Cara Connelly chats with Award-Winning Author Karen Rock

Author Karen Rock

Author Karen Rock

Cara: Karen Rock is one busy author, balancing writing, editing, and promotion deadlines as she works on not one, not two, but three series. So when she came to CR-RWA to talk to us about writing quickly while maintaining quality, we were all ears. She knows what she’s talking about, and she gave us some great advice and take-home tips.

She was also nice enough to sit down with me for an interview, so all of you can get to know her too. Let’s start with some background. An award-winning YA and adult contemporary romance author, Karen holds a master’s degree in English and worked as an ELA instructor before becoming a full-time writer. Currently she writes for Harlequin Heartwarming and has published six novels with them and has three more upcoming in 2016. She’s also a new Blaze author with the first book in her military series coming out in September 2016.

Her first novel for Heartwarming, WISH ME TOMORROW, has won the 2014 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence and the 2014 Golden Quill Contest. Another Heartwarming novel, A LEAGUE OF HER OWN, was awarded best contemporary romance in the 2015 National Excellence in Romance Fiction awards and the 2015 Booksellers Best.

Hi Karen! Thanks for coming on the blog. Let’s start back where it all began. When did you join RWA, and how has membership affected your career as a writer?

Karen: I joined RWA in 2012 when I sold my first book. Since I live in such an isolated spot, being a member of a community of romance authors gives me such a warm feeling of having a place to belong. Reading other author’s writing tips has helped me grow in my craft and in areas I knew little about at all, like promotion through social media. I also love hearing news about other authors and chapters and always feel excited when the RWR magazine arrives in my mailbox!

Cara: We loved having you visit our chapter. You can come back any time! ☺ Can you tell us what genre you currently write, and if you’ve considered other genres?

Karen: I currently write YA romance and clean/sweet romance for Harlequin Heartwarming. Next month, I’ll begin writing the first book in my military Harlequin Blaze series, No Defenses. It’s going to be fun, but challenging to switch between these three types of romance, but, in the long run, I believe it will keep my ideas and voice fresh and keep me inspired and motivated. I would love to write suspense and have that on my radar given my obsession with the Investigation Discovery channel ☺ Joe Kenda is my ultimate Homicide Detective!

Cara: Honestly, Karen, with your writing schedule, I don’t know how you have a spare moment for watching TV! What made you want to write romance?

Karen: I actually began as a contemporary author but found myself drawn to love story plot lines and spending much more of my writing on them. I’ve been reading romance since the 80s when my grandmother passed me paper bags full of Harlequin Presents and historical “bodice-rippers”. Lots were over-the-top with crazy premises and very Alpha males whom, even then, I wanted to punch… but I love a good love story and ultimately I decided there was room in Romance for all kinds of voices and mine could be one of them.

Cara: Who are some writers who’ve inspired you?

Karen: When I read Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind (I think around age 12), I finished it in three days… and I’d never read a book all the way through before that. Wow! The power of fascinating characters in a rich, developed world with compelling action and romance… It was incredible. I read it again and again and again and I think my fastest time reading it was a day and a half! As a young teen, I loved the historical setting and romance. As a writer, I’m in awe of her ability to give us such nuanced, complex characters with gripping and unpredictable growth arcs and romantic arcs. As an adult, I read a lot of JoJo Moyes, Rainbow Rowell and Lianne Moriarty (an Australian author) who always deliver such intensely romantic and unique stories. I want to grow up and be them some day!

Cara: You’re well on your way! What else do you like to read?

Karen: I love reading all genres with the exception of westerns (unless they include a hunky cowboy and some romance ☺) I adore suspense thrillers by Tana French (Dublin Murder Squad) and Gillian Flynn. I recently read The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins which was amazing. I love historicals by Phillipa Gregory, women’s fiction by Elizabeth Strout and YA authors like John Green. As for Romance, I’m JoJo Moyes’ biggest fan. If I ever met her, I would pass out. Seriously- as in concussion…THUNK.

Cara: Hmm, I haven’t read JoJo Moyes, but you’ve convinced me to give her a try. Now please tell us about your latest book!

