Lend Margie a Hand, Please!

In completely unexpected but totally exciting news, Kobo Writing Life selected Midnight Feast as one of its Ten Best Romance Covers of 2017.


This is already an amazing honor, but they’re holding voting across three categories to pick the best cover of the year. The competition is fierce in romance. Obviously we’re biased, but Margie’s sassy silhouette makes for one distinctive cover, so if you’ve got a moment, we’d love it if you’d hop over there and cast a ballot for Midnight Feast. Voting ends next Thursday. Yup, that’s right—on Thanksgiving. How auspicious is that? So vote early and often!

If you haven’t picked Midnight Feast up yet, it’s only 99 cents and available at AmazoniBooksB&NKobo, and Google PlayDear Author labeled it a recommended read, SmexyBooks gave it an A, and All About Romance called it “intensely emotional” and “carefully crafted.”


Odds and Ends

  • I wrote a piece for the Perspectives blog at Open Ink Press about time, selfishness, and creativity.  A tiny taste: “In my more honest moments, I have come to suspect I like writing because it is selfish, because it is useless. So much of my day is about what I can do, what I can make. My writing isn’t—which is to say so far it hasn’t been—useful. This is extra. This is different. The beauty in this comes from what it is not.” You can read the whole thing here.
  • This is one of those things that doesn’t make a huge difference to readers, but I’m now represented by Deidre Knight at The Knight Agency. She’s lovely and excited about my writing, and I’m thrilled to be working with her. If you’re one of the few, the proud, the people who like my contemporaries, I’m working on new series. (Yay!) I won’t have any concrete news for a while, but the wheels are turning and all that.
  • I’m so excited about the trailer for Hidden Figures, and I know I’m doing branding right since approximately a dozen people either emailed or Tweeted to me about it. Genevieve and I are currently writing Star Crossed (Bev and Geri’s book); we’ll have news soon on our mailing list about it and…other things.
  • If you’re have a manuscript sitting around and need something to do with it, my local RWA chapter’s contest just opened. I can verify that the final round judges are impressive. Go forth and enter!

The Call

It wasn’t a call at all, actually. It was an email. But you know what I mean: the moment you get an offer from a publisher. The moment you start dreaming of long before you finish writing a book and which haunts you for years, until you begin to doubt that it ever will come true.

Mine came a couple of weeks ago.

Let’s rewind. I started writing fiction during National Novel Writing Month in 2011. My first effort, Together is Enough, is a primal scream about graduate school and the politics of higher ed wrapped in a romance novel. It’s basically a hot mess.

Despite the fact that Together is Enough is cliched, badly plotted, and not infrequently hilarious when it shouldn’t be, I enjoyed the writing. A lot. After a lifetime of reading fiction — obsessively, compulsively, voraciously — I was creating it.

It was hard, yo. And I had a lot to learn. Oh did I have a lot to learn! Continue reading

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

I’m at that point in The Easy Part when I have to break the central couple up and seriously, I hate doing this. Someday I’m going to write a book where the central couple don’t get together until the very end just so that I can avoid writing painful scenes like the one I’m about to attempt.

For NaNoWriMo, I’m at 33,554 words, with 56,906 total in the manuscript. Let the bridge burning begin!

(Also, it isn’t on their blog but I think I can write about it: Brave in Heart finaled in the 2012 Novellas Need Love Too contest, sponsored by the Celtic Hearts Romance Writers. Yay!)

Happy Happy Joy Joy

The first draft of Brave in Heart is complete. Here is a teensy-weensy teaser of the conclusion. Aren’t “the end” the most beautiful words in the English language?

Brave in Heart has been entered in the Novellas Need Love Too contests. Because, yes, I have a a contest entering problem. But also, I crave feedback deep in my soul.

I’d like to finish The Easy Part during NaNoWriMo — and yes, I know it’s not technically within the rules to to finish something you’ve already started, but oh well — and then start the second book in the Dauntless Love series in December.

Writing life is good.

Still More Contest Updates

I didn’t final in the 2012 Indiana Golden Opportunity but the comments I received on Together is Enough are so ridiculously helpful that I can’t find it in myself to feel anything other than excited. One of the judges actually liked it quite a bit. The other thought it was promising but very rough. Both provided incredibly constructive notes on both the manuscript — the first 50 pages of it! — and on the scoresheets.

As I’ve said before, it’s difficult to feel anything other than happy about the feedback I’ve received: I haven’t been writing for very long, I sent the manuscript out for contests before it was ready for primetime, and I entered contests without any real hope of finaling. I was primarily interested in (anonymous) feedback and thus I achieved my objective.

Between the judges’ comments and the feedback I’ve received from friends, I actually know what to do now to make Together is Enough better. Yay! Now I have to find the time to do it, which will be difficult because I haven’t done any real writing on my in-progress manuscripts in about a month because of dissertation work and family commitments. (Yikes.)

The only real question is what to do with with Together is Enough once I’ve revised it. I do want to resubmit to the editor from the Golden Claddagh. Beyond that, to Golden Heart or not to Golden Heart, that is the question.

Because you don’t get in-depth feedback from the Golden Heart, just numbers, there’s no real upside if you don’t final. On the incredibly off chance that you do final, however, it’s the sort of thing that can have a real impact on your career. Much more so than any other contest.

On the flip side, it’s an expensive contest and I would have to join RWA. (I’d been planning to do so, but had thought I might put it off until next year, when I hope to have three manuscripts completed and plan to begin querying agents.)

While I have a better idea about how to revise Together is Enough, part of me still feels like it’s a very personal, very limited project. Brave in Heart and The Easy Part have benefited from what I’ve learned from the process of completing a manuscript, they’re more commercial, and I think they may be better. They’re also unfinished and no one else has seen them at all. They’re definitely not Golden Heart-ready.

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Contest Updates

It was a good news/not-so-good news kind of a day. First, Together is Enough placed second in the contemporary category of the 2012 Golden Claddagh. While I didn’t get a request for a full manuscript, I did get some very helpful feedback from an industry insider. I have some concerns about how likeable — or more specifically, how relatable — the heroine is. Also, the hero needs a better secondary story-line. Finally, the middle of the manuscript is a mess. (Not that the editor mentioned that, because she didn’t see the full thing; I just know it is.)

The not-so-good news is that I didn’t final in The Rebecca. I don’t have the commentary back yet, but I’m hopeful that there will be good notes. I’m not devastated or surprised in the least.

Overall, I feel very happy about both results. I’ve been writing fiction for about 10 months now. I have one project drafted and two substantially drafted. While I have a long way to go, there are things about my writing to which readers respond positively. I have so much to learn, but I feel good about my progress.

I’m not sure how to move forward, however. I still need to finish my two works in progress, but in terms of revision, I don’t know what to do next with Together is Enough. While there are identifiable problems with it (see above), I think the biggest issue may be that it’s too insider-y. Even if it was written perfectly, which it obviously isn’t, I don’t know if it has much commercial appeal. Whereas my current projects seem more universal. I need to think about it some more, but given the constraints on my fiction writing time, there may be other, better uses of my time.

In other news, I desperately need to find critique partners and I haven’t the slightest idea how to do so.


The novella has a title now: Brave in Heart. It’s a phrase from the poem “From Newport to Rome,” which first appeared in Julia Ward Howe’s collection Passion-flowers (1854). I need one more good week of writing to get it done. With dissertation demands, and a number of contest announcements approaching, I’m jittery and distracted and not at all productive. Nailing down a title felt good, however, so here’s hoping that the third act follows soon.

Final, Final, Final

I’m shocked and astonished and overwhelmed to share with you that my contemporary, Together is Enough, is a 2012 Golden Claddagh finalist! You can read about the entire thing here if you want.

I couldn’t have been more surprised to get the email. But I’ve discovered that this is where the real work begins. My first-round judges gave such generous, insightful, and constructive comments. They taught me so much about this manuscript and the writing process in general. I feel like a lifetime of reading fiction was surprisingly poor preparation for writing it. I have so much to learn that it’s humbling.

Now I’m deep in revisions to resubmit for the final round. I’m focusing on the three P’s: pacing, plot, and passive writing.

When we get bad feedback or when we’re rejected, we tell ourselves that it’s only one person’s opinion, that we learn from critique (whether the comments are warranted or not), and that at some level, we write not for accolades or appreciation but because there are things within us that just need to be expressed. If that commentary is true when we do poorly, it’s also true when we do well.

I couldn’t be more excited to have some positive feedback (tempered with much, much helpful criticism), but more than that, I know that I have a long way to go.

Please Like Me!

So once I finished that first manuscript, like that very instant, I proofread the first 30 pages. I walked away, I made some tea, and then I proofread them again. Then I submitted it in the Golden Claddagh.

Okay now, don’t laugh. I never claimed to be smart or insightful. Musings. Aspiring writer. Remember?

When I read back over my manuscript a few weeks later, it was clear what an enormous mistake that was. First because I missed errors and second because it simply wasn’t ready, at all.

After my initial attempts at editing, though, I entered it in two more contests: The Rebecca and the Indiana Golden Opportunity. What can I say? It turns out that I’m a contest junkie.

Look, I have no illusions about winning. I feel my inadequacy deep in my bones. But I want some feedback, specifically from people who don’t know and therefore love me and from people who know a thing or two about the romance genre.

In retrospect, The Maggie might have been a better choice than The Rebecca because it provides more feedback but thems the breaks.

From my perspective, and I haven’t received any feedback yet so this the rosy side, contests can serve several functions. Prestige if you win. Important readers if you final. Impartial feedback. A vortex that consumes time and money. I have no illusions about the first two and I’d like to avoid the last. So for this calendar year, I think I’m done with contests. The Golden Heart isn’t for me this go round.*

I know that when I get tough reader’s reports, I’m going to feel a little differently. But you can’t learn from what you don’t do. So if you go into them with realistic expectations, I think — I hope — that contests can enrich an aspiring writer’s journey.

* Though I reserve the right to change my mind if I final in any of the three that I’ve entered. Hey, we all have those dreams!