Wednesday, July 29, 2015

RWA 2015 Round Up

Posted by: Jax Garren
Me at one of the (many) book signings
I had the joy of spending a week in New York City at the 2015 Romance Writers of America conference. I love the annual RWA con. It's a great time to catch up with friends I only see once a year (including my annual roommate, the amazing Jessica Scott--if you like military romance you must read her stuff!). This year, as always, I had the greatest intention of attending a zillion workshops and learning SO MUCH. And, like always, I totally started out doing that...and slowly morphed into hanging out with people I only see once a year and, this time anyway, wandering around the amazing city that is New York.

Even with my irresponsible behavior, I did pick up on quite a few things that are buzzing about the industry, and I thought I'd share three of the most interesting panels I attended.

One panel I found particularly cool was on diversity in romance, and not just diversity on the page, but diversity in authors. One thing that that that was pointed out is that authors of color are still being relegated to a separate section inside bookstores. Another amazing author, Farrah Rochon (who's also a lovely lady in person) called it a remaining bastion of segregation. She's tired of being shelved in the "black" section and wants to see her books where they belong, right along side all the other romances. Next time I'm in a bookstore, I'm going to look and see how they're shelving things and point it out to management if they're segregating by race. The whole panel was an eye-opening experience, and I only made it to one of the three diversity panels RWA hosted!

I went to another fascinating panel on writing with ADHD. I've never been diagnosed with it--I've never talked to a doctor in an attempt to be diagnosed--but I share a lot of traits with the ADHD brain, like fidgeting, easy distractability, finding large tasks overwhelming, and trouble making decisions and setting priorities (I've nearly broken down crying in the grocery store over which can of tuna to buy; it's pretty hilarious to watch me shop). But regardless of my condition or lack thereof, the suggestions were super helpful. My favorites were (1) write a Post-It note of whatever you're (supposed to be) working on at the moment, so that when you get distracted you know what to get back to (2) create transition plans for changing activities so that your brain doesn't have to quick-switch from one thing to the next and (3) break larger tasks down into miniature goals so each success gives you a burst of serotonin, the happy hormone, making it more likely you'll accomplish more.

Finally, I made it to a panel in romance trends. Contemporary still seems to be ruling the market, particularly sports heroes and motorcycle clubs. Billionaires as still big but possibly on the downslide. They think Romantic Suspense is coming back, at least somewhat. In e-books, novellas are gaining popularity as more people are looking for quick reads. They mentioned that diversity is on the rise, but not like a trend, more like more people are getting a voice, which made a nice dovetail with the first panel I went to.

Overall, it was a great conference and I had a wonderful time! Do you think they were right on current trends? Did any of you go to RWA and pick up any other interesting nuggets?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

From the Archives: Reading romance is like eating chocolate

Posted by: Shona Husk
Veronica sez: One from the Archives today, because I have a chocolate craving! Shona Husk's latest release is  OURS TO SAVE (ES SIREN 9) - story summary below the post!

I love romance novels and chocolate and indulge in both frequently. Here are few similarities I’ve found:

1) That moment when you stand in the store trying to decide what to buy.

Gritty romantic suspense? Paranormal romance? Something erotic?

White chocolate? Maybe dark mint…ooh a new flavor.

2) The inability to decide resulting in the purchase of multiple books/chocolate resulting in….

3) The credit card weeping silently in the corner

4) Enjoying the books/chocolate.

Admiring the cover, opening up to the first chapter and sinking into another place.

The smell of a freshly opened block of chocolate and the snap as you break off a piece and savor the taste.

5) Other people’s expectations trying to spoil it for you.

You read those novels? Why don’t you try this award winning literary novel where everyone dies alone and miserable? (Because as my sister says “I’d rather hit myself in the head with a spanner”)

If you stopped eating chocolate you could lose 5 kilos (Yes, I’ve been told that).

But I’m pretty sure that not reading romance/eating chocolate won’t make me a better mother/wife/author/person nor will it make me happier.

6) Ignoring all the comments and naysayers and enjoying a romance novel while eating chocolate. And then having an extra piece of chocolate because you can. Life is too short to live the life someone else expects of you.