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Karen: My latest book is WINTER WEDDING BELLS, an anthology of three novellas that all involve the same, Christmas Eve, destination wedding at the Mirror Lake Inn in Lake Placid NY. Each novella is written by a different author (mine is the first- THE KISS) and feature different, key players in the wedding. Mine includes a bride who runs into her ex and takes the ultimate gamble. After that, I have a full length Heartwarming novel, HIS KIND OF COWGIRL, coming out in March 2016. It will also be available in Walmarts in April, 2016.

Cara: That sounds like a fun anthology…I’m putting it on my TBR. Thanks again for stopping in to chat!

Karen: Thanks so much for inviting me! If you’re interested in reading more about me and my books, please stop by my website, http://www.karenrock.com. If you’d like to connect, please follow me on twitter, http://www.twitter.com/karenrock5 or facebook http://www.facebook.com/karenrockauthor 🙂

Cara Connelly chats with CR-RWA’s own Marie Lark

Cara Connelly chats with CR-RWA’s own Marie Lark

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Cara:  I met Marie Lark when she joined our chapter in 2013, and since that time I’ve learned that she’s scary smart, incisively funny, and totally passionate about romance. Her latest book—Third Take is the Charm—released in August, and I persuaded her to stop by and tell us about it, and to give us a window into her journey to publication. Welcome, Marie!

Marie:  Hello, and thank you so much for inviting me to the blog! I joined RWA and the Capital Region chapter in November of 2013, just before my first book (Indelible Ink) released. It was, without a doubt, the best career decision I’ve made since taking a writing class in college. Not only I have I learned a ton from all the workshops my chapter has hosted, but I’ve had the opportunity to attend conferences where I met and learned from writers, editors, agents, and other industry professionals. I cannot emphasize enough what a resource the RWA network is.

But beyond that, joining the chapter introduced me to about three dozen ladies (and a few gents) all doing what I’m doing—making a go of this professional writing gig. I’ve made so many friends in the group and been enriched both personally and professionally by everything they have to offer.

As for how I ended up writing romance, I’d never been particularly drawn to the genre as a young reader or writer. I studied political science in school, so I’m very used to writing for an academic audience. But in my favorite genres—YA, SciFi, and Fantasy—I am always drawn to the relationships, be they romantic, platonic, or a really well done set of siblings. I love stories about all the messy ways people relate to each other.

And it doesn’t get much messier than sex and love.

Currently, I write LGBTQ contemporaries, with a sprinkling of New Adult themes, but I’d love to branch out into other subgenres of romance, particularly more speculative ones. Sexuality—who we’re attracted to, who we love—isn’t as sharply defined as it used to be and exploring how people, particularly young people, experience attraction, love, and sex will never go out of style, whatever genres are selling well at the moment.

In my new book, Third Take Is the Charm (on sale now with Loose Id!), the heroine, Melody, sets out to capture on film the kind of love story she’s never had. In the process of creating the movie, in working with the two men she’s cast as her leads, Melody learns that she’ll never be able to tell the perfect love story unless she can also experience it herself.

I like Melody for a number of reasons. First, she’s an artist, which means she’s an excellent observer—to the point that she doesn’t always understand how to interact and be in the world she observes. So, second, she’s a bit like an author herself, attempting to create something that didn’t exist before. I tend to over-identify with my primary POV characters, and I sympathize with all the contradictory feelings she has—introversion and voluntary hermitage right alongside the deep desire to be known and loved. Third, I like that, to her, the obvious solution is—sleep with both of them and see where we get! Melody is unafraid of sex and unapologetic in her fascination with it, which leads to misunderstandings, more than a little trouble, great sex, and eventually her own Happily Ever After.

Thank you again for having me!

swimmer

Getting Drunk (on writing) With K.A. Mitchell

Cara:  This month I had the pleasure of chatting with CR-RWA’s own K.A. Mitchell, and as usual, she had lots of interesting things to say! Read on as she takes us along her path to publication, gives us a window on her writing process (and a glimpse of her “office”), explains how CR-RWA and her critique group helped her along the way, imparts some words of wisdom (listen closely, people, she knows what she’s talking about!), and more. Welcome, K.A.!  

Available now!

Available now!

