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Monday, July 10, 2017


We’re in a time of change. Between imprint and publisher closings, the loss of bestseller lists, KU, and the slow down of the the self-publishing “gold rush” (mentioned in Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s “Visions of the Future” article in the April 2017 issue of RWR), it’s hard to keep up with everything that’s happening in publishing! If you want a career as an author, you’ve got to adapt and view this as a “long game.” While we can’t control what the industry and market do, we can control the stories we write and how we write them.

One way to do this is to continually evolve your craft and only put forth your best work. Talent will only take you so far. Skill and dedication are what build a lasting career in this industry, and skill is something you can improve on. Last year my critique partner C.L. Polk (Witchmark) introduced me to a book by Lisa Cron. The full title is Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel* [*Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere]. Cron offers is a shift in the way we perceive story, and why we’re so attuned to a good one. Here’s how she describes it:

“An effective story is, literally, an offer your brain can’t refuse.”

“The purpose of story...is to help us interpret, and anticipate, the actions of ourselves and others.”

“We don’t turn to story to escape reality. We turn to story to navigate reality.”

When I start a new writing project, I pick a skill to work on. For my last project, I focused on deep POV. For the sequel, I’m working on deeper characterization. Story Genius has been so helpful in that regard. The book takes you through the process of crafting a “story blueprint” that hinges on your protagonist’s “third rail”—the struggle between what they want and the misbelief that keeps them from having it. (Cron eschews the term “outline,” and also dismisses both pantsing and plotting, which was a shock.) The idea is to focus more on the story (internal) than the plot (external), and how it stems from your main character’s desire and misbelief, with secondary characters and subplots that support the main story instead of taking it off on tangents. Doing this, the book says, will help you craft a story that keeps your readers up all night even when they have a big meeting the next day.

I initially had trouble with the scene cards, and I side-eyed some of the “What to Do” exercises peppered through each chapter. But without fail, after completing each exercise, I could see the value in it, and I appreciated the slow, steady, step-by-step process. I’m excited to finish drafting this book, and I’m proud of the work I’ve done so far.

A few years ago I heard someone on a podcast say they’d chosen to pursue art because you could never finish learning it. There was no set endpoint, no final goal, no cap to what you could learn or how much you could improve. It wasn’t about any one project or masterpiece, but rather the sum total of your skill and knowledge. My background is in art, but this idea of constantly improving stayed with me, and I’ve carried it over into writing.

So, who’s with me? Let’s control the part we can control and continue evolving our craft. We owe it to our readers, and ourselves, to put out work we’re proud of, and to never stop learning.♥

Alexis Daria’s Golden Heart®-nominated debut contemporary romance will be released in 2017 from SMP Swerve. On Sunday evenings, Alexis co-hosts #RWchat, a weekly Twitter chat for romance writers. She also serves as PRO Liaison for the New York City chapter of RWA, and Municipal Liaison for the NYC region of National Novel Writing Month. She loves social media, and you can find her as @alexisdaria on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, @alexidaria1 on Facebook, and follow her blog, alexisdaria.com.


Monday, July 3, 2017


Large conventions can be overwhelming to those who crave solitude or prefer to deal with smaller, familiar groups. After a few hours, an author may be tempted to hide in her room for the remainder of the event. However, when factoring in the registration fee, the hotel expense and the airfare, most people would prefer to see more than the inside of their hotel room. There are also the networking opportunities authors do not want to miss out on.

One of the best ways to deal with the crowds is to connect with one or two people who are also travelling by themselves and in need of a friend. At the RWA National Conference, I have joined small excursions to help ease the nerviness I feel being around new people. Besides making new connections, I am able to safely explore unfamiliar cities with a group.

Some people may feel awkward walking up to others and introducing themselves. However, when charged with a task, they become a different person, able to bark out instructions or open up and make others feel at ease. When this is the case, volunteering may be the ideal solution for a person who would normally hide in her room.

During the RT Convention, I helped pack gift bags, worked the registration desk, volunteered at a signing and helped register authors for the book sale. Each opportunity gave me a chance to meet new people and help ease some of the workload for the organizers of the event.

It is not always necessary to be on display at a conference. When you feel overwhelmed, it is okay to take a minute or two for yourself.

Schedule time during the day to return to your room. Once you are alone, put your feet up and review the events for the remainder of the day. You may also want to take time to redo your make-up or change into a new outfit as you are more at ease when you are refreshed and comfortable.

When attending conferences you want to try to get the most out of the event. However, make sure to take time out for you.♥

Ursula Renée writes stories set in the early and mid-twentieth century with a diverse cast who must examine their own beliefs and challenge society's conventions to reach their happy-for-now. Her latest novel, BITTER BLUES, is the second book in her Big Band Series and it explores the challenges an interracial couple faces after saying, “I do,” in the 1940s. When she is not writing, Ursula enjoys photography, drawing and stone carving. She is the mother to one son and two cats. Visit her at www.ursularenee.com.