Now if you will excuse me I need a hot chocolate…

OURS TO SAVE (ES SIREN 9): Micah Stone sees Solitaire as a fresh start. With twenty years' experience in the agriculture industry, he hopes the colony won't make the same mistakes that were made on Earth.

To most people, Micah looks like a member of the well educated elite, but he's really a Gaia activist. Not only did he lie about his daughter's age to get her on board, but his partner is one of the most dangerous women on Siren.

Felicity Valez was once an Army explosives expert, and she was also a member of the radical Gaia Movement. After being sentenced to life for sedition, she wound up on Siren. To protect her partner and daughter while they're on board, she needs to make sure that no one links the family together.

But her liaisons with Micah have been noted. And when her daughter's life is threatened Felicity will do the one thing she promised Micah she'd never do again: rig an explosive that will kill.

No one on Siren is safe.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Here Be News

Posted by: Eleri Stone

FF&P announced the winners for the 2015 Prism Contest for Published Authors during the Prism Awards Ceremony on July 23, 2015. 

Congratulations to Here Be Magic members Cindy Spencer Pape and Jeffe Kennedy! 

Full list below.

* indicates FF&P Members

Best of the Best - The Guild of Assassins by Anna Kashina
Best First Book - Mind Sweeper by AE Jones

Prism Award - Andromeda’s Fall (Shadowcat Nation) by Abigail Owen*
Second Place - Kissed By A Demon Spy by Sharon Kay*
Third Place - East of Ecstasy by Laura Kaye

Prism Award - Sea Change by Cindy Spencer Pape
Second Place - Hero Rising by Anna Alexander
Third Place - Morningstar by Robyn Bachar*

Prism Award - The Guild of Assassins by Anna Kashina
Second Place -The Stones of Kaldaar (Song of the Swords Book One) by Tameri Etherton*
Third Place - Mark of the Tala by Jeffe Kennedy*

Prism Award - On a Rogue Planet by Anna Hackett
Prism Award - The Cat Star Chronicles: Rebel by Cheryl Brooks*
Second Place - Heart Fire by Robin D. Owens*
Third Place - Temporal Shift by Nina Croft

Prism Award - Mind Sweeper by AE Jones*
Second Place - Shifter Wars by AE Jones*
Third Place - Blind Faith by Rebecca Zanetti*

Prism Award - Archangel by Misa Buckley
Second Place - Night Angel by Lisa Kessler*
Third Place - The Shucker’s Booktique by J.C. McKenzie

Prism Award - Win the Rings by K.D. Van Brunt     
Second Place - Going Down in Flames by Chris Cannon   
Third Place - Eventide (Iron Falls #1) by Christine Allen-Riley  

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Author Confession

Posted by: R.L. Naquin
This is Oatmeal. He has trouble finishing what he starts, too.
When people who know me read my Monster Haven books, they laugh and say they hear my voice coming from Zoey. She often says things I would say and in a way I would say them. I laugh and reassure them I am not Zoey.

Now I have a new series out. Wynter says a lot of things I would say, too. I am not Wynter.

But here’s a confession: I was Wynter, not too long ago.

Wynter starts a lot of things—relationships, jobs, craft projects—and she never finishes them. She’s stuck in a life she doesn’t like with no hope of ever changing it because she can’t follow through to change herself.

I never patterned Zoey after anyone but the character I made up in my head. Wynter, however, was born from the memory of what I once was.

Depending on how you count, I’ve been engaged four or five times. I have credits from six different universities, but never finished the degree. (Don’t ask. I moved a lot.) I have bags and bags of half-finished cross stitch, polymer clay, crochet hooks, knitting needles, and yarn.

And up until four years ago, a hard drive full of unfinished short stories and novels.

Despite being, technically, in my senior year, it would take me at least two years full-time to complete a degree at this point. I’ve let it go. I’m 47 and doing what I love. (The P.E. and math classes I still have to take won’t make me a better writer.) My eyes aren’t as sharp as they used to be, so cross stitch is probably done for good. My hands hurt from typing all day, so crochet and knitting attempts are over. I’m married to the man of my dreams, so I won’t hightail it out of here like a runaway bride and restart my entire life—again.

Last week, I published my seventh full-length novel in less than four years. So, no. I am not my character, Wynter. But I was, not so long ago.