K.A.:  Hi! I’m coming at you live from my favorite place to write, what I call my summer office. (See pic) Well, actually lying on the beach is my favorite place for almost everything, but I’m not as productive there. This is a patio table with bar chairs on my 8×8 deck, under an umbrella screened in by netting. It sounds kind of tropical, but it’s just in a back yard in my city. My back yard does open on a stretch of land designated “Forever Wild” by the state, so that’s nice. I get some interesting visitors. Hello, turkey!

SummerOfficeKAMitchell

I’m lucky enough that this is my day job now, though it took about 14 books worth of back list to get to a living wage—being married to someone with health insurance is a huge help. For those who may have missed my loud mouth at chapter meetings, I write gay romance, usually contemporary. I’ve tried other genres before realizing that what I loved best about all genres was the relationship story. The only books I saw where people earned money were heterosexual romance, so despite always loving stories of same-sex couples (particularly two guys) I tried to write male-female romance, though I was always telling same-sex love stories on the side and all my books had gay characters in them, even if I was the only one who knew that.  As for what happened next, CR-RWA played a huge part in that.

I joined a critique group formed by some other members of CR-RWA. I was working on my fourth unsold novel, had been getting close but no thanks detailed rejections, and finalling or winning chapter contests. I wrote a lot of male-male romance to keep myself happy and sane and to not give up on writing. One of my critique partners said, “By the way, you know they’re buying that genre now. My publisher has a call out for submissions for a short story anthology.” My brain, heart and soul lit up. In three weeks I’d submitted a new short story. It sold to my wonderful editor Sasha Knight at Samhain and we’ve since worked on seventeen books together. I can say I don’t think I’d be here in my summer office, lying to make a living if it wasn’t for CR-RWA and the awesome people in it.

I’ve always been a pantser. I write stories mostly to amuse myself. I always have a bedtime story to tell myself that helps me fall asleep. If I know everything about the story before I sit down to write it, I will be too bored to do it. However, if you plan to make a living with publishers, you need to get on the schedule in advance. To do that, you have to sell on proposal, and for that, you have to have a synopsis. Most of the time I’ve found that editors don’t need every detail for a selling synopsis. If you’ve proven you can tell a complete story, they are looking to see if you have enough conflict, strong characters and a beginning, middle and plausible resolution. I can keep things vague enough to keep me happy and concrete enough to sell a book. It works for this pantser. The joy of discovery is still there.

I’ve probably gone way over the limit in answering questions. I’ve never met a word count I couldn’t exceed. (That first short story had to have 5,000 words cut from it before I could submit it and meet the criteria), but I wanted to end by sharing things that have helped me. The best piece of writing advice I know is “Change your seat.” To me that means if things aren’t working, switch it up. Write long hand, write outside, inside, in your car, on the couch, in bed. Switch point of view, setting, scene order. Do something different. The writer who to me speaks to my heart and soul as a writer is Ray Bradbury. He talks about story and fiction the way it is to me. Something I have to do, something I love to do, and something that is my job to do. I highly recommend both his work as a writer and reading his views on writing. He offers my other favorite piece of writing advice, “You must stay drunk on fiction so reality cannot destroy you.” To me that’s everything about reading and writing in a nutshell. Stay drunk, my fellow word-workers.

Contact K.A. Mitchell:

@ka_mitchell

Interview With Kristan Higgins

Kristan Higgins will present her workshop Layering Your Plot and Characters at CR-RWA’s April chapter meeting. She graciously agreed to be interviewed by CR-RWA’s Cara Connelly.

Kristan Higgins

Kristan Higgins

Cara: Welcome, Kristan! CR-RWA is thrilled to have you here, and we’d love to get to know you better.

Here’s what we already know: You’ve published more than a dozen novels, hit the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, USA TODAY and Wall Street Journal bestseller lists, and won the Romance Writers of America RITA Award twice.

That’s the kind of resume all romance authors aspire to. Can you tell us some of the milestones along the way?

Kristan: Getting the Call(s): first, the request from an agent (who happened to be the agent I signed with); the call that she wanted me on her list; the call that she’d sold my book.

My first fan letter (from Andrea in Montana), since it drove home the fact that my book was out in the world, and people were reading it…and liking it.

Giving the keynote at the 2013 RWA National conference. That was the biggest honor of my career, to be sure. The chance to talk to my peers and bare my soul and make them laugh…well, that was just incredibly uplifting and humbling at the same time, and a memory that still gives me thrills.

