gray buttons on the left side -- what you see will depend on your status. My page looks like this:

You may not have all those buttons. At the very least, you will have RWA Community Forums, RWA University, and RWR. Some of you will have PRO Community as well. If you are a member of more than one chapter that is currently on MyRWA, you will have the Chapters button. And if you are a chapter officer or webmaster, you will have the Private Committees and Boards button. We're not going to worry about those last two -- they're pretty self-explanatory.
We'll start with the PRO Community. If you press that button, you will find yourself here:

I do recommend that you subscribe to the PRO.org list if you are eligible to do so. In addition to industry information, there are free classes offered specifically for PRO members. Free is good, right?
And in keeping with the free is good thread, on the Communities page, you will also find a link to RWA University. Through RWA University, you will find more free classes that are open to any RWA member. There are also archives of past classes and a lot of resources on this page on just about any aspect of publishing you might need. I highly suggest you explore this page extensively!!!

One more free thing -- on the Communities page, you will find a link to RWR. Yes, that's the magazine that you get in your mailbox every month. Why access it online? In a word -- archives. There are electronic copies of RWR available dating back to 2008.

There is one more button -- the RWA Community Forums (again, NOT Forums. Mailing lists.) Under that heading, you'll find several optional lists that offer good information, but may not be of interest to everyone. You would subscribe to these the same way you would any other mailing list.

That brings us to the end of this part of the Intro to MyRWA series. In the next and final session, we'll go over the social networking aspects of the new platform, how to turn that OFF if you so desire, and how to do basic things like update your profile and pay your dues online.
See you next time!

Elizabeth Schechter is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Central Florida with her husband and son. Her first novel, Princes of Air,was published in 2011 by Circlet Press, and her second, a steampunk novel entitled House of the Sable Locks, is forthcoming.
Elizabeth can be found online at http://easchechter.wordpress.com/

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Writing Between the Sexes by Leigh Michaels

Let’s say you’re wandering through the bookstore, you flip open a book by someone called Chris Smith, and you read this:

Joe had spiffed himself up by putting on a tie, a silly one decorated with the Three Stooges. Elizabeth was still wearing her tan suit, but she’d removed her jacket, revealing a holstered .38 and two holstered 36 D’s.

Now from the name our author calls himself, Chris Smith could be either sex. But I’m betting that from those two sentences you have a pretty clear picture of Chris Smith – and a strong opinion on whether Chris wears boxer shorts or underwires.

How about this one? Is the author male, or female?

Reluctantly turning off the tap, she reached for a thick amethyst towel, winding it around her hair, turban-style. Wrapping another around her torso, she stepped from the shower and surveyed her steam-filed bathroom with a sigh. In the mirror, she saw the blurred reflection of a tall, slender redhead with very pink skin. I look like a lobster, she thought.

Or maybe this one?

Her eyes narrowed. “Does this have anything to do with my being sick?”
Warily he asked, “What do you mean?”
“Are you trying to get me to rest more?”
“If I am, do you have a problem with that?”

Men and women think, act, and talk differently -- and vive le difference! But when women write the actions and dialogue of male characters, those guys often come off sounding like gal pals. And when men write the actions and dialogue of feminine characters, those gals come off sounding like tough guys.

Why is that a problem? Because when readers encounter a guy who doesn’t sound masculine, or a woman who doesn’t sound feminine, they stop believing in the world the author is trying to create. You might get by with that if your audience is the same sex you are – but if you’re aiming to broaden your readership, here’s a place to sit up and pay attention.

I hope you’ll join me for WRITING BETWEEN THE SEXES. In this four-week workshop, we’ll look at the behaviors and traits which most commonly lead us to tag someone as feminine or masculine, and how to use those behaviors and traits to create realistic -- but not stereotypical -- characters of the opposite sex. I hope you’ll come along for the ride!  Here's the link to sign up:  http://my.rwa.org/e/in/eid=23

About the Author: Leigh Michaels is the author of more than 100 books, including historical romance novels, contemporary romance novels and non-fiction. She is the author of On Writing Romance (Writers Digest Books) and teaches romance writing at Gotham Writers Workshop. Her next Regency-period historical romance, The Birthday Scandal, will be released in September 2012 by Montlake Romance.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Five Tips for Writing Paranormals by Rebecca Zanetti

Happy July, everyone!  I wasn't able to find somebody to post today at FF&P, so guest what?  Yep.  You get me.  :) 

I think the key to writing a good paranormal is to make the world somehow normal for your reader.  Through the last year, I've come up with five tips for writing a paranormal romance:

1)      Remember even if your hero is a six foot genius vampire with huge pecs and perfectly rugged features who single-handedly has saved humanity three times…he has to have a flaw somewhere.  And no…being too kind, endowed, or brilliant don’t count.  My favorites are when the character has to fight his own flaw, usually in the nick of time to beat the bad guy.
2)      Remember that your reader probably isn’t a six foot genius vampire…nor is she dating one.  So it’s crucial to find a way for your reader to relate to the characters.  I have two sisters and a strong family life, and so my vampires deal with family life daily.  The Dark Protector Series is about five brothers and how they not only find love but work together to save their race.

