Tuesday, May 30, 2017


It’s no secret that I love Wonder Woman. She’s a kickass warrior princess goddess Amazon superhero--need I go on? She isn’t a damsel in distress, and she holds her own among all the dudes in Justice League. What makes her really strong, though, is her depth of compassion for humanity. She feels, deeply. Wonder Woman shows us there’s power in vulnerability, and being a woman is not a weakness.

A few years ago, I read Goddesses in Everywoman: Powerful Archetypes in Women's Lives by Jean Shinoda Bolen. It discusses female archetypes using Greek mythology, and talks about how women embody these archetypes at different points in their lives. I’ve been interested in mythology since I was a kid, so this was fascinating stuff.

When I sat down to outline a trilogy of books based on Greek goddess archetypes, I had to go deeper. I studied the Athena archetype--not just her strengths, but her weaknesses, too. Athena, goddess of wisdom, craft, and war, was a Strong Female Character™, but she also supported the patriarchy. Unlike Wonder Woman, Athena didn’t understand or value feelings. If I was going to write a character derived from the Athena archetype, this journey had to be part of her arc. She was going to have to learn to feel, to empathize, to be compassionate. She was going to have to remove her armor, open up, and let herself be seen.

This character, Min (short for Minerva, Athena’s Roman name), isn’t Wonder Woman. Not yet, anyway. She hasn’t done the work to open up. Her armor is her cold demeanor, her sword is her intelligence and willingness to work for her cause, and her shield is her defensive manner and sharp tongue. I had to pair her with a man who was strong, but sensitive. Braydon’s divorced, and he comes from a big family--he’s felt the full gamut of emotions, and he helps Min experience it for herself. Eventually, Min forms deep connections not only with Braydon, but with the other two female protagonists in the trilogy, Venus and Diana. The ability to feel deeply and be vulnerable is a superpower in and of itself, regardless of whether one has flight, bullet-proof gauntlets, or a lasso of truth. My hope is that through these stories, readers will also recognize and value their own superpowers, and expand the female archetypes society has defined for us.♥

Golden Heart® finalist Alexis Daria’s 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. You can find her on Twitter at @alexisdaria, and follow her blog creativestaycation.com.


Monday, May 29, 2017


What makes a strong heroine? 
It's only my opinion, but I think a strong heroine is one who, like a tree in a storm, knows how to bend with the wind and remain standing after it passes. No matter what happens in her life, particularly with the matters of the heart, she moves forward with her life.

How can a heroine evolve?
A heroine should move from being co-dependent on her partner and wishy washy to a strong woman who knows what she wants in life and how to achieve her goals, both personal and professional.

What attracts us to the strong heroine?
We admire her courage in the face of adversity and cheer her on through same. We also worry that she will achieve her goals. Men find strong heroines sexy because they are not shrinking violets who cling to a man's arm. They know how to make a man feel like a man without being needy.♥

Joan Ramirez has published three nonfiction books and is at work on her first romance novel. She is also an ESL and Special Ed teacher and hopes to start her own enterprise consulting in both fields.


Thursday, May 25, 2017


In March, I received The Call, which led to an agent, which led to a two-book deal with a major publisher. While I had been querying for exactly a year and a day, it was NOLA Stars’ Suzannah Contest that kicked off the flurry of activity. I know some people question the value of RWA chapter contests, but I think they’re a great way to receive feedback, gain recognition, and put your work in front of acquiring agents and editors.

If you don’t have close writing buddies or critique partners, or you want an unbiased opinion, most chapter contests offer feedback via scoresheets and comments from their first round judges. Judges are usually comprised of chapter members, PRO or PAN members, and sometimes even librarians or other industry professionals. Regardless, they’re all romance readers, and they’ll give you unbiased feedback on your pages.

While contest wins don’t directly translate into book sales, it’s pretty nice to be able to list “winner” on your website. And if you’re querying, it’s a cool thing to add to your bio paragraph. Some contests also offer cash prizes or trophies.

Many chapter contests have acquiring agents and editors as final round judges. Some of these contests don’t get a ton of entries, so if your first pages are really strong and you see an agent or editor listed on the chapter website that you’d like to get your work in front of, consider entering. If they like it, they’ll send a request through the contest coordinators. (Even if you’ve already queried that person or received a request through a pitch event, final judges have to read the contest entries they get, and they sometimes get to those before the slush pile.)

I had a great experience with the 2016 Suzannah contest. Here’s how the Northern Louisiana chapter describes it on their site:

The Suzannah is different from most other writers’ contests in that published authors and unpublished writers all compete against one another in a single pool of entries without categories. … Why would we do such a thing? Because this format allows published authors to anonymously test the waters in a new genre. It also gives unpublished writers the experience and prestige of having their writing judged as in the ‘real world’ against already established authors—just the way it is on an editor’s desk!

Your book doesn’t even have to be finished. Their website says, “Go ahead. Try out a new idea on us. Or dig that old manuscript out from under the bed, give it a dusting and send it in.” (http://nolastars.com/contest/)

When I entered Take the Lead, I only had three chapters written. Luckily, by the time I found out I was a finalist, I had completed the first draft. The feedback I received from the scoresheets was useful in revising my chapters before I sent them in for the final round, and for making my query pages stronger. Of the six final judges, I received requests from four. Two had already requested pages from other pitch events, but it was the contest that really got their eyes on my work. Three of the four made offers, and I ultimately won the contest’s grand prize. (Not gonna lie, the trophy is pretty sweet, even though it has the older title engraved on it.)