My European book tour, since I’ve never been to Europe, and the very idea that the powers that be thought I was worthy of such a trip…me! The middle child!…was staggering.

Cara: I just want to say that I was in the audience when you gave your keynote, and you moved me and the other 2000 people in the room to laughter and to tears. Just like your books do!

You’ve obviously had many successes in your career. But no author gets through this business unscathed. How do you deal with rejection?

Kristan:  Well, I actually love rejection, in a way, because it informs me of my writing skills. My first query letter got me 100% rejections (except for the two agents who still haven’t gotten back to me). I would’ve rejected me based on that letter, too. The rejection from the occasional reader, who feels the need to tell me she doesn’t like my book for one reason or another lets me realize how some people interpret some things. (In most cases, it’s my rather liberal views on things like gay marriage. Once it was because my heroine drove a Prius.) I don’t necessarily change anything, but it’s good to hear from my readers just the same.

Cara: What’s your favorite aspect of your writing life?  What’s your least favorite?

Kristan: Working alone, and working alone. When things are going well, I consider leaving McIrish and putting the kids in a temporary orphanage, because I don’t want to be interrupted, I love my book, the pages are flying out… and then there’s the other 90% of the time, when it’s hard, and I don’t know what to do, and everything seems trite or shallow, and I’m the only one who can fix it.

Cara: What do you do while you work?  Do you watch TV or listen to music?

Kristan: I have a touch of obsessive-compulsive disorder (my closets are works of art, seriously…), so I listen to one song that to me captures the mood of the book. Just that one song, on repeat, at a very low volume. My record is 1378 plays. J

Cara: These days writing is only part of the business of being an author. How much promotion do you do?

Kristan: Quite a bit. In a perfect world, the only “promotion” I’d do would be interact with readers. But in the real world, I spend about an hour a day on average, and more during a release month.

Cara: Between writing, promoting, taking boxing lessons, and keeping McIrish and the rest of the family—including your Mom (love her!)—out of trouble, you live a very busy life. When you find the spare time, what do you like to read?

Kristan: Everything except nonfiction. Mostly romance and women’s fiction, with the occasional thriller or horror novel thrown in.

Cara: Now that you’ve been in this business for a while, what advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Kristan: Don’t rush. Don’t listen to the authors who spit out a book in 3 weeks. You’re not there yet, and chances are, you may never be there. I personally would never want to be there, because writing a book with depth and richness and a sense of completeness takes time. Don’t rush to submit, don’t rush to self-publish, don’t rush your work. Make every sentence count. Ponder every single aspect of your book. Be hard on your work, and reward yourself for your milestones. This is a tough way to make a living. You have no coworkers. Take care of yourself.

Cara: That’s great advice, Kristan. Thank you so much for giving us your insight and letting us get to know you better. Our whole chapter is looking forward to April 11th!

If You Only Knew

Available 8/25/25

 

 

 

Interview With Deborah Nolan

 Interview With Deborah Nolan

by Cara Connelly

Deborah Nolan

Deborah Nolan

Tell us about your path to publication.  What have you published to date?

I started writing when my son, now 35, was an infant.  I’d been practicing law until he was born but decided to stay home with him instead.  We’d just moved to New Jersey from Park Slope, Brooklyn, I didn’t know anyone, was home with my baby and my husband was working all the time.  I was pretty isolated and lonely.  I started by keeping a journal and then graduated into writing, mostly non-fiction.

When my son was in nursery school another mother invited me to join a critique group.  She also told me about the writing classes at The New School.  I joined the group, and am still a member of what’s left of it, and took classes, first in nonfiction and then fiction.  I got positive feedback at the classes and an article I wrote about having twins was accepted by “Twin Magazine.”  It was never published but I felt  somewhat validated and continued writing.

Along the way I joined MWA’s New York chapter and started going to their one day seminar and networking party where I met Erin and then Faith Black, an editor at Avalon.  She convinced me to send in my books and accepted both Suddenly Lily and Conflict of Interest. Faith and I are still in touch and I still am a member of MWA.

 

What do you like to read?

