Archive for the ‘Florida Romance Writers’ Category

Never thought of myself as a butterfly before, but beyond a doubt for the last few months I’ve been inside my own special cocoon, reshaping and reinventing myself. Does that mean I was formally a caterpillar? Hmm…not one of my favorite creatures. Maybe I didn’t think this metaphor through properly. However….

Beyond a doubt, for the past several months, since the release of RECKLESSLY YOURS, I’ve undergone something of a transformation, or maybe an evolution. First I got word that my publisher had decided not to continue with my series, Her Majesty’s Secret Servants, meaning Willow would not be having her own story – which is why Recklessly Yours ended the way it did, rather than with Victoria asking her to embark on a mission. Now, before you feel sorry for me – and Willow – there are two things to remember: 1) this is a common theme in the publishing industry. It’s not the first time this has happened, and it certainly won’t be the last. And 2) there are so many publishing options nowadays that when the mood strikes me, I will write Willow’s story and get it out to readers.

In the meantime, as part of my reinvent I’m trying my hand at writing an American-set historical mystery. Despite always calling myself a “closet mystery writer” (anyone who has read my books will get this), writing a pure mystery has not been easy! I had to learn so many new plotting techniques – in fact I’m still learning. The book isn’t finished yet, but I’ve been enjoying every step of the journey. We’ll see what happens….

But even more profound a change for me has been taking on the position of acquisitions editor for Silver Publishing. Silver is going on two years old now and I joined them after they’d been up and running only a few months. They’ve grown, and continue to grow by leaps and bounds, and I feel fortunate to be part of that. I have to say, I love my job – I love reading submissions, helping authors strengthen their work, and the fact that even when I have to say no (which is always so difficult!), I can still offer insight into what worked and what didn’t, and why.

And if all that weren’t enough, I’ve also taken on the board position of Member-At-Large for my writing chapter, the Florida Romance Writers.

So the temporary end of Her Majesty’s Secret Servants (oh, I doubt those ladies can be held down for long) has meant new beginnings and exciting challenges for me. I’m still very much a part of the publishing industry, still learning, still growing as an author and an editor, still looking forward to whatever surprises the future will bring.

Have you ever had to reinvent? Was it difficult, or did you spread those wings and let the wind carry you where it will? And did you reemerge better than before?

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Writers, have you written a “book of your heart” that you’re thinking probably won’t ever see the light of day? It’s pretty fair to assume that most of us have at least one of those moldering under the bed, written in a fervor of enthusiasm but without the benefit of really knowing what the heck we were doing. Mine is a medieval story set on the Welsh marches during the reign of Edward III. It took me two years to write and polish it (when I started I didn’t even understand point of view, much less internal and external conflict), not to mention cutting it down from about 150,000 words (did I mention that fervor of enthusiasm?) to a much more reasonable 95,000. For all it’s flaws, the book embodied all the passion I felt for the history of the period, and for characters that dominated my imagination and refused to back off until I told their story. That book got me several contest wins, an agent, and some positively glowing rejection letters. But alas….

When I wrote that story, called Falcons In Flight, medievals were actually selling pretty well. Then, suddenly, the medieval market dried up and while I can’t for the life of me understand why, it’s never really cycled back, not like it was. Oh, there are always a few medievals on the shelves – my friend and fellow FRW member, Traci E. Hall, writes a wonderful medieval series – but for the most part they seem to make up a small percentage of releases. I once heard a young editor say she found the middle ages too gritty to be romantic. I don’t happen to agree – the grittiness is one of the things I love – and I know I’m not alone in that.

Anyway, yesterday the mega talented and, by the way, very funny Karen Hawkins spoke at my FL Romance Writers meeting. One of the things she touched on was the book of your heart. Karen advised that if something is important to you and calling to you, you should write it, but you should also understand the market and be realistic about your chances of selling – at least at the current time. She wrote a book of her heart years ago, set in Elizabethan England. This book was published, but under Karen’s earlier pseudonym, Kim Bennet, with the title ONE LUCKY LORD. After that, the Karen Hawkins we all know and love went on to pen the wonderful, funny, heartwarming Regency historicals that made her a bestselling author.

But she never forgot that book of her heart, and how it really never received the care and attention it deserved. Nor did she stop watching the markets. When the Showtime series THE TUDORS caught on in such a big way (I am a HUGE fan), Karen thought…hmm.  She dug that book out from under the bed or wherever she had stashed it after its initial publication, and revised and reworked it, giving the story the benefit of everything she had learned through the years. And guess what?

MUCH ADO ABOUT MARRIAGE releases Aug. 31st

Karen went about the rebirth of this story in a very savvy manner. First she reminded her editor about the incredible popularity of THE TUDORS, and convinced her publisher that the time was ripe to take advantage of the opportunity of attracting that audience. Secondly, she rewrote the story to be a prequel to her current MacLean Curse series and her upcoming  Hurst Amulet series which debuts this November. In doing so, Karen pretty much guaranteed herself an avid audience for this book. TUDOR fans like me will be excited to find more of this genre available to satisfy our craving for Elizabethan intrigue and fierce men in doublets and trunkhose. Likewise, MacLean series fans, like me, will snatch up this book to learn more about the origins of those sexy MacLean heroes. Karen seized an opportunity from the market and worked it to her advantage by tying it in with her existing author brand.

So the point is: write what you love, while being well aware of market trends and ready to seize opportunities when they arise, and when they do, work them to your best advantage by recognizing & utilizing your strengths as an author. And never, EVER give up on the book of your heart, because you just never know.  