Friday, June 30, 2017


Every week we bring you an exciting hot book cover from 
one of New York's Leading Romance Authors.

by Jennifer Gracen
Zebra Books

BOOK SUMMARY:   The wildest of the elite Harrison men is about to tie the knot—if the family drama doesn’t tie him in knots first . . .  

The prodigal son of the wealthy Harrison family, Pierce Harrison’s wedding to lovely schoolteacher Abby McCord promises to be extraordinary—from the lavish Hamptons resort where the family gathers in anticipation, to the breathtaking ocean views where the couple will say their long-awaited vows. Conspicuously absent are the groom’s estranged parents—who nonetheless seem poised to do their best to destroy Pierce and Abby’s big day . . . Pierce’s siblings, Tess, Charles and Dane have pulled together to protect their beloved brother from their meddling parents. But it seems Pierce’s wounds run deep—so deep he begins to wonder if the powerful love he feels for his bride is enough. Or if it’s even possible for someone like him to have—and keep—the kind of happiness that’s meant to last a lifetime. Will he realize that he’s the only one standing in his way, before it’s too late?

Wednesday, June 28, 2017


Our guest speaker for this year’s RWA/NYC's Spring Brunch was Melissa Ann Singer, a senior editor at Tor/Forge with over 40-years experience in the industry. When she stood up and announced she would be speaking about cultural changes in publishing, the room fell silent to listen.

She started with an anecdote about nearly being fired her first day on the job—for refusing to get someone coffee. (Now, she says, everyone gets their own coffee.) At the time, she knew all the women in publishing, because there weren’t that many. And the women who’d risen to the top? They had to be hardasses, because the only way to make it big was to be tougher than the men. (And there were inevitably rumors that you’d slept your way to the position.) Judith Regan was the first woman to get an imprint named after her, and it was a big news item when it happened.

This has, thankfully, changed a lot. Now, there are lots of women in positions of power in publishing, although the really high levels are still male-dominated. (This is changing, she says.) But there are still other challenges to be tackled within publishing culture.

She talked candidly about diversity in the workplace (or lack thereof) during her 30+ years at Tor, and the effort being made to improve—although they still have a ways to go. Publishing as a business is more than just words on the page, so when she’s hiring, she looks for other skills in a person’s education and resume—not necessarily an English degree, but experience in areas like marketing, or even retail. She’s encouraging Tor to do more outreach at the high school level, and the publisher is also reaching out to historically black colleges through job fairs. One of the difficulties is turnover rate for entry level positions—it’s only every two to three years.

Another difficulty is the pay that’s offered for these positions. A position that paid $8,000 per year in the 1970s now pays $30,000, which is about the same when adjusted for inflation. She says that won't change because the business runs on a tight margin, but the benefits are much better these days, even if the pay is not.

Tor/Forge is owned by Macmillan, which  is privately held. This makes a huge difference, as they don't have to satisfy all the stockholders, and it’s not as driven by hierarchy. Editorial is run like an apprenticeship business, but these days, Macmillan is doing more to train management and regulate training, without removing creativity.

The biggest worry right now is the death of the mass market paperback. There was always a 60% return rate on mass markets. (I worked at a bookstore for six years, and I’m very familiar with “stripping” mass markets.) Before, it was normal to print half a million copies, and it was a waste of time to print 20,000. Now, 20,000 is a big deal. Mass markets have lost lots of the outlets that carried them, thanks to the collapse of the magazine industry, which took mass markets with them. Most supermarkets and other such retailers only take bestsellers, and don't want to take a chance on genre fiction—even though genre drives the industry.

She says the people writing articles and think pieces slinging mud at genre fiction don't get the impact of pop culture on society. Fiction broadens the horizons of writers and readers. How else do you imagine a culture not your own if you're not introduced to it? The more you read, the more you open your mind. Studies have shown that people who read fiction have more empathy. And she believes that people who write genre fiction are going to change the world.

It was an honest talk, inspiring in its candor, with an underlying tone of “we need to do more.” And it made me wonder: what else could we be doing as authors to support cultural changes in publishing? In the meantime, we can continue to support groups like We Need Diverse Books (WNDB), who are doing a lot of the groundwork, and boost the signal of existing own voices titles.

Big thanks to Melissa Ann Singer for coming to speak at our brunch. You can find her on Twitter at @maseditor.♥

 Alexis Daria’s Golden Heart®-nominated debut contemporary romance will be released in 2017 from SMP Swerve. On Sunday evenings, Alexis co-hosts #RWchat, a weekly Twitter chat for romance writers. She also serves as PRO Liaison for the New York City chapter of RWA, and Municipal Liaison for the NYC region of National Novel Writing Month. She loves social media, and you can find her as @alexisdaria on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, @alexidaria1 on Facebook, and follow her blog, alexisdaria.com.