And maybe by the time her whole story is told, she will be more like me. After all, aren't we all works in progress?

Unfinished Muse (Mt. Olympus Employment Agency #1)

Wynter Greene is a chronic quitter—in work, in life, and in love. When she quits a job, a boyfriend, and a seemingly minor craft project all in one day, the dormant deity blood in her veins triggers a Welcome Package from the gods. A talking—and singing—houseplant named Phyllis bullies Wynter into taking a job at the Mt. Olympus Employment Agency.

Stuck with a job in the Muse department, Wynter discovers that helping others finish what they start isn’t easy, especially for someone who can’t seem to finish anything of her own. And how is Wynter supposed to focus on anything when that guy from the Dreams and Nightmares department keeps distracting her with his rippling muscles and magnetic stare?

Wynter needs to figure her job out soon. Each failure is a tick mark on her record, and if she continues to miss her deadlines, she’ll be reassigned to the Underworld as a dog walker.

And scooping poop for a giant three-headed dog is nobody’s ideal career.

Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Kobo * iBooks

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Day in the Life of a Writer

Posted by: Jane Kindred
Just in case you’ve ever wondered what it’s like in the glamorous world of writing, I’m here to spill my secrets.

Today I was awoken by a beeping back-up indicator on a truck outside my window, interrupting a dream in which I’d received a sudden, unexpectedly large check from my publisher (triple digits) and was having an important talk with my agent at a writing conference. Both things seemed like they were about to change my life, and then that damn truck. I’ve had prophetic dreams about rejections before, so I was hoping maybe this check thing would pan out similarly, but alas, no.

So I got up and went into my office, where I do the day job—editing for a global consulting firm. Answered emails, reviewed copy on a couple of layouts, then took a break to have coffee and a breakfast sandwich, after which I updated some project management records, finalized some copy after receiving approval for an ad from a happy client (yay!), and sent the copy for layout.

Then it was time for an hour of therapeutic yoga at my neighborhood studio to try to manage the pain from the pinched nerve I got a year and a half ago from a herniated disc in my neck from hunching over a laptop writing for 20 years. The pain sucks, but the yoga break is always nice.

Back to the “office,” where I reviewed some more layouts, worked on a PowerPoint presentation, and then a “lunch” break to watch my daily episode of X-Files—along with hundreds (dozens?) of other nerds like me going through all nine seasons leading up to the release of the new series in January.

Then more layouts and emails and edits, and finally, it’s time for me to go “home,” which means heading into my bedroom to read some Facebook posts and tweets and answer personal business email before dinner.

After that is when I start writing. I have a standing desk now so I don’t keep messing up my spine, and I keep the standing desk in my bedroom. It keeps the day job and the writing separate, and gets my butt out of the chair for a few hours. (I also have a treadmill under the standing desk, but am I using it? No. I’m standing on it.)

Normally, I write at least 1,000 words each evening, but tonight I remembered I had this blog post due; hence, my boring you with my day. When I’m finished, I have some giveaway prizes I need to box up and address to take to the post office tomorrow before the winners start to suspect that I’m a big, fat liar who just made up this giveaway. Then, hopefully, I’ll finally have time to write. Usually, writing wraps up around 1am, followed by decaf tea and a little snack (animal cookies) while I unwind with some television before bed.

Add in several breaks to feed cats (and clean up cat puke) and pet a demanding 19-year-old calico, and that’s it. That’s my life. Pretty much every day, except that on weekends, I don’t do the day job, so I have longer to write. Strangely, this usually does not amount to significantly more words.

Believe it or not, most of this—except for the neck pain, the cat puke, and the marketing—is actually how I prefer to spend my time. I like creating worlds and characters who have far more active lives than I do. Though I wouldn’t mind traveling more to some of the places I write about.

Some years I do a few conferences (many of my fellow writers are off in New York this week for the annual RWA), but I couldn’t afford any this year, which goes nicely with my social aversion and agoraphobia. Thus, here I am, sharing my oh-so-exciting day with you.

Was it everything you thought it would be?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A Funny Thing Happened...

Posted by: PG Forte
...on the way to writing this blog post. A couple of things, actually. First of all, it occurred to me that I just had a book release this week. I never thought I'd become quite so bl├íse (not to mention forgetful!) about something that's really quite exciting. But, in my defense, this is the paperback release of Fallen Embers, a book that came out in digital format in April.'s not like I haven't been talking about it already for the last three months. 

