NJRW Conference 2014 Highlights: What Publishers Are Looking for Now

The Editors Panel at the New Jersey Romance Writers Conference, Oct. 18, 2014.

The Editors Panel at the New Jersey Romance Writers Conference, Oct. 18, 2014.

The New Jersey Romance Writers annual conference is a treat I look forward to every October, not just for the chance to mingle with fellow writers and attend craft workshops, but also because it’s an opportunity to get a feel for the pulse of the publishing industry.

Given its proximity to New York, the New Jersey conference traditionally draws a fair number of editors and agents. Our own Violet Femme Joanna Shupe did a phenomenal job coordinating these expert panels, which are always an excellent opportunity to learn what’s going on in the  New York publishing world.

More than one editor on the panel mentioned that she’s looking for more romantic suspense, while another said she’s loving cowboys and Amish romance. One panelist mentioned that shorter, grittier romances are a current trend. All in all, there seemed to be a general cooling off toward paranormal, although one editor still wanted to see young adult paranormals.

As an historical writer, I was thrilled to hear editorial assistant Nicole Fisher say Avon would never give up on historicals.

Lauren McKenna, executive editor & editorial director at Gallery/Pocket books, reiterated her love of the genre, telling writers in the audience that what she’s looking for in historical submissions is something she hasn’t seen before.

The editors also touched on how digital publishing’s fast turnaround allows a new author to release books and build a readership faster than with print alone. They also talked about the importance of signing writers who are willing to work with their editors to make their books the best they can be.

During their panel discussion following the editors forum, agents stressed that  authors, both published and unpublished, should have an online platform and be active on social media because that helps the agents sell their books.

Earlier in the conference, I slipped into the standing-room-only special PRO presentation, “Taking Your Writing to the Next Level,” given by New York Times bestselling author Madeline Hunter. She gave pre-published authors tips on pacing and avoiding that dreaded saggy middle. She also left them with the advice: “Don’t let the rules of writing rule you.”

The Violet Femmes threw a “Ditch the Heels” evening social on the first night of the conference, which turned out to be a great success. Femme Jaye Marie Rome blogged about the bash last week.

Another highlight of the conference for me was the Book Fair. It was my first book signing and it was such fun to meet and talk with readers. I wasn’t sure what to hand out to people who stopped by my table but I eventually settled on candy, custom matches and a post card with a link to an excerpt of my latest release.

At my first-ever book signing and the "swag" on the left.

At my first-ever book signing and the “swag” on the left.

People who signed up for my mailing list had a chance to win a copy of Compromising Willa and a carton of custom tea — the heroine of the book blends custom teas so I thought that would be a fun promotional tie in.

Fellow femme RoseAnn DeFranco gets busy at the NJRW book signing.

Fellow Femme RoseAnn DeFranco gets busy at the NJRW book signing.

On the final evening, the Femmes went out for dinner at Bonefish Grill.

We caught up with each other, gossiped about the industry, and shared details of what we’re currently working on. These gatherings are always special because it’s rare for us all to be in one place at the same time.

We definitely made the most of it!

A rare opportunity for the Femmes to get together.

A rare opportunity for the Femmes to get together.

Having fun at dinner with fellow Femme Michele Mannon.

Having fun at dinner with fellow Femme Michele Mannon.

On Sunday, we all headed home, but the aftereffects of the conference lingered. I came home super motivated to jump back into my current work in progress. In that way, the NJRW conference is the gift that keeps on giving.

I can’t wait until next year!

Best,
Diana

You can find me at:

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Spy Fall (final) 300 @ 72 dpi low resEarl-1-200x300Willa-1600px-200x300Bella-1600px-200x300Charlotte-1600px-200x300

 

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Get Wicked With Entangled Blog Hop!

“Trick or Treat” OR “Trunk or Treat” – Which do you prefer?

Welcome to the Get Wicked With Entangled Blog Hop! Stop by each blog to check out their favorite Halloween stories and enter to win their giveaways.

For this stop, I’m giving away a $5 Amazon gift card and a copy of my soon-to-be released historical romance, A SPY UNMASKED, the first book In The Crown’s Secret Service Series. The winner will receive an ebook copy on the date of its release on November 10, 2014.

Halloween Blog Hop

 

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For the first time this year, my town hosted trunk or treat for the children. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Trunk or treat is very different from the way I grew up celebrating Halloween. We went door to door from block to block repeating the mantra “trick or treat” until our feet ached and our pillow cases were bursting with as much candy as we could carry home.