While I didn’t accept the offers that came through this contest, the Suzannah was instrumental in helping me sign with my agent and get a book deal. The contest coordinators and chapter president have stayed in contact, cheering me on. And now I’m a big advocate for RWA chapter contests.

By contrast, I entered a different novel in a few contests last year. The feedback showed me I was pitching the book all wrong, and helped me decide it needed another revision pass.

If you know what you want out of them, chapter contests can be a great way to help you advance your goals and put your work out there. Make sure to check out RWA/NYC’s own Kathryn Hayes “When Sparks Fly” Contest, coming soon!♥

Golden Heart® finalist Alexis Daria’s 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. You can find her on Twitter at @alexisdaria, and follow her blog creativestaycation.com.


Monday, May 22, 2017


There was recently an article on the Book Riot website arguing in favor of romance novels without happy endings. I read it and thought, “But happy endings are the one requirement!”

RWA’s definition of romance is pretty loose. A romance novel must have a central romance story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending. Most readers interpret the latter as the romantic couple (or ménage, etc.) ending up together. 

But that still gives writers a massive amount of room to tell stories. Characters can fall in love in Regency or Medieval England, in 1920s New York, in the Wild West, in China, in India, in Africa, in South America, in the future, in space, in some imaginary place. These characters can be rich or poor or somewhere in between, they can have a whole host of interesting jobs, they can solve crime or make scientific discoveries or save the universe. Romance heroes and heroines can have any background, can be Irish or African American or Japanese; they can be vampires or cat shifters or aliens; they can be Christian or Jewish or Buddhist or atheist. The characters can be a man and a woman, a man and a man, a woman and a woman, they can be trans or asexual, or there could be three people, or seven, who all fall in love with each other. They can express their love physically behind closed doors, explicitly on the page, or not until they’re married.

The only limit to what happens in a romance novel is that there must be a love story at its heart and we need that happy ending (or at least a happy for now). Otherwise, the only limit is what your imagination can cook up.

So why do we periodically get these think pieces arguing that literally the one thing that defines romance as a genre should not hold true?

The author of the Book Riot piece argued that the happy ending, while satisfying, does not always reflect reality. Sure, that’s true. In real life, some great romances end in divorce or death. But love stories with unhappy endings can be found aplenty in the literary fiction section of the bookstore. Why would one argue for romance to change?

Romance authors on Twitter had theories. For example, sometimes these think pieces about romance novels not requiring happy endings come from authors who write lit fic but want romance money, so they try to argue that the book they’ve written belongs on the romance shelf where the hungry readers buy books, even if the book doesn’t technically fit the definition. Or you get an author who assumes all romance is trite and formulaic and argues their new, edgy approach to the genre—an unhappy ending, how revolutionary!—is going to change everything.

But we as romance readers know that the genre is rich and full of talented authors. Let’s keep that as a given. Because romance has two requirements: central love story, happy ending. And that’s it. 

We romance readers and writers know, the guarantee of a happy ending is not a spoiler. For us, it’s about the journey, not the destination, right? And given all the room that still gives to tell stories, if you can’t fit a romance into those wide boundaries, you’re the one lacking in creativity, not the genre.

I am all for pushing genre boundaries. But if you took the whodunit plot out of a mystery, what are you left with? If you took the suspense out of a thriller? If you took paranormal elements out of urban fantasy? Genres have parameters for a reason. They help readers find the books they want to read, mainly. And for a lot of romance readers, the happy ending is what they want. They want the hope, to believe that everything will work out.

Consider this: writers have been publishing novels with gay characters since the early twentieth century (at least!) but until fairly recently, the characters in those books met with unhappy endings. Even through the eighties, AIDS was a prominent theme. In the last 10–15 years, with the ballooning popularity of gay romance, these characters are finally getting happy endings, and we’re sending a different message to readers. This is true of romances involving people of color as well. What we’re saying is: You deserve happiness, not tragedy. You deserve love. And great things are possible.

So why would you rip that rug out from under the romance genre? Damon Suede often calls romance “the literature of hope.” If you want to read or write books that don’t have happy endings, that’s great, but those novels are not genre romance. The core of romance is hope.♥

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.

Read Romance


Friday, May 5, 2017


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

by Harper Miller

SUMMARY:   Ironic is the first installment in The Kinky Connect Chronicles. The Kinky Connect Chronicles are short erotic stories all wrapped up in a neat little bow. No cliffhangers in the lot!


Friday, April 28, 2017


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

by Kate McMurray

SUMMARY:  Dan is a superfan of the TV show Junk Shop, hosted by the handsome and charismatic Malcolm Tell. When an old music box turns up, Dan’s sister encourages him to try to get on the show and meet the object of his affection. He does, and everything changes.  When Dan and Malcolm first meet, they have a sudden vision of something horrible that happened years ago. Is it a glimpse at a past life or something else entirely? They agree to work together to find answers and discover a forgotten Celtic myth that may explain everything. If the myth is true, then Dan and Malcolm could be a pair of lovers who have been reincarnated over two thousand years. That seems impossible, but it’s hard to deny that something very strange is happening.  As Dan and Malcolm work to find the truth, they fall for each other hard. But searching for who they really are puts them both in grave danger, and they find themselves racing against time to keep their happily ever after.


Friday, April 21, 2017


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

The Men of Gold Mountain Series
by Rebecca Brooks

SUMMARY:  Bartender Mackenzie Ellinsworth has always gone it alone. So when she has a chance to open her own bar and restaurant, she’s got a plan for how it should go. Not in that plan: a ripped and rugged playboy stepping in to take over. Connor Branding is determined to prove he’s not the directionless playboy Mack thinks. But opening a place together causes more problems than it solves.