The print version is absolutely stunning, however. Seriously, it's on sale right now and I'd buy it just for the gorgeous cover. 

Another reason that the release slipped my mind is that I've been so preoccupied with finishing the next book in the series. I had a deadline. I missed it. 

However, I did finally finish. I turned it in last week and immediately started plotting the next book, what was supposed to be the last book in the series. Much as I hate saying good-bye to characters I've come to love, all good things must come to an end--right? And I have to admit to a small bit of excitement at the idea of moving on to something new. 

Yeah, that was the second funny thing that happened. The Neverending Series Syndrome struck again. Midway through my outlining, I realized I wasn't looking at one story, I was looking at two separate storylines and a fairly important subplot. What that ultimately meant was that the series that I thought would be a trilogy when I first started writing it, and which then mysteriously turned into five books...and then six books...has now become eight. 

At this point I will not be taking any bets against there being a ninth book lurking somewhere in my future. Anything is possible. And, like I said, I really do hate saying good-bye, so I'm not too broken up about getting to spend a little while longer in this particular world, but it is frustrating when you're stuck between a series that doesn't want to quit and readers who say they won't start reading it until all the books are done. 

I was shocked when I first heard that this whole waiting-to-start-until-you-can-read-it-all concept was an actual thing. Some of my fondest book-buying memories involve hanging out with my daughter in Barnes & Noble or Borders (oh, Borders, how I miss you!) on the night before each new Harry Potter book was released. I wouldn't have missed that for anything.

So I'm curious to know how prevalent this is. Do you wait until the final volume is released before you start reading a series?  Or do you rush out to grab each one as soon as they're available? 

There's a thin line between blood and madness.

Early Twelfth Century. When the half-civilized Conrad Quintano stumbles upon a stacked battle on an isolated beach, his first instinct is to walk away. What does he care if a bunch of worthless vampires kill each other? But a dying ember of chivalry compels him to rescue the pretty female vampire in distress-radically altering the course of his already cursed life.

Present Day. Marc Fischer continues his desperate search for Elise, while his newly single twin sister, Julie, is hooking up with everything that moves-at least that's how it looks to a jealous Armand. As the twins' unusual abilities grow stronger, Marc makes the mistake of trying to protect Julie from what he's learned about their true nature.

Meanwhile, Conrad's relationship with Georgia-the vampire he saved centuries ago-is about to alter yet again. They've each been keeping dangerous secrets. Secrets with the power to destroy the entire clan. Now, with Julie's life threatened, the Fischer-Quintano vampires will learn the most painful truth of all. No lie lies hidden forever.

Warning: Proceed with caution. Storm warnings and small craft advisory are in effect as romantic alliances form and re-form at random. Expect to encounter any or all of the following: old hippies, new friends, erroneous conclusions prematurely jumped to, and best-laid plans gone seriously awry-thanks in no small part to the actions of a certain impetuous Spaniard.

The print version of Fallen Embers is currently on sale at Samhain Publishing.  

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

What I learned as a writer from this year's Comic Con

Posted by: Angela Campbell
First of all, let me clarify I didn't actually go to Comic Con International, but thanks to Youtube and Entertainment Weekly and social media, I was able to keep up with my various fandoms, such as Doctor Who, Batman v. Superman, Supernatural, The Hunger Games, The Walking Dead, and Star Wars.

Please note: If you're a fan of the CW show Supernatural but haven't seen the last few episodes of the last season, the following will contain spoilers, so read ahead at your own risk.

My favorite moment from this year's Comic Con probably came from seeing the all-male panel from Supernatural being called out by a fan during the Q&A for its less-than-stellar treatment of female characters and their reacting to the question with nothing short of uncomfortable awkwardness. By the way, I call showrunner Jeremy Carver out for giving a complete b.s. answer as to why Charlie's death was necessary. Because this was his reply: "When we’re in the writers’ room, we have to go where the story takes us.”