Trunk or treat is different. Families volunteer to decorate their cars with flashing orange lights, cobwebs, and big hairy spiders. The cars were parked in a big circle, and children walked around from car to car and filled their bags with candy. It’s an alternative to the old-fashioned Halloween in a much more concentrated setting where all the local parents can keep a watchful eye over the children. My kids had a great time. They saw their friends in one place—something they wouldn’t get to do if they walked around each of their separate neighborhoods.

But here’s the catch—they will still trick or treat this Friday on Halloween. So they get twice the candy. Fun for the kids? I’m still undecided.

So what do you think? Do you prefer “trick or treating” or “trunk or treating?” Please leave a comment and enter to win a $5 Amazon gift card and an ebook copy of A Spy Unmasked on its November 10, 2014 release day, then HOP to the rest of the participating blogs. Good luck!

A SPY UNMASKED

 Coming November 10, 2104 from Entangled (Cover is Top Secret!)

The mission did not go quite as Robert Ware—known in society as the new Earl of Kirkland–planned. A spy in the service of His Majesty, Robert is a “guest” at a masquerade party as he retrieves vital information for a murder investigation. Until he’s quite unexpectedly interrupted by an exquisite, masked woman with glittering green eyes. And a pistol she has cocked and aimed right at him…

Lady Sophia Merrill has defiantly taken up justice’s shining sword, determined to expose the brigand who murdered her eccentric but brilliant father, and stole his latest invention. Now she must masquerade as Robert’s betrothed in order to infiltrate the Inventor’s Society and find the killer. But the undeniable potent attraction between them not only imperils the investigation, but Sophia’s reputation… and both of their lives.

Happy Halloween!

Tina Gabrielle

Enter to win!

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HOP to the rest of the blogs!

 

You can find me at:

 www.tinagabrielle.com

 http://twitter.com/tinagabrielle

 https://www.facebook.com/TinaGabrielle

In The Barrister's Bed InTheBarristersChambers LADYOFSCANDAL Cover Original Artwork A Perfect Scandal

Evening Social

This past weekend, all eight of us got to hang out together at the annual New Jersey Romance Writers Conference. Since our little group was formed three years ago at this event, we decided to commemorate the occasion with a little soiree, which we called The Violet Femmes’ Ditch the Heels Evening Social.

Diana reserved a suite, and all of us took on some part of the preparations, including (lots of) wine, chocolate, snacks, and soft drinks. Joanna set up a Facebook invitation. JB designed a small invitation that we circulated to everyone we came in contact with at the conference. We hung violet party decorations, poured the wine, plated the snacks, and waited for our guests to arrive after the Put Your Heart in a Book and Golden Leaf Awards ceremony.

We really had no idea how many people were going to show up. Some had RSVP’d online, but there was word-of-mouth and onsite information available, too. Did we have enough wine and snacks? What if nobody showed?

We certainly needn’t have worried about the latter. Here are some pictures of our gathering:

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JB caught up with Romantic Suspense Author Mary Burton

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Jaye and Joanna

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Shirley Hailstock makes her point.

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Michele, Tina and guest

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Elizabeth John and Maria have a laugh

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Joanna and Amy DeLuca

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We had a wonderful time visiting with all of our guests, and we could have gone on all night. However, we had put a ten o’clock end time on the invitation, since we wanted to be considerate of the people staying in the rooms adjacent to our suite. As it turned out, that was a smart move. A couple of British Airways pilots (with sexy accents!) were staying next door before flying back out in the morning. Those pilots needed their sleep. We didn’t want them crashing any planes.

Of course we hoped to get something out of hosting the party, although we didn’t want it to be an occasion to plug our own books. Mostly, we wanted to meet other authors, hang out with old friends, and raise the visibility of our blog. Sharing time with other authors, swapping stories and offering up support is what makes the romance community so unique. Screenwriter Michael Hauge has remarked that there is no other writing community that is as generous with our knowledge as romance writers, and we Femmes agree.

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Were you able to attend our party? Give us a shout-out and let us know!

 

Hugs,

Jaye

 

Noncompete Clauses in Publishing Contracts – What precisely is an author agreeing to?

The very first time I read a noncompete clause in a friend’s publishing contract, I had to reread it—not just twice like we all should—but a few times. What exactly do publishers want and what are authors agreeing to? How important is this clause to authors anyway?

tug of war

Noncompete clauses are also called competing works clauses or conflicting publication clauses. In simple terms, noncompete clauses restrict the right of an author to write or publish another book that is similar to and would unfairly compete with the sold book. Almost all publishing contracts include a version of this clause, and publishers are well within their rights to have the exclusive right to the book the author has entered into a contract with them. But the clause must be fair and authors should check that the clause is not overly restrictive.

For example, if an author writes romantic suspense and sells it to Publisher X and there is a noncompete clause in the contract for eighteen months prior to or after publication of the work, the author may not publish another romantic suspense to Publisher Y until the eighteen months are over. With the increasing number of hybrid authors who are both traditionally publishing and self-publishing, the noncompete clause can be overly restrictive and tie up an author for months or even years.

Some publishers are progressive and they realize that a prolific author who wishes to traditionally publish and self-publish can only help sales, not hurt them, and they are more lenient with the noncompete clauses. Others may not be as progressive. Publishers are definitely entitled to have the exclusive right to the author’s book, but at the same time, the noncompete clauses shouldn’t be overly binding.

So how can an author negotiate overly binding noncompete clause? Here are some concrete examples.

Limit the definition of “compete”

Try to replace the language that says “might” interfere with sales and use “will” interfere with sales instead. The publisher is overreaching here. The publisher’s rights are still protected with the word “will” rather than “might.”

Limit the definition of “competing work”

Try to limit the definition of “competing work” in your contract. The more specific the language of “competing work,” the better for the author. For example, you can attempt to limit the clause to “a work with similar characters or title as the contracted work” or “a series military romance with Navy Seals.” This allows the author to publish or self-publish a long contemporary romance with firefighters and not violate the clause. The different genre wouldn’t be competing with the military romance novel and would free the author to make more income in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

Limit the publisher’s time in a noncompete clause

Try to limit the publisher’s time in a noncompete clause. A contract shouldn’t give a publisher an unlimited time period. That’s overreaching and not necessary to protect the publisher. Examples of unreasonable time periods are: “as long as the work remains in print or electronically,” and “for the term of the copyright of the work.” Yikes! These sound bad, don’t they?

In a perfect world, the author and publisher will work together to have a fair noncompete clause for today’s constantly changing marketplace.

So have you ever heard of another way to effectively negotiate any type of contract? What’s your best tip? I’d love to hear your views, so please share!

Tina Gabrielle

A SPY UNMASKED – Coming November 10, 2014 from Entangled!

You can find me at:

 www.tinagabrielle.com

 http://twitter.com/tinagabrielle

 https://www.facebook.com/TinaGabrielle

In The Barrister's Bed InTheBarristersChambers Original Artwork A Perfect Scandal LADYOFSCANDAL Cover

Dealing with the Walking Dead

I’m going to put this out there. I am not a nice person. I can be pretty ruthless. When I no longer have use for someone, I have no problem throwing him out.

Sherlock idiot

Giphy.com

 

If I don’t like something that happens, I can easily tuck it away so that I forget it ever occurred. And if somebody says something that doesn’t make sense, I readily say “That’s stupid!”

Such is the life of a writer.

Oh, you thought I was talking about real life? Did you forget this is a blog about writing? Silly!

Let me first say, I’m a Capricorn. We Capricorns are known for being loyal to a fault…until you cross us. Still, I’m inordinately proud of the progress I’ve made in being able to disassociate myself from something that is no longer working in my manuscript. It isn’t easy. Writers become attached to their words in ways that are incomprehensible to most people.

I’m sure I’m not the first person to say this. Writing a book is like pregnancy, and can take just as long (or longer!). Sometimes, it can be just as painful. There’s this surge of joy when you come up with a new idea for a story, much like the feeling you get when you first discover you are pregnant. Your mind starts racing, you picture scenes and plotlines, characters and settings, you decorate and embellish the story in your mind’s eye just as you plan out the nursery for your new bundle of joy.

As you go through your book “pregnancy”, your baby gives you growing pains. Suddenly, a scene isn’t working and you have the worst case of indigestion. What do you do?

Your first course of action is to medicate with a handful of M&M’s, which are always at hand for any serious writer. M&M’s make everything better, at least temporarily. Then, you attack the offending scene with gusto, working and reworking it until it makes sense. Unfortunately, sometimes the reworking serves only to suck the life out of the scene completely. If that is the case, you chop it out. Cut off its head. Put it in solitary confinement in a file marked “Save for later” that you hopefully will remember you created when you realize that the scene actually DOES work, just not where you had it. Maybe it belongs in a different story entirely. Maybe it will never get used. Still, it’s there, waiting for that moment when you recognize its value.