 

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I wasn’t going to go to the RWA National conference this year. The costs were just too high, and these days…well, I don’t need to tell anyone about what’s going on financially with most people these days. But when you added up the conference fee, airfare – because the conference was supposed to be in Nashville – and hotel rates…and then balanced that against my two graduating daughters this year, one starting college, the other grad school, and the things that need to get done around this house, etc., well, I’m sure I don’t need to explain it any further.

But then Nashville experienced those awful floods, and the hotel underwent so much damage that RWA had to scramble to find a new location. Guess where they chose to go. Right here in my home state of Florida, just three hours away in Orlando – where not only could I drive and avoid airfare, but where I could stay at a friend’s condo and also avoid the hotel expenses. Wow!

But there was still that conference fee, which is pretty steep, all things considered. So I gritted my teeth and decided I still wouldn’t go. Then, over this past weekend, I gave a workshop on setting at my FRW meeting, and after several people came up to me to say how much I inspired them to go over their manuscripts and strengthen their setting elements, I realized, or remembered, the importance of writers coming together to share knowledge, exchange ideas and better their craft. It’s a simple fact that writers inspire each other. We encourage each other. We carry each other through the difficult phases in our careers and celebrate the successes collectively.

With National in my own backyard, with all those writers gathering so close to home, how could I not go? Dumb me, of course I HAD to go. In the scheme of things, was it really THAT much money? Would it break us in the end? Of course not. So…I logged onto the RWA website and I did it! I registered. And literally a few minutes later….

Like a gift from the conference gods, my editor emailed to say they had just sold foreign rights to MOST EAGERLY YOURS to a Russian publisher. Meaning…an advance I hadn’t even counted on! Not a vast sum, but enough, certainly, to cover my RWA expenses.

Could the stars have aligned more perfectly to send me to RWA this year? I think not! Knowing this was meant to be, I’m just excited to go and spend time with good friends, with others I’m looking forward to knowing better, and with those I have yet to meet. And I’m looking forward to that energy charge you get at a conference, the kind that makes you race home and dive back into that WIP with renewed enthusiasm.   

Thank you, conference gods!

(I do want to make it clear, however, that I feel terrible about the flooding in Tennessee and wish the RWA had had a different reason for coming to Florida!)

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Signing With Cynthia Thomason

Signing at the Coral Springs Arts Festival last weekend, March 20th and 21st.  This was actually one of the most fun signings I’ve done yet. This outdoor festival brings hundreds of artists and craftsmen from all over the country and rivals the more famous Las Olas Arts Festival in attendance. What I really enjoyed was the constant flow of people to our booth, which was shared jointly by the Florida Romance Writers and our local chapter of the Mystery Writers of America. At any given time-slot, there were usually four of us signing. I’ve noticed that often at bookstore signings there seems to be an intimidation factor, and some customers will skirt the table as if getting too close to the author might commit them to buying a book they might not be interested in. The result can be a long and deadly couple of hours. But not so here! People were genuinely interested in us and our writing, browsed the books, asked lots of questions, took promo materials. Many were fascinated to learn that we all lived locally. Of course not everyone bought books, but I had the feeling that some of them might actually look for our titles at a later date. One woman had her Nook with her and downloaded MOST EAGERLY YOURS right in front of me, which made my day! Oh, and made me envious!

Historical mystery author, Diane Stuckart, in black shirt

 

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I attended one of my FRW chapter meetings yesterday, and a topic came up that can potentially bring our meeting momentum to a crashing halt. The time had come to discuss a brand new slate of board members, because according to the bylaws it’s time for the current team to step down.

I can’t tell you how quickly this subject can stifle the conversation and bring a deafening silence to blanket a room. It’s not that members in the past didn’t want to be involved in making our group the best it can be, it was that board positions can be time consuming and, frankly, members aren’t always familiar with what’s entailed. Bottom line: they can be afraid of making the committment.

I’ve found this to be the case elsewhere as well. I volunteer as the secretary of the Orchestra Parent’s Association at my daughter’s high school, and there, too, it’s sometimes like pulling teeth to get people involved in our activities. Nowadays everyone leads a busy life, and fitting in one more activity can seem daunting. It’s just easier to say no.

So why do some people eventually step up to volunteer? What makes them special enough or brave enough to put their valuable time on the line? Two things, I believe.

One is passion. When you’re really passionate about something and want to see it thrive, you become emotionally invested and are willing to devote time and energy to it.

The other thing is a little secret everyone discovers once they have taken that first bold step in getting involved, and that’s camaraderie. One reason a lot of people don’t volunteer is because they feel too new to a group, still too much like an outsider. But the best way to get over that is to roll up your sleeves start working with your fellow members.

When I first joined FRW I felt like the new kid who didn’t know much and should listen and basically keep her mouth shut. And all that did was prolong the time I felt like an outsider. Then one day someone asked me to head up an award committee, and from that point onward my experiences with FRW changed for the better. I went on to fill various positions either on the board or on our conference committees, or took on smaller jobs that needed to get done, and I not only did I become much more comfortable in feeling part of the group, I began to reap many more rewards from my membership. Best of all, I made some wonderful friends I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Yesterday was inspiring in how quickly and eagerly the hands went up and people said, “sure, I’ll do that.” It says a lot about how the group has evolved over time into a welcoming place where every member is made to feel comfortable and needed. I’d like to say a big thank you to all of you who volunteered for the board. I know you’ll all do a fantastic job in helping to shape FRW’s success in the next couple of years, you’ll also inspire others in the group to inch their hands into the air next time.

So, when the call goes out for volunteers, do you tend to become intimidated and hide behind the person in front of you (don’t be ashamed to admit it, most of us have done that at one time or another), do you jump out of your seat with enthusiasm, or are you somewhere in the middle, wary but willing?

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