You can watch for yourself below. The question happens around the 35-minute mark. For those who don't watch the show, Charlie Bradbury (played by Felicia Day) has been one of the show's only recurring female characters for years. She's a computer hacker who got the Winchester brothers (a pair of hot demon-hunting brothers) to binge watch Game of Thrones, became a demon hunter herself, and oh, she also happened to be a lesbian.

I actually thought long and hard about Jeremy's Carver's answer — "When we’re in the writers’ room, we have to go where the story takes us" — since, you know, I'm a writer myself. On one hand, yes, I totally get what he's trying to say. Sometimes when you're writing, you end up writing scenes and characters you didn't anticipate writing — they just happened somehow along the way, and by golly, they work, so you run with it.

On the other hand, I find it hard to believe in this instance that someone in that writer's room, or in that cast, didn't hold up their hands and say, "Whoa, guys. Is it really a good idea to kill a fan favorite female character who also happens to be the only substantial LGBTQ character in our show's history? I mean, she's really the only recurring female character on our show now, and you know, this scene has a very, very, very simple solution to avoid her death?"

For those of you who don't watch the show or need a refresher, Charlie was being chased by some really bad guys who wanted something she had and who would gladly kill her to retrieve it. The Winchester boys put her under the watch of Castiel, who happens to be an angel. That's right. AN ANGEL. Up to this point, Charlie was doing a kickass job of keeping herself safe, but for whatever reason, suddenly she needed the show's male heroes to step in and protect her. I mean, OK, if you must. *grumble, grumble*

But wait. It gets worse.

Charlie is a computer hacker who has generally been portrayed until this point as an intelligent woman, yet knowing her life is in grave danger, she ditched Castiel for some alone time at a very unsafe-looking motel and (gasp!) seemed shocked when those bad guys found her. Now, Charlie knows Castiel is an angel with all kinds of angel powers. In the show's history, Dean or Sam have prayed to Castiel when they needed help and, poof! He appeared to save them with his angelic superpowers. When that final scene with Charlie played live on television, all of the Supernatural fan base on Twitter lit up with "For the love of all that is holy, why isn't Charlie praying for Castiel's help right now?!?!?" Because she didn't. And she ended up brutally murdered and her body left in a bathtub for the show's heroes to find.

So, what I learned from this year's Comic Con wasn't really a new revelation. It was more of a reinforcement that I'm incredibly grateful to my critique partners and beta readers for keeping me from making stupid choices like that. Thank God for my editor because I know she, at least, would have slapped that manuscript back to me and said, "No. Hell, no, and FIX THIS. Thank you." Only a lot nicer, probably, because she's British.

Here's the thing. Anyone who is a fan of Supernatural with half a brain saw Charlie's death coming a season away. Her death was the one thing that would push Dean Winchester over the edge, and it became pretty clear mid-season that's where the writers were headed. Fans of the show are used to its bad treatment of women, but Charlie's death, for whatever reason, seems to be the last straw for many.

That's because in her final minutes, they made Charlie ridiculously stupid AND made it obvious her death was nothing more than a plot device since it could have so easily been avoided. That's what made me so mad about her departure. It wasn't so much that they killed off Charlie that angered me as a longtime fan of the show (I'm still more pained about Bobby and Kevin, to be honest), it's how they did it. And yes, I know, she will probably come back somehow — this is Supernatural, after all — but that's not the point.

I think a lot of genre fiction writers can probably sympathize with Jeremy Carver and his room full of writers. After all, Supernatural has been on TV for 10 years and counting. After a point, it's got to be hard to keep stories flowing. This situation highlights another possible dilemma for writers, especially of genre fiction. At what point do you make decisions based on the popularity of your characters over what you personally feel their story arcs should be? I haven't yet faced this dilemma in my writing, but I'm sure plenty of writers have.

So I ask the writers out there — if you had a popular series, would you write a scene for a character if you felt it moved the story along yet would probably anger your readers? We'll even pretend it would be a lot smarter than the Supernatural example shown above.

And I'd love for readers of genre books to weigh in, too. Have you ever read a book series that at some point angered you enough to curse the author? We've all been there, right?

With that said, I'll leave you with a link to my favorite panel from Comic Con — Women Who Kick Ass! Because female characters can and do kick ass on a daily basis, especially when they're written well.

Angela Campbell is the author of the psychic detectives series from Harper Impulse. Learn more about her and her books at
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