3)      Remember that whatever exciting, complex, deep world you build in Book 1…you’re stuck with for the rest of the series.  Leave yourself some wiggle room.  Also, you don’t have to build your entire world in book one.  You just need enough of your world for that book to make sense.

4)      Remember that there are tons of paranormal books out there—make your world different.  Put your unique spin on it.  I’m a lawyer and things have to make a sort of logical sense to me.  So I had to figure out HOW a male vampire (who in my world is very much alive) could make his mate immortal—turns out genetics and the mutation of chromosomes made sense.  It was a different spin, at least enough of one that my editor was intrigued.
5)      Finally, don’t hold yourself back.  As writers, we often stop and think about how the next editor/reader/reviewer/our first grade teacher/our neighbor…etc.  will react to our secret little worlds.  Don’t worry about them.  Let yourself go and have some fun with creating.
BIO:  Rebecca Zanetti is the author of the sexy Dark Protector Series from Kensington.  The fourth book in the series, CONSUMED, released on July 5th.  To find Rebecca on the web or to read an excerpt, drop by her website:  http://rebeccazanetti.com/

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Lessons from the Olympics by Monica Stoner

            I was NOT going to get involved in the Olympics this year.  Especially not in the preliminaries.  I have far too much to do, my preferred sport is not going to be well televised if at all, it can be such a time thief. Yadda Yadda Yadda.  Besides, it’s all the same every time, isn’t it? Lots of young people running and swimming and bouncing around.  Nothing new.

            Okay, I admit I’ve been grumpy lately.  Life has thrown lemons at a frightening rate this last year and I’m not adjusting as fast as I think I should.  Heck, I get weepy at those coffee commercials, the last thing I need is to get sucked into watching someone’s dreams go up in smoke because they’re one one-hundredths of a second too slow, or because their balance was marginally off and they missed a grip on the uneven bars.

            But still.

            I use the television for news, weather, and occasional background noises.  I prefer Food Network but there’s only so many times I can watch Battle Sauerkraut, or even listen to it, so I do the channel flip, find something that seems marginally entertaining.  That ends, and the Olympic Trials comes on.  Qualifying for the swim team.  Michael Phelps.  Yeah, I’m as much of a googly eyed fan girl as the next red blooded American Romance Writer about Michael.  You can have your gymnasts, your body builders...those swimmers are HOT.  Given the recent weather in New Mexico, I don’t dare mention water polo teams.  Doggonit, I just did.

            Ice water break.

            I’m back and cooled down enough to share the message I got from breaking down and watching the Olympic Trials. 

            These people are truly the best of the best of the best in their chosen sport.  They start with raw talent but that is never enough, so they train. For years. In good weather and bad, with or without the support of their fellow athletes.  When they’re not training, they’re conditioning.  Or they’re studying new ways to be just a bit better.  They miss parties, trips, all those social events their friends attend, to get themselves to peak condition for these competition.

            Their goal is to stand on the top step of that podium, hand over their heart, listening to their National Anthem being played to honor them.  Failure is not an option.  Unfortunately failure is a distinct possibility, and we see the falls, the slips, the bad starts.  But we also see the getting back up and onto the apparatus.  We see the extra surge of power to make up lost time or distance.  We see the indomitable spirit setting them apart from those who might have made the team if they had just tried a little harder.

            And here’s the lesson I’m actually writing for myself as much as to share with my fellow writers.  Many writers start off with an abundance of raw talent, and some of them do manage to produce and sell books.  At some point, the effort becomes a bit too much, and they start to mention how difficult to find an agent, an editor, someone to believe in them and buy their books.  Up to and including readers.  All too often they fall by the wayside, turning their innate talent to other endeavors. Because it’s just too hard.

            How much of ourselves do we invest in ourselves before we decide it’s just not worth the time, effort, money, loss of social life?  Do we seriously train to be not adequate, not good, but really GREAT writers?  Do we take the time to analyze writers we admire to understand the foundation of their work, and why they call to us?  Do we do the drills, the exercises, the mental conditioning to hone our ability to the highest level? 

            Or do we decide it’s all smoke, mirrors, and luck?

            Sure, there are stories of success without much effort.  But you look behind that mirror, and more than likely you’ll see the overnight success after only a few decades of effort.  No one gets chosen for an Olympic team through luck alone, and the same can be said for a successful writing career.  Luck is being in the right place at the right time with the right skills.

            Monica Stoner writes as Mona Karel, and blames her for any inappropriate comments concerning swimmers and water polo teams.  Find her on the webhttp://mona-karel.com/

Monday, July 2, 2012

The End of Rejections by Tina Gerow

I started writing seriously for publication in August of 2003, and soon stumbled on the horrible phenomenon we know as rejection.  It's part of every writer's (and artist's life) in some form or another, and something that no one loves or even likes. Granted there are different types of rejections – scathing rejections, form rejections and even good rejections. 

