July 27, 2017

romances that stick

If you're reading this, I'm in Orlando at the Romance Writers of America National Conference. And at this moment, I'm probably schmoozing with my favorite authors who have decided we should now be best friends. Kidding. I'm probably breathing into a brown paper bag after seeing one of my idols across the room.

And I probably miss my cats. A lot.

But if I'm not breathing into a bag or having mimosas with my new BFFs, I'm probably attending a workshop and thinking about new love stories to tell. However it shakes out, I have romance on my mind. In the spirit of that, I wanted to share and celebrate some of the latest romance stories that have stuck with me after reading.

The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband by Julia Quinn
This is also one of my latest reads. As a devoted fan of "While You Were Sleeping," I was in love with this story before I'd even finished reading the blurb. The chemistry between Cecilia and Edward was palpable and delightful. It played up its tropes well: friends to lovers, big brother's best friend, a "marriage" of convenience. And Edward... I think I know what his red coat is made out of--book husband material. He's one of my favorite heroes in a long time.

To Have and to Hold by Lauren Layne
Cute, sexy, and funny. What more could you want in a romance novel? I'm obviously a fan of wedding planner stories (and ones where the planner falls for the client's big brother and vice versa) and this one didn't disappoint. This was my first book by Lauren Layne and it won't be my last.

New Attitude by Kathryn R Biel
A clever and laugh-out-loud continuation for a fabulous chick lit series. With a relatable character you instantly wanted to cheer for, an ex you wanted to punch, and a series of dates ranging from bad to ridiculous and ultimately smile-worthy, this book is filled with great characters. Fast-paced, fun, and full of heart. I was fortunate to beta-read this story, and I'm thrilled others now have a chance to discover this story for themselves.

Wicked Intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt
Intriguing characters with likewise engaging conflicts to overcome, this was a sexy read that set up a new series well. While our hero isn't always likable, he's compelling, and I slowly but surely softened my attitude toward him just like the heroine. I found the Jack-the-Ripper-esque mystery component an unexpected--but welcome--pairing for the other conflict of saving a home for children in need. With a cast of supporting characters I'd like to know better, I look forward to carrying on through the series to discover how each character will find his or her own happy ever after.

And, strictly speaking, these next two stories aren't romance stories, but they're craft books that have changed my game: Romancing the Beat: Story Structure for Romances Novels by Gwen Hayes and Write Naked: A Bestseller's Secrets to Writing Romance & Navigating the Path to Success by Jennifer Probst. Both of these books have made such a big, positive difference for me, I have to include them. And I can't thank either of them enough for writing such great books.

***Let's take this relationship to the next level. Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for day-to-day shenanigans. Subscribe to my newsletter for monthly updates and new release/sales notices AND score a free copy of one of my books as my thanks to you. You can also find me on Amazon and BookBub.***

July 25, 2017

orlando bound

I'm headed to Orlando. Today. For my first Romance Writers of America National Conference. Since I read about RWA and the RITAs in my favorite authors' bios in my favorite books, I knew that someday, when I grew up, I wanted to join.

So I did. Last July.

A week ago, I mentioned setting professional goals for myself upon turning thirty. Top of the list: network to build more relationships in the industry and my support system. First step: I joined RWA. If you're unfamiliar with RWA, it's the top professional organization for romance writers. I also joined the local chapter, Romance Authors of the Heartland.

The memberships in both have been a game changer for me. I read the Romance Writers Review, the organization's magazine, every month. I've participated in a couple of the courses and seminars. I lurk on the Professional Authors Network board. Locally, I attend every meeting I can, participate in monthly writing challenges, and--like with book signings--say yes more than my sweatpants and Netflix would like.

That brings me to my third goal: developing my craft. The groups are helping me grow as a writer and an author. I actually mean those as two separate words in this instance, though I often use them interchangeably. I mean that it's helping me develop my craft (the writer) and my person (the author). The more I learn, the more I realize I don't know and the more I want to learn. And with this week full of informative sessions, workshops, and networking ahead of me, I'm almost overwhelmed by how much I'll learn this week (and how much more I'll want to know).

In some ways, I feel like I'm brand new even after all these years.

On top of the workshops, this will be a huge networking opportunity. For the first time, I'll have a chance to meet friends I've known via emails and social media for years. I have a couple of professional meetings scheduled. I'm going to the RITA awards. I may actually see, in real life, women I've fan-girled over for years and years. It's going to be, like, a million degrees with ten-thousand percent humidity and I hope I've packed the right kind of clothing so I fit in and don't feel comfortable. (I've actually made charts and sketches to figure this part out, because I'm nuts.) Just like I used to worry about my look on the first day of school.

It's enough to make me a little nervous. And when I get nervous, I can get a little nutty. And obsessive.

So for the next few days, my primary goal will be to stay in the moment and enjoy it. To stay focused on my goals. To make it happen. To figure out what "it" means. To keep my shit together.

And through this, I need to remember how affirming it has been being part of RWA and RAH this year. So often being a writer is a lonely endeavor. And with these groups, I have friends who are on similar adventures to mine. They're in similar places in their writing careers. They experience a lot of the mania, fear, and need for approval that I do. I can't express how nice it is to have people who get where you are and what you're doing. To remind you that you're not alone.

Knowing I'll spend the next few days meeting and learning from people who get me will refill my cup, so to speak.

If you're headed to RWA too, give me a shout. Hope your experiences are everything you hope they'll be.

***Let's take this relationship to the next level. Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for day-to-day shenanigans. Subscribe to my newsletter for monthly updates and new release/sales notices AND score a free copy of one of my books as my thanks to you. You can also find me on Amazon and BookBub.***

July 20, 2017

see you in orlando?