Like most writers, I was a reader first.  I usually have two or three books going at the same time and a book on tape in the car.  I read romances and mysteries but I also read literary and women’s fiction.  I don’t think I could stick to one genre.  There are too many good things to read out there.

 

Tell us about your latest book.

My latest book that I’ve submitted is Athens, a fish out of water tale about Sasha Moriarity, a 30 year old woman lawyer, who finds her boyfriend in bed with a colleague.  Humiliated and angry, she leaves New York for Athens, New York to check out the house she’s inherited from a grandmother she never knew.  She falls in love with Athens and her mysterious neighbor and all would be perfect if it weren’t for the escalating threats and vandalism that start to occur.  Although her life is threatened and she narrowly escapes death, because this is a romance, Sasha escapes without serious injury and finds happy ever after with her neighbor who turns out to be a Hollywood movie star who has been in hiding following a scandal.

 

 What’s next for you?

Right now I’m working on a sequel to Suddenly Lily partly because the book has done very well since Avalon was acquired by Amazon.  I am also writing it because I like Lily and the other characters and wanted to write more about them.

How Awesome Is My Chapter?

How Awesome is My Chapter?

At our January meeting, the members of CRRWA took the time to celebrate each other’s achievements for 2014. I was amazed and impressed by the sheer number of tasks, goals and writing that our authors completed in just 365 days. Our wonderful Hospitality Committee took up the task of compiling data on all our members. At the chapter meeting, KA Mitchell and Anna Bowling showed us just how accomplished our writers are.

Twenty members filled out a survey. KA crunched the numbers. Here are some quick stats:

chapter survey (3)

90%  Finished a work of fiction
70% Submitted a work to a publisher or agent
45% Pitched to an editor/agent
45% Contracted a work of fiction
10% Became a member of PRO
5% Became a member of PAN
5% Hit a Best Seller’s list
5% Were RITA Finalists

I know stats are a funny thing (especially for those of us who work mainly with words). It’s plain to see that Capital Region RWA is a working chapter. We have a total of about thirty-two members. With over 60% of the chapter answering the survey, I think these stats accurately represent this amazing chapter. Eighteen members surveyed finished a work of fiction. Fourteen submitted their work. And for the first time, we had a RITA finalist, Jeanette Grey.

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Let me highlight a few of our members.

Jean C. Gordon, one of our founders published this year. Her book, Small-Town Midwife came out in March of 2014. This is her eleventh book. Her web page is http://www.jeancgordon.com/.

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One of our newer members, Marie Lark, published Stripped Down in May, 2014.

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Deborah Nolan, another of our long time members, published Second Act for Carrie Armstrong in January of 2014.

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Tracey Lyons, another of our founders, published two books this year, The Spy who Learned to Love (a historical) and The Wedding Toast (a Kindle Worlds novella).

 

I cannot begin to tell you how proud and humble I am to know and work with these writers. I learn something new about writing at every meeting, whether it be craft, marketing or just dealing with juggling the writing life. CRRWA is not just a hardworking group of writers. They are friends, coworkers, confidants and mentors. I am so honored to be the president of this amazing group. Come visit us and join our family.

Thank you.

Christine Dreidel, CRRWA President

 

November/December 2014: How is a CR-RWA Meeting Like Coming Home for the Holidays?

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November and December mean the holidays are upon us once more, which means the gathering of family and friends to feast upon foodstuffs and good company, which can also apply to CR-RWA meetings. How so? Glad you asked (even if you didn’t.) The reasons are many, but let’s take a look at a few:

 

  • A common interest: Writing can often be a solitary profession, and for those of us (probably most of us) who don’t live in a commune comprised entirely of other career-minded writers, finding those who speak our language is vital. No matter the tone, subgenre or what stage of the journey we may be, the first-time writer and the multi-published still have that love of writing binding them together.

 

  • Encouragement: One of my favorite parts of every CR-RWA meeting is hearing the member news and what everybody is working on at present. The cheers and applause for sales, finished books and great reviews always raise the energy in the room. For those who are having a less than great month, there’s encouragement there, as well. There’s always somebody to talk out sticky situations, offer practical advice or point the way to a useful resource.