Yet for every discomfort, for every pang you get as your “baby” grows, there is a moment of sheer joy, that feeling a mother gets when she holds her child for the first time. It’s that thrill you get when you laugh out loud when you’re writing a scene. The tear you get in your eye when everything seems hopeless for your characters’ happily ever after. The rush you get at the possibilities for your story’s success, because you know, you just KNOW, you got it right.

Here’s the thing. Writing is hard. It’s a solitary job with lots of rejection. Life often gets in the way. Hardly anybody writes their first book and sells a million copies of it. Practice makes perfect…or at least, perfect enough that an editor wants to buy it.

And here’s another truth…if you stop writing, you get rusty. I’m learning that firsthand these days. My writing has hit a dry patch. My baby has stopped growing, and there’s that fear of miscarriage, that the manuscript I’m working on will never reach its full potential. What I find, though, whenever I return to the story, is that it is just sleeping. Sometimes it takes a little while to wake it up, but eventually, it springs back to life.

I never, ever discard anything I write. That isn’t ego talking. It’s common sense, and yes, attachment. Just as I couldn’t discard one of my own children, so I couldn’t discard even a paragraph that isn’t working out the way I want it to. At every conference I’ve ever attended, one of the key speakers has referred to that first offending manuscript, the one that didn’t sell, that nobody wanted, that sits in a drawer at home as a reminder of how far the author has come. Because if you keep writing, you will get better at it. Your first book isn’t going to be as good as your fifth, or even your second.

I have a huge graveyard of unused writing, waiting to be resurrected when its usefulness is clear. It will be the Zombie Apocalypse of (Jaye Marie) Rome.

*********

How do you deal with wayward words?

 

Jaye

 

 

 

(Photo)journaling as inspiration

When I was around thirteen years old, like many teenagers, I went through a period of journal writing. I wasn’t very good at it. I never knew quite what to write, and it went very quickly from something I thought of as fun, to something I considered a chore. If I didn’t write in my journal at least every other night, I considered I was failing at journaling.

I guess I felt like I didn’t have much to say. I wasn’t a typical angst-ridden teen. I had a great life, and I knew it. My biggest complaint was having to do housework on the weekends. I didn’t really like boys at that point, thanks to having two relentless older brothers who teased me mercilessly. Why would I voluntarily add another boy into the mix?

Drawing came much easier to me than writing words. I spent hours in my room, listening to my stereo, sprawled out on the floor with sketchbooks and pencils.

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Mostly I used pictures in books or on album covers as my inspiration. I drew Dennis DeYoung, Linda Ronstadt, George Michael, Frank Sinatra. I copied an album cover onto the back of my brother’s denim jacket, and painted it (New Riders of the Purple Sage). I drew my feet, my hands, my dog, a self-portrait.

Drawing is a great hobby for a writer. It forces you to really observe. I soon went from drawing in my room, to getting outside and drawing from nature. It’s amazing what you see when you lie on your stomach in the grass. There’s a whole new world down there. Once I turned seventeen and got my driver’s license, I headed down to the beach, sketching everything from lighthouses, to fishermen baiting hooks, to windsurfers preparing to hop on their boards. The Jersey Shore has its own culture, and it has always fascinated me.

It was about that time that I became friends with a guy I worked with. Tony Gonzalez was (and still is) a photographer (see http://tonygonzalezartist.com), and I soon added photography to my list of journaling tools. Tony and I would head down to Long Branch and shoot under the boardwalks, using black and white film.

 

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I love the nuances in grey scale. It makes the subject’s details obvious to the eye, adding light and shade, highlight and depth, texture and mood. Take, for example, this photo of an ant on a daisy.

 

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The color photo’s story is cheerful, a happy little ant tooling along on a daisy stem, the yellow of the daisy’s center like a ray of sunshine. The black and white photo, however, tells a different story. The wilted flower now looks harshly dead, and the ant appears more sinister. It’s as if he sucked the life out of the flower, and is marching on to attack his next victim.

Whoever said “A picture is worth a thousand words” was a wise person, indeed. Not only do my photos remind me of details upon which I can draw in my writing, they are also the jumping-off points for stories. Take this photo of the Duomo in Milan.

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If you don’t know the Duomo, it is the second largest Catholic cathedral in the world, and it took nearly four hundred years to complete. That last fact, alone, is fodder for a writer. Imagine the lives of the cathedral builders, artisans, craftspeople! In fact, Ken Follett did, in his amazing novel, The Pillars of the Earth.