A Good Time Was Had By All


Monday, June 26, 2017



At this year’s RT Booklover’s Convention, I was a teacher at the pre-convention Writer’s Boot Camp. It was a wonderful experience, not just because I got to share some wisdom, but also because I met a really great group of aspiring writers. We talked with each other quite a bit about “conventional wisdom” they’d heard, misperceptions about publishing, what to expect when they got their first (or their next) book into the hands of readers.

In that vein, one thing we talked about was the “write every day” rule.

I think “write every day” is at once great and terrible advice.

It’s good advice because it encourages writers to make time for writing, to make it a habit. It’s pretty easy to prioritize other things, but if you want a writing career, you need to not only finish the book, but also have some measure of discipline.

But it’s bad advice, because once we are in the habit, we feel guilty if we miss a day, or the pressure to produce regularly can become stifling.

But what does it mean to “write every day”?

Some writers have specific daily word count goals. So, if they aim to write 2,000 words per day, they won’t stop until they reach 2,000. That ensures a novel keeps moving forward each day.

Some writers have adjustable goals. Daily writing, but it doesn’t matter how much. Thirty words or 3,000 words is still progress.

Some writers can only write in cafes, or only at their own desk in their home office. Some can squeeze in writing whenever they have the opportunity, such as lunchtime at the office or in the car during their son’s soccer practice.

My personal goals are kind of loosey-goosey. I give myself project deadlines—i.e. “I want to finish my historical novel by July 15.”—but the amount of work I do each day varies greatly. Some of this is because my daily schedule varies a great deal (I’m a freelancer, so my job can be unpredictable) but also because my process is variable. For example, I write first drafts very fast and spend more time revising, so I have days when I probably have a net-negative word count, but I’ve revised a good chunk of a manuscript. 

But someone made a suggestion at Boot Camp that I’ve been thinking about ever since. Sometimes “writing every day” is not getting physical words on the page, but rather thinking about the story.

I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking about my works in progress all the time—in the shower, when I’m out walking, when I’m falling asleep at night. This has been a habit of mine since I was a teenager; I used to pass long car rides by making up stories in my head. It’s part of why I can write first drafts so fast; when I sit down to write, I usually know what I’m going to be writing.

So I like this idea quite a bit. Not that thinking should replace actual writing, but on days when you can’t make time to sit down and get words on the page, ruminating on a story could be a good alternative.

This is why I personally set big project goals. I like to set goals that are challenging but still within my ability to achieve, so I’m setting myself up for success without making it too easy. It’s like the NaNoWriMo challenge of writing 50,000 words in a month. It is doable, and thousands of writers worldwide succeed at it every year, but it definitely takes some effort.

When we do round robins at chapter meetings, a lot of you say, “I’m writing,” and that’s awesome! Keep writing and working on that book. But think about what “writing every day” means for you and how it can help you reach your goals. Let’s change “I’m writing” to “I finished,” and then, “I submitted,” and eventually, “I’m published!”♥

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Kate McMurray is an award-winning author of gay romance and an unabashed romance fan. When she’s not writing, she works as a nonfiction editor, dabbles in various crafts, and is maybe a tiny bit obsessed with baseball. She has served as President of Rainbow Romance Writers, the LGBT romance chapter of Romance Writers of America; and as Vice President of RWA/NYC. She lives in Brooklyn, NY. Visit her at www.katemcmurray.com.

Saturday, June 17, 2017


Every week we bring you an exciting hot book cover from one of New York's Leading Romance Authors.

Congratulations to Ursula on the release of her new book!


by Ursula Renée

SUMMARY:   Despite their different backgrounds, Randy Jones agreed to take Cassie Ann Porter for better and for worse. He never considered how much worse things could get, but he finds out after he returns home from serving in the army during World War II. Unable to find a job, he has to depend on his wife to support the family, which includes their two daughters, who at first refuse to have anything to do with him.

Cass works at the shipyard, one of many women employed to fill in while the men were gone to war. Her employer doesn't replace her and the others because he can pay them so much less than he would men, yet she would like nothing better than to be a stay-at-home wife and mother.

When a good intention goes wrong, Randy wonders if he and Cass have made a mistake in going against society's rules. Can the "worse" ever get better?


Friday, June 2, 2017


Every week we bring you an exciting hot book cover from 
one of New York's Leading Romance Authors.

Congratulations to Anna on the release of her new book!

by Anna DePalo
Harlequin Desire

SUMMARY:  To protect her reputation in a dog-eat-dog town, actress Chiara Feran needs a fake fling fast! Turning to the stuntman on her last movie, Rick Serenghetti, seems like a sure thing. But in Hollywood, things—and stuntmen—are never what they seem. Rick is actually a wealthy movie producer who stunts for kicks. And boy, is he intrigued by this latest role! But he gets more than he bargained for as the line between fantasy and reality blurs. Soon, a very real baby is on the way. Could a marriage proposal be far behind?