 

  • Expanded Horizons: With a wide variety of members, from inspirational to erotic, historical to contemporary, paranormal, mystery, YA and more, at all levels of experience, there’s no end to the new sources we can draw from to enrich our own writing. That also allows us to expand our own reading horizons, get new perspectives, recommendations, and maybe even new directions for the future, not to mention lots of members’ books to add to our to be read lists.

 

  • Challenge: As all family gatherings have their challenges, so does belonging to a professional writers’ organization. Changes in bylaws can raise questions as well as spark discussions for the board and membership at large. Monthly goals help to keep us on track and inspire us to reach farther each month than we did before. Reading writing craft books together, discussing them, and working through the exercises strengthens our storytelling muscles, allowing us to do more than we could before. Best of all, we’re not doing it alone. Our chapter sisters and brothers are right there with us, striving toward the same goal. Board positions and committees give us the opportunities to give back to the chapter as we learn some new skills and use our current expertise.

 

  • Community: Regular chapter meetings are like going home for the holidays. We get to see familiar faces, get current on who’s doing what, and welcome new members who will only make our CR-RWA family bigger and better. Meetings are where we get a chance to network, unload, learn, make friends, form partnerships, and spend time with others all focused on serious pursuit of a writing career. It’s a writer’s support group, every month, with something for everybody, and every member has something important to offer this unique and vibrant group.

Painting in broad strokes above, because every member’s experience is going to be different. For me, what I cherish most this holiday season (and all year round) about this chapter is that it gave me a chance to find my tribe. I’d moved to the Capitol Region from out of state two years ago, leaving behind one hundred percent of my in-person writing support network. Yikes is not the word for taking a leap that big, but I knew, from my first meeting, that I’d come to the right place to start this next chapter in my writing life. Pun intended.

 

So, dear chapter sisters and brothers, what do you look forward to most every time our merry band gathers?

Anna C. Bowling

Anna C. Bowling

October: Interview With Autumn Jones Lake, writer of paranormal and erotic romance

October Interview with Autumn Jones Lake, by Cara Connelly

AutumnJLake@gmail.com

www.AutumnJonesLake.com

www.facebook.com/AutumnJonesLake

twitter.com/AutumnJLake

 1.  When did you join CR-RWA, and how has membership affected your career as a writer?  

I think I joined about three years ago now. Joining my local RWA is the single best thing I have done for my career as a romance writer. It’s wonderful to be surrounded by so many talented writers who are so helpful and want you to succeed.

2.  What genre do you currently write and have you considered other genres?

I am published in Paranormal Romance and Erotic Romance. I’d love to do Romantic Suspense one day. Oh, did you mean something outside of Romance? Why would I want to do that!?

3.  Tell us about your path to publication.  What have you published to date?

I started out with two short stories that were published in two different anthologies with a small press that has since gone out of business. That was a really sad time because the second anthology came out and the press closed shortly after, so no one ever saw it!

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There are currently three novellas published with Breathless Press in my paranormal series: Catnip & Cauldrons. As you may have guessed the stories are about cat-shifters. The first one, Onyx Night, centers around Onyx learning about her cat-shifter heritage in the middle of a tragedy. She shifts into a black cat and it takes place around Halloween, so that story is a lot of fun. All three were recently put into one print compilation which was really nice!

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My current project is a Motorcycle Club Romance series that I am self-publishing. I love MC Romances because it’s a sub-genre that is a little grittier and where it’s okay to break the “rules of romance” a little bit (or a lot!). Mine has been described as somewhere between Sons of Anarchy and The Crossfire Series, which I took as a huge compliment! Self-publishing is nice because I am a bit of a control freak, but it’s also extremely overwhelming.

5.  Do you belong to a critique group?

Yes! They are awesome. We try to meet every week. They are all such talented writers, that I’m not always sure I belong there!

6.  Do you plot your stories or wing it?

I’m a pantser and it totally bites me in the butt every time. I’ve been trying to do some minimal plotting so I at least have a guideline to pants off of, and that seems to help a lot!

7. Tell us about your latest book.

My book, Slow Burn (Lost Kings MC, Book 1) releases on October 14, 2014. It’s a Motorcycle Club Romance about an attorney who gets involved with the president of an Outlaw MC.

8. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Learn your craft! Always work on improving your writing. I cringe when I go back and read things I wrote three or four years ago. I hope I’ve improved! Honestly, I am always trying to learn new things and sharpen my writing skills. That’s the reason I enjoy my RWA chapter so much and never miss a meeting! I also attend as many conferences and craft classes as my time and budget allows. I don’t ever want to get to a point where I think “nah, I’m good enough.” I think continuing to aspire to be better at what you do is what will make you better at it.

So my advice to aspiring writers would be: Read a LOT in the genre you want to write in. Learn your craft. Surround yourself with other (supportive) writers.

9. What do you do while you work?  Do you watch TV or listen to music?

Sometimes I need to listen to music. Sometimes I need silence. It depends on what I am working on and what stage of the writing process I am in (beginning, revising, editing, etc.)

10.  How do you deal with rejection?

Not well! I have a good cry. I used to not tell anyone, but it helps to share it with other writers who understand what it’s like.

11.  What’s next for you?

To continue with the Lost Kings MC series. I have at least six books and two novellas set in this world I need to get out. These characters are very talkative and will not leave me alone!

Want to know more about Autumn’s books? Try these tidbits for a taste:

Onyx Night (Catnip & Cauldrons Book 1)

College student, Onyx Knight has yearned to leave her tiny hometown behind for years. When her family is ripped from her life, Onyx is thrust into a secret world she never knew existed and discovers something about herself she could never have imagined. The only person she can think to turn to his her Medieval History professor, Cole Radcliffe. But he has his own secrets. Against his better judgment he takes her to keep her safe. But how can he protect her if he can’t even protect her from himself?

Slow Burn (Lost Kings MC, Book 1)

 President of the Lost Kings MC, Rochlan “Rock” North, hasn’t managed to find a woman capable of making him want to curb his wild ways. Not until he meets his attorney, Hope Kendall.

 

Forced to represent the outlaw biker, Hope is rattled by her immediate attraction to Rock. Hope is a good girl in a good marriage. Although Rock thrills her, she’s not going to throw away everything she’s built on a fling with her criminal client.

 

Rock respects Hope enough to leave her alone, even as he realizes he’s become a little obsessed with her. When their connection endangers her life, he’ll have to destroy her in order to save her.

 

After tragedy strikes, Rock is determined to earn Hope’s forgiveness and convince her that even with their staggering differences, they’re meant to be together.

 

 

 

 

 

September: Lessons Learned with Frankie Y. Bailey and Anna C. Bowling

 

Anna C. Bowling

Anna C. Bowling

From Anna:

The changing colors of autumn mean a return to school for many, teacher and student alike. For writers, especially those with academic experience, lesson plans may bring to mind writing plans, and we look at ways we can learn to do this work we love in new and better ways. The plethora of notebooks and writing implements and shiny new electronic devices can tempt writers to strive for new heights, put our heads together and get down to business. If tasty hot beverages are involved, all the better.

No matter if our school days are still going on, are part of our pre-writing lives, or on which side of the desk we sat or sit, writing means always learning something new. This month, we turn to Frankie Y. Bailey, PhD, for a quick but important lesson on how some writerly recess may be more productive than we think:

~*~

Frankie Y. Bailey

Frankie Y. Bailey

From Frankie:

The most important thing I’ve learned is to allow myself to have fun. Because I do academic (nonfiction) writing, I needed to learn to give myself permission to “play”. My favorite bit of wisdom –something I was reminded of last weekend when I led a writing workshop for teens in my hometown in Virginia: “Before settling down to do the hard work, let your imagination have free rein. Go with whatever comes to mind and refine later.”

In the workshop I taught, the last writing exercise we did was the one that the students and I loved best. I asked the small group to collaborate and come up with two characters and a setting. In less than five minutes, they came up with two sisters, 15 and 17, who were visiting a Civil War graveyard. During the next half hour, with me at the blackboard taking notes, they roughed out the plot outline – a mystery with paranormal elements. They also decided they wanted to write a series rather than a standalone book and came up with a series arc. I was amazed by their lively imaginations. I’m hoping to hear they actually wrote that book for young adults.

~*~

Frankie, that sounds exciting. Who’s up for a little homework?