I don't remember my first book. I'm not talking about as a writer. You never forget that experience. But I don't remember my first story as a reader and collector. Knowing my family, my first book probably came as a gift a baby shower or sometime during my mom's pregnancy. I also don't remember the first story I was read. Again, I can pretty much guarantee it happened within my first days. I was lucky to have big brothers, parents, grandparents, and aunts and uncles who were surely eager to tell me a story.

This all sounds very Forrest Gumpian. I know.

I've been fortunate to be a lifelong reader and book collector. Books have been one of the greatest influences in my life. They've defined me. I'm so lucky. Because I recognize not everyone has easy access to books or people to read them. That's why I'm proud to participate in the Romance Writers of America's "Readers for Life" Literacy Signing on Saturday, July 29, from 3-5 p.m. at Walt Disney World® Dolphin Resort, Pacific Hall. I'll be there along with 400 other authors to support ProLiteracy and the Florida Literacy Coalition.

Truly, I recognize and appreciate my privilege of being surrounded by books and words. That's why I have to do a little something to give back. Everyone deserves the joy of picking out a story at a book fair or from a store. Everyone deserves a chance to escape into a world of wizards, prairies, babysitting, or whatever might catch their fancy.

Everyone deserves a chance to find their voice to tell their story. Every person has a story to tell. True, fiction, or some kind of mixture. The best way to have that chance to tell it is to discover other stories and have the resources to do it.

I'm proud of RWA for passing on the love of literacy to others. And I'm honored to be part of this event.

If you find yourself in and around Orlando on July 29, I hope you'll stop by, say hello, and help support these wonderful organizations. Click here for more information on the event.

I'll have copies of Playing House and The Marrying Type available for purchase and signing. Remember, proceeds will go to support ProLiteracy and the Florida Literacy Coalition.

***Let's take this relationship to the next level. Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for day-to-day shenanigans. Subscribe to my newsletter for monthly updates and new release/sales notices.***

July 18, 2017

meeting readers

About a year ago, I made a few goals. I'd just turned thirty. I was feeling pretty introspective, retrospective, and whatever other -spectives are out there. Going into my thirties, I had a lot on my mind about who I am and what I want to make of this life.

That included my writing career. I thought about what I want from and to do with it. Then, I thought about what I needed to do to make it happen. It came down to three main goals:
  1. Network and build more relationships in the industry to broaden my support system.
  2. Develop my craft and storytelling skills.
  3. Interact with readers better; grow readership.
I'll come back to the first two points in other posts, but today let's cover one part of the third goal: reader interaction.

Like plenty of other authors, I lean toward introvert. I have fun spending time with friends. I love exploring and traveling. I like grabbing a drink at a bar and trying new restaurants. Of course, my default mode in these occasions includes people watching (and studying) rather than being a social butterfly. But after doing that, I need to log some serious downtime by myself at home with my cats and Roku.

(Perhaps worth nothing, this seems to be in stark contrast to my early childhood persona when I spent my afternoons at my neighborhood friends' house drinking tea with their moms during nap time. Or maybe that means I've always been more of a one-on-one kind of girl who is a bit of an old soul.)

To make myself step out of my comfort zone, and my house, I decided to do more author signings. They're a great way to have literal face-to-face connections with readers and to meet new people. Since publishing my debut novel, more than three years ago, I've only done one signing. It was just my book and me at the local independent book store. It was nerve-wracking and wonderful, but I held onto the first part and didn't do it again.

That was silly.

So I've made a point to say "yes" when I have an opportunity to participate in a signing. It's not like I've ever had people knocking down more door asking me to do them, but I've paid more attention to listings for upcoming multi-author events. And when I see them, I get in touch.

My first one back on the market was last November. The Ready to Read Romance signing in November was my first after re-releasing my books independently following my publisher's closing.

Here's my set-up:

I really didn't know what to expect, but I set with buttons, bookmarks, and a poster I designed and had printed. I signed up for Square so I could accept credit cards and took along copies of all of my books and novellas.

The day ended up being a lot of fun. I signed copies of my books, met new readers, and had some lovely conversations. I even found the world's cutest couple, who I want to write about (but don't have permission to do so publicly), but let's just say they gave me serious relationship goals.

In April, I participated in a smaller multi-author signing, the Winey Romantics. Held at a local vineyard, I had an author friend along as my "assistant" and a delicious bottle of chilled sangria-style wine to sip on all day. I'd also stepped up my display a bit.

And just Saturday I spent a couple hours at the Nebraska Book Festival signing at the Jane Pope Geske Heritage Room of Nebraska Authors table. It was hot and humid, but I tried out a new lipstick color and talked with other local authors and poets.

At each signing, I learn a little something I can carry forward to the next. Probably my biggest takeaway is to have fun with presentation. Back in November, I was lucky to have a scarf in my bag that perked up the table. In April, I introduced little figurines for signs and thematic ribbons to wrap books up in for taking books home.

I'm not saying it means more sales, but it does perk up the table. And, hey, how cute do these Queen of the League books look with this football field ribbon?

I have another signing coming up in two weeks. This will be my first out of state and the largest. I'll be at the Romance Writers of America's "Readers for Life" Autograph Signing on Saturday, July 29, from 3-5 p.m. at the Walt Disney World® Dolphin Resort, Pacific Hall. It's a thrill to be signing alongside so many other authors and even better to know proceeds will go to good causes.

I'm still figuring out how best to do signings, but each time, it feels a bit easier.

***Let's take this relationship to the next level. Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for day-to-day shenanigans. Subscribe to my newsletter for monthly updates and new release/sales notices.***