I love to take photos of people, as well as places. Aren’t you just dying to know the story behind this violin player on the streets of Rome? Or to make one up for him?002

 

Is he really a poor man looking to make a few euros to get him through the day? Or is he laughing behind that big smile, rolling in dough and just enjoying his retirement, playing a part? Is he married? How many children does he have? Grandchildren? What is his house like? Since my stories always start from the human element, often my photos give me ideas for stories I want to write in the future.

Whenever I travel, my camera goes with me, along with a little notebook to record details about certain photos, or tactile experiences. What was the air like on that day when the mist hung over the water? Did my skin taste salty after walking in the fog at the shore? Did I twist my ankle walking down that winding cobblestone road in Orvieto? How cool was it to use only a golf cart for transportation in Costa Rica?

If my pictures are good enough, every little detail of my experiences, including tactile ones, can be recorded with a click of a button, to use at a later date when I’m back in the confines of my office, working on my next story. They help flesh out the people, places and things. For me, characters and settings rich in details are what make a story worth reading.

Do you journal, with words or pictures? What do you get out of it? Dish with me.  🙂

Hugs,

Jaye

 

On Milestones

Milestone: A significant event or point in development

A few weeks ago, I celebrated a milestone birthday. I met this particular milestone with less than my usual enthusiasm, and it got me thinking.

I’ve had many milestones in my life, from relationships, to career opportunities, to giving birth, and even getting published. How have those events changed me and influenced the person I’ve become? How have they made me feel about myself, and how have they changed the way others view me?

Then, of course, being a writer, I imposed those questions upon the poor, unsuspecting characters in my books. Suckers!

Milestones tend to be thought of as positive, life-changing events that give a person the impetus to be bigger, better, stronger, richer (both monetarily, and in their souls). I love when an action or reaction to a milestone is different than what you would expect it to be.

Heroine #1 earns her college degree after years of putting herself through school, and now has the world at her fingertips! The possibilities are endless! The only way to go is up! Her optimism knows no bounds! She lives in a world of exclamation points!

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Traditions in Life and Writing

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about traditions and how my family traditions have changed over the years. Similarly the pathway to publication has evolved.

As a child, the holiday season was filled with traditions surrounding food and family gatherings. My mother is a baker and a chef beyond compare. Every holiday season, the women in the family – Aunts and cousins – would gather and bake. My Great Grandmother’s Italian Cookie Recipes all started with 5 lbs. of flour. That is a LOT of cookies! My contribution to these cookie baking nights was the famous and often shared story of the time I knocked over the 5 lb. bag of flour when I was five. A true indication of my love for all things domestic to come!

The Traditonal Family Italian Cookies

The Traditional Family Italian Cookies

My favorite family memories as a child were that of my family – My mom, dad and brother. We were together always, and there was a lot of laughter in our home. Christmas Eve, we would make the rounds, first on my father’s side of the family for dinner – family and food, then to my Great Grandmother’s house for more family and food. We were LARGE in numbers back then. I only remember that it was fun…and at times we drove through snowstorms to get there. Have I mentioned I grew up in Buffalo where A White Christmas was a given? The snow did not stop us from seeing family, nor from missing Midnight Mass. Christmas Day was filled with more family and food. Mainly I remember a long day filled of playing with my cousins. Those were beautiful Camelot-like days.
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Gift Ideas for Writers

If you’re like me, you’re still scrambling for holiday gifts. Need ideas for that special wordsmith in your life? Or are you a writer and you need to buy yourself a little something for under the tree? Here are a few fun things I’ve found.

Mugs

Nearly every writer drinks coffee or tea to keep the brain juices flowing. And when I say “drink,” I mean CONSUME MASSIVE QUANTITIES OF. If you know a writer, these make great gifts:

General Purpose Mug

Buy here.

For the History Lover

Buy here.
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Alpha or Beta…How Do You Like Your Hero?

Years ago, when I first started reading romance, every hero was an alpha male, and nearly every heroine was a helpless ingénue. He was usually in his thirties. She was between the ages of 18 and 22. He was rich, successful, and being with him would solve all of her financial worries. She was an innocent, often orphaned or raised by a grandparent, and, if not poor, she worked for a living as a nurse, secretary or teacher. Her one dream in life was to marry a rich man and never have to worry about money again.

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You’d think that was in the 1950’s, but it was actually in the 1970’s. The era of The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family, when everything seemed just a little simplistic.
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