Recap of RWA 2014

RWA photo

Last week, I attended Romance Writer of America’s (RWA) conference in San Antonio, TX. It wasn’t my first National conference and it certainly won’t be my last. For the most part, writing is a solitary job. Authors keep their characters and their stories in their head, sharing with critique partners and beta readers. Attending a conference with approximately 2,000 other writers, agents, and editors is an amazing and inspiring opportunity to break out of that shell and network.

Here’s a highlight from a few of the fabulous workshops I attended:

I was surprised and excited by the number of workshops geared towards the romantic suspense genre. There was one on Guns for Writers where I learned the different classifications of guns and the correct stance for holding a gun. There was another for Writing a Believable Police Hero, Practical Self Defense (which, sadly, I missed), and Homicide Investigation 101. In case you didn’t guess, the hero in my WIP is a cop.

Cindy Ratzlaff gave an engaging talk about social book marketing strategy. Catch the Animoto video I created at the end. Totally cool!

Kristan Higgins, Alyssa Day, and Elizabeth Hoyt gave a fun workshop on Beyond the Alpha Male and Spunky Heroine. They challenged us to get deep into our hero’s character, including things such as knowing their weaknesses, how they’ve suffered, and deepest fears. What don’t they want the heroine to know?

For the heroine, there is a fine line between a strong heroine and a bitch. Be careful not to make her too bitchy and unlikeable, unless, of course, that’s your intent. What are her ambitions and desires that define her? What is her low point and why is the hero the worst person for her? How does he bring her back to that low point? How does she find her own inner strength to overcome it?

“Writers today must be both a writer and an entrepreneur.”Sylvia Day

“Each happy ending is a brand new beginning.”Karen Rose

Random highlights

  • Riverwalk boat tour with Michele Mannon
  • Meeting Joan Johnston in the elevator and gaining some interesting career advice
  • Meeting Nora Roberts and getting my own signed copy of her RITA® nominated book, Whiskey Beach
  • Signing at my first RWA Literacy signing
  • Cheering my fellow NJRW chapter mates, Nancy Herkness, Beth Ciotta, and Marnee Bailey on at the RITA® and Golden Heart® award ceremony
  • Books – I got way more books than I intended. Look for a giveaway soon on my author Facebook Page (Maria K Alexander – Author)
  • Getting my headshot taken at the trade show
  • Cowboys – you’ll have to watch the video link below for details
  • Meeting new friends, including another early riser and co-swag queen, Anabelle Bryant
  • Meeting wonderful Wild Rose Press authors, including editor and freelance designer, Diana Carlile, who designed the cover art for Untangle My Heart
  • Meeting Julie James, whose FBI/US Attorney series covers inspired Untangle My Heart. I even gave her a bookmark!

While I’m back to the grind and the day job today, I’m re-energized to jump back into edits for Forever In My Heart and my WIP.

Check out the video below which I made with pictures from the conference.




Final Thoughts RWA 2013

My apologies for highjacking RoseAnn’s week… but I wanted to wrap up my RWA 2013 posts. As Jaye so kindly posted, I was fortunate enough to win the 2013 Golden Heart® for Best Historical manuscript.

I still can’t quite believe it.

But I guess it happened because I have the video of the speech to prove it:

Thanks to Michele Mannon for the recording.

I honestly didn’t think I had a shot at winning, which was fine. To be nominated was a thrill and a half. I never expected to ever get THAT, let alone a win. This manuscript was a challenge from the word “go” and a bit of a different tone than what I normally write. I questioned it every step of the way. So I feel very humbled by the recognition.

My amazing critique partners went one step further. Little did I know that they were all colluding to present me with the most amazing memento that any RWA conference attendee could ever hope for. Michele and Diana ran around the conference with the matte from a frame and gathered signatures on it. These range from Kristan Higgins, Jill Shalvis, Sabrina Jeffries, Courtney Milan, Susan Elizabeth Phillips (!), Nora (!!), Jude Deveraux (!!!), and so many other wonderful authors and friends.

Hope Restored


As our regular readers know, our amazing critique partner and blog mate, Joanna Shupe, has come into some major success recently. As a result of her recent final (and now WIN!!!) in RWA’s Golden Heart contest for unpublished authors, an editor who had her book on his desk got motivated to read it in a hurry… at the same time, she got an offer from another publisher. Joanna ended up with a three-book contract, including print, from Kensington! At RWA’s National Conference she rubbed elbows with the other Golden Heart finalists and with the Kensington authors, not to mention she will now be a PAN member. Although her historicals won’t hit shelves until early 2015, worlds have opened up for her already. Given Joanna’s stellar writing, fab stories, and serious work ethic, I guarantee this is just the beginning.

Why, you wonder, is my blog post about Joanna? Because, dear readers, her success has renewed my own hope. Joanna landed an agent about a year before me, so not only has she been submitting longer, she’s submitted to more places than I have. Yet every one of her rejections and my own seemed to lump together in my heart. Just when the both of us really started to wonder—maybe not about quitting (well okay, once or twice it crossed my mind), but about possibly giving up the original dream by pursuing publication through a less traditional avenue. An option that’s viable, though still terrifying, these days. Then, viola, success for her! From her dream house, for three-books, not just one, and even for print, which let’s face it, seems a rarity these days for a new author.


RWA 2013: 2 Days Until Atlanta

This week begins RWA’s 2013 annual conference in Atlanta.


I hadn’t originally planned to attend this year, but I was fortunate to final in the Historical category of the Golden Heart® contest. A plane ticket was booked in record time, let me tell you.

Coincidentally, it’s my week to blog on the Femmes so I thought I would write a daily #RWA13 journal of my conference experience. Sadly not all the Femmes are able to join us in Atlanta. We’ll miss them, but hopefully my posts will help them (and anyone else not attending) feel a bit more connected to the conference goings-on.

The conference looks to be JAM packed. In addition to the regular workshops, meals, and hubbub, you’ll get a front-row seat to all the Golden Heart festivities.

So check back each day to see what happens when New Jersey marches on Atlanta!

Ingredients Of A Great First Line

Golden Heart necklace2A special CONGRATULATIONS to our very own Femme, Joanna Shupe, whose historical manuscript, Drawn to the Earl, finaled in RWA’s Golden Heart contest! We’re all thrilled for her and wish her good luck in Atlanta!

I don’t know about you, but I’ve agonized over the first line in every one of my manuscripts. We’ve been told we only have a few lines, a paragraph, or maybe a page to draw the attention of an agent or editor. Talk about pressure. I recently attended a workshop on writing a fabulous first line, given by the wonderful Sarah MacLean. Let me share some of the ingredients Ms. MacLean shared to help writing your first line a little easier. I found them helpful and I hope you will, too.

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