Anna C. Bowling

RWA 2014 impressions by Jeanette Grey

RWA 2014 Conference Report by Jeanette Grey

 

Before I tell you too much about my experience at RWA’s National Conference in San Antonio this year, let me tell you a little bit about what writer life is like for me in general.

I stay at home. I hunch in front of my laptop, or curl up with my Kindle, or tear my hair out over a giant stack of notes written on random pieces of paper (or the backs of receipts, or occasionally on napkins). I do all of it alone. I love it. And occasionally, it drives me Completely. Totally. Insane.

So when I say that attending a national convention of romance writers is amazing and incredible and overwhelming? I mean it.

It’s a chance to learn. A chance to get out of the box of isolation that is my office, and the cavern of isolation that is my poor little writer brain. A chance to remind myself that there are thousands of other people all going through the same struggles, triumphs, joys and heartbreaks that I am.

It’s also a chance to have a hell of a lot of fun.

Professional Opportunities

One of the big perks of attending a conference like RWA is that you get to put yourself out there. There are book signings.

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CR-RWA author Jeanette Grey at the Samhain Publishing signing.

 

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CR-RWA author Cara Connelly at the “Readers for Life” Literacy Signing.

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CR-RWA author Tracey Sorel at the “Readers for Life” Literacy Signing.

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Book advertisements placed on elevator wrappers and conference programs.

Pitch appointments. Opportunities to exchange business cards with other writers and industry professionals. An entire room devoted to giving away postcards and bookmarks and swag.

They say a person has to see your name about seven times before they recognize it. A conference like the sure gives you a chance to get a head start on making all of those impressions.

Workshops

I went to fewer workshops this year than I usually do at conferences, but I still managed to pick up some good information.

Both Laura Kaye and Cindy Ratzlaff had great tips for marketing yourself on social media. Both stressed the importance of using Facebook pages—not profiles—to reach readers, and using them regularly to ensure the maximum number of people see your posts. Laura specified that while Facebook is the best place to interact with large numbers of readers, Twitter is your best bet for meeting superfans who will really spread the word about your book, and you should tailor your message on each platform for the kind of reader you will be reaching.

A panel I went to on indie publishing emphasized the value of writing in series. Multiple speakers testified that they really started to take off once they had at least three related books out, and that a lot of their discoverability came from deeply discounting and advertising the first book in the series.

Finally, I went to a great workshop by Sarah McLean on sewing conflict into your stories. My favorite comment involved how she always gets herself into binds, throwing her characters into difficult situations that will keep them apart until the end of the book. But that’s a problem for “future Sarah”. And future Sarah will figure it out. For now, she just has to keep writing and keep giving her characters things to struggle against.

Networking

The internet and social media are great, but there’s something special to meeting people face to face for once.

This year, I got to meet my Samhain editor for the first time, in spite of the fact that we’ve been working together since 2011. I also got to meet a bunch of the team at Forever, which I’ve recently signed with.

There are Twitter friends you finally get to connect with in real life. Authors whose words you’ve been hanging on for years who end up being just as lovely in person as you’d always hoped they’d be.

And then there are the people waiting in line behind you for coffee that you get talking with. The random lady you borrow a piece of paper from in a workshop. The writer you share an elevator with who happens to have amazing shoes.

You never know who you’re going to meet that will end up becoming an important connection in the future. Or just as importantly – someone who just might go on to become a friend.

Letting Your Hair Down

Let’s not beat around the bush. One of the big draws of a major conference like RWA is the nightlife. Publishers throw parties. Distributors throw parties. The RITA and Golden Heart Awards ceremony is an amazing opportunity to celebrate the best of the best in our genre—but it’s also one big excuse to dress up pretty before heading out for a night on the town.

The hotel bar is always hopping at RWA, with people seeing and being seen, catching up with friends and looking to interact with other conference-goers.

Socializing is just one aspect of conference-going, but for me and a lot of other writers, I think it’s one of the most important.

Because again, so much of what we do is solitary.

And we need community. We need other writers to talk to and bounce ideas off of. We need to remember that we’re not walking this crazy path of writing and revising and querying and publishing and promoting alone.

There are so many others out there, just like us.

And going to a big conference is one of the very best ways to get out there and find them.

To learn more about Jeanette Grey, visit her website at http://www.jeanettegrey.com/, or connect with her on Twitter or Facebook.