The scathing ones are the most hurtful (at least to me) but oddly enough, usually the most helpful, in that they teach you the most about what you need to improve to avoid the big "R" your next time out.  They might be blunt and make you feel like giving up writing and doing something safer and less likely to trample your ego, like underwater basket weaving…lol… but if looked at it the right light, and the feedback taken as intended, they can be the ones to actually push your career forward! 

The form rejections really don't tell you anything other than "Thanks for submitting, but we don't want your work"  Regardless of it's just right now or at all, you're usually not any farther ahead in your career than you were. 

However, the Good rejections – those are gems!  Those are the ones that tell you all the great stuff about your submission, but sadly, also include the reasons why they can't offer you a contract on it.  Things like they just bought something similar, you need to work on a particular plot point or writing style element, there's no more room in their upcoming line up etc.  But usually for good rejections they invite you to submit again, which is something that should never be wasted or taken lightly.  Editors are busy people.  If they didn't want you to submit again, believe me – they wouldn't even even offer the opportunity!!

But now back to the original point of "The end of rejections" which I'm sure is what caught your interest enough to get you to read this blog.  I'm sure all of us would like to work in a writing industry where there are no rejections and editors and agents are happy to buy whatever we write, but sadly, even after reading to this point, I'm here to tell you that that state just doesn't and never will exist unless you're Nora Roberts or Stephen King.

Back to my own story where I learned this first hand.  I wrote my first story, a paranormal romantic suspense called Into a Dangerous Mind, in 2003.  I garnered 25 rejections until it was finally published in 2005, and those 25 were all over the board in the three categories I mentioned above.  Over the next few years I wrote more books and sent them out religiously with the "rule of ten" taught to me by my friend and critique partner, Brit Blaise.  Basically, the rule of 10 is to have 10 submissions of some type out at any one time.  If you come home to three rejections in your mailbox, you immediately send out three more submissions, queries or etc.  Using this method of submission I really started to build up rejections – so high that by the time I sold my first Cassie Ryan novel, an erotic paranormal romance called Ceremony of Seduction to Kensington Aphrodisia, and landed an amazing agent off of that deal, I had garnered 69 rejections and kept them in a box to remind me of all that I'd accomplished and all the work I'd put into this dream of mine — way too much to ever give it up and throw in the towel!

Woo Hoo!  My work was finally published by a big New York publisher, I had a wonderful agent who was going to help me get my work out there, so I was once and for all done with rejections – right? 


I kept pitching ideas to my agent and writing books…and continued to garner rejections.  Yes, they were still of all three types, but they were rejections nonetheless.  And even on the stories my agent submitted for me, she would helpfully forward onto me the rejections she received on my behalf…lol.  But again – as mentioned above, some of those were extremely helpful to my career and I still try to take them in the vein intended and use them for my good.

So here I am, a multi published author under two pen names with around 18 books and stories published and somewhere around 90 rejections, and I expect there will be more coming in my career.

I use them as sort of a badge of honor for all the work I've done and all that I've accomplished!  I mean, look at the business we're in.  We're told nearly every day by well meaning friends, relatives and even other writers how difficult it is to get an agent and to get published.  We're told that it only happens to "one in a million" - I'm here to tell you, "Why can't you be that one??"

Don't let anyone steal your dream!  No matter how difficult the path, if the final dream is worth it and what's truly in your heart – then don't give it up lightly!  Fight for it with everything you are.  And if that involves a little rejection (or a lot) then so be it.  Every time you receive one, celebrate that you've taken another step toward your dream and are already miles ahead of thousands of other people who always say they want to write a book but have never taken that step!

So what to do now?  Get out there and submit, submit, submit!  And then come home and write, write, write!  Rinse and repeat ad infinitum until you've reached the level of success you've always dreamed of.  Then what?  Keep going and love the life you've built for yourself!

Good luck, fellow writer, now get out there and grab your dream!

Bio:  Tina Gerow has always had a passion for romance and anything paranormal. And even in school, was encouraged to put her writing skills to good use, but always with the admonishment to 'stop writing the weird stuff and tone down the sarcasm.' But what fun is that?! So, in 2003, she finally decided to try her hand at writing a novel, but still firmly embracing the 'weird stuff and the sarcasm.' Her first book, Into a Dangerous Mind, won the award for Romantic Times Best Small Press Contemporary Paranormal for 2006.

Since then, Tina has published several more books, including the popular Maiden series, the Seduction Series for Kensington's Aphrodisia line as Cassie Ryan, and the Sisters of Darkness series with Berkley, also as Cassie Ryan.

Tina lives in Arizona with her "guys", Jon, and her son Darian and two feisty cats. When Tina isn't spending time with her family, she's usually writing, or at some various and sundry writer's conference, workshop or meeting.  Find Tina at: