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.

Hugs,

Maria

 

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Lesson Learned From Frozen: Write To Your Own Trend

Sisters, Elsa and Anna

Sisters, Elsa and Anna

Last week I stepped outside the 5% of the US population who has not seen the movie Frozen. I had been wanting the see the movie for a long time. With my background in Musical Theatre, this type of movie is within my personal category of MUST SEE.  Unfortunately, my daughter initially saw the movie without me, and she fell into the minority of children in the United States who didn’t feel the need to see it again. We live busy lives, and at a certain point I realized I was destined to see the movie once it came out on DVD. Even then, I BEGGED her to watch the movie with me, and when begging didn’t work, I moved into the phase of motherhood I’m really good at. I tortured her with the promise I would not stop singing Let It Go until she agreed to watch the movie with me.  As a former professional singer, the threat initially fell flat. I sang the song a few times through while doing chores around the house, and while maybe my singing proved a distraction from her current focus (reading The Fault In Our Stars) I transitioned into singing Let It Go BADLY, changing as many words as possible to capture her attention.  When I started to incorporate some truly horrific dance choreography into the performance, she put the book down and raced me to the door to rent the DVD. Even an 11 yr. old has her breaking point!

I was expecting a typical Disney love story movie musical in Frozen. Perhaps my love of another Disney movie, Brave which I blogged about years ago (Brave: Tackling the Complex Mother/Daughter Relationship) should have told me to expect much more than your typical Boy-Girl story. Yes, there is an adorable dancing and singing snowman, and while love and relationships between a man and a woman is within the story, it resides within a subplot. The main focus of the story is the love found within a family, in this instance, the strong bond of love and friendship between two sisters.

The focus of family in this movie sensation caused me to take a look at my own writing and the writing industry in general. When it comes to market trends, we are told not to write to trends but to write ahead of a trend. Study the industry and figure out what might be the next big thing. If you want to jump on the werewolf, shape-shifter craze, you better have written it already because writing it while that market is hot, only means by the time you’re ready to bring your story to the world, you will have missed the trend. So what is an author who is trying to write a break out novel in the industry supposed to do? One of our Femmes, Michele Mannon, wrote ahead of a trend. She had the idea to write Hot Alpha Male MMA stories before it really became a trend and took hold in the market. This stroke of brilliance it has paid off in spades for Michele. Another Femme, Diana Quincy, paved her own trail or trend within the popular Historical Romance genre with her Accidental Peers series. Both wrote from their hearts stories they were destined to tell with unique hooks. So what then about a contemporary writer like me who writes humorous, sexy, family driven contemporaries? I’m not about to write a shape-shifting story in the hopes of making a market splash. It just isn’t in me. My writing time is so limited, I have to write something this is true to my soul otherwise the time spent on a project will feel empty and the story will fall flat.

The explosion of the movie Frozen with the focus of true love and sacrifice residing within the family structure has given me hope. This has reminded me that, regardless of current or past market trends, the trend or the importance of Family within our society will never die out. I will continue to write from my heart and produce funny, family centric stories. My next romance series will focus on more than one family and how all their lives intersect and impact one another within a community. I’m planning to explore more complex family relationships while keeping the focus on one couple’s messy journey to a happily ever after. I started to explore this a bit in the third installment of my Brothers of Audubon Springs series, The Right Chord, which releases on August 6th. Could this be the next trend? I don’t know, but I do know I’m excited to tell the stories within this new series set. As a writer, motivation and excitement for a project are half the battle.

I’m wondering if anyone else was surprise by the twist in the focus of Frozen? Also, what do you believe will be the next big trend and what current trends in the writing, movie, or television industries have captured your attention or surprised you?

Happy reading and writing!

Signature

New Release: Knock Out

I am really excited about my contemporary sports romance series: Worth the Fight. The first book, KNOCK OUT, is a story about what happens after the Fall, the time in  life when you’ve found yourself knocked out, out of breath, and just struggling to get back up.

CARINA_1213_9781426897535_KnockOut

It takes courage to find your feet, brush off the dirt, and move on with life, right? We’ve all experienced our fair share of falls, too.

Which is why this book means so much to me. You see, I had a major fall, a literal one, smack off a curb and with an Italian ice in my hand. I broke my right ankle and tore the ligaments in my foot . . . the right one. The driving foot. The Italian ice remained intact.

That summer was tough, being laid up on the couch when all I wanted was the sun on my face and the sand between my toes.

Plenty of time to think…which is exactly what happened.

Amidst all my agony and struggle, I had an idea. What if I wrote a story about a heroine who also has a fall and breaks her ankle, but its a career ending injury? What would she do? How would she cope with the way her life has belly-flopped. Her goals shattered along with her ankle? That’s how Logan Rettino, my ballerina turned MMA Octagon Girl, was born.
(more…)

Snippet #3 – Love’s Second Chance

I’m not sure about you, but I’m still on a high from a FANTASTIC weekend at the NJ Romance Writer’s Put Your Heart In A Book Conference. A huge CONGRATULATIONS to Femmes Michele Mannon & Jenna Blue who won first place in the Put You Heart In A Book Contest.

During the conference, we met many fabulous writers and made new friends. Check out our new Photos page for some pictures of special moments from the conference. I’m always amazed to hear real life stories from authors who started at the bottom and fought their way to the top. Hearing their inspiring stories of how they overcame both personal and professional challenges puts things into perspective for me. Although I may not be at the very bottom, I’m working my way up the ladder toward success. And while there are times I may get knocked down a rung or two, I grasp on tight and climb right back up. This post goes out to all my writer friends who are frustrated with the journey. It’s tough. We know that going in but that doesn’t make it easy to handle when bad stuff happens to us. Be strong. You have a huge support system of writers rallying for each other. Sometimes you need to regroup and come up with a new game plan, but don’t give up.  Hugs, Maria

In case you didn’t read it, we’re holding a special One-Year Anniversary Contest from 10/12-11/16 and are giving away a Nook Simple Touch. Click the link below or the link from the right side-bar to enter.

Below is a snippet from my completed manuscript, Love’s Second Chance, which won first place in the CT Chapter’s Write Stuff Contest and is currently a finalist in the Indiana Golden Opportunity Contest.

After losing her family to a tragedy, Kate has spent the past four years avoiding emotional attachments. After asking a former lover for help designing a restaurant her parents plan to open, she’s faced with fighting her attraction and denying the growing feelings she has for this man. Exhausted after a long day baking cookies with a six-year old orphan, Kate is vulnerable and succumbs to Edward’s healing touch.  

          Edward glanced down at the high-heeled black leather boots she wore. They came up to just under her knee and hugged her calf like a second skin. As usual, the heel was close to four inches, and while looking at them made the blood rush to his groin, they didn’t seem practical for an afternoon of baking cookies. Unable to refrain from the temptation, he unzipped one of the boots and slipped her foot out.

            Kate’s eyes flew open. “What are you doing?”

            “Relax, luv. I once dated a masseuse and she showed me pressure points to apply to become perfectly relaxed,” he said, rubbing the instep of her foot.

            She snorted. “Yeah, I can just imagine the pressure points she showed you.”

            Edward briefly thought back to Lana, at least that’s what he thought her name was, with a fond memory. She had fantastic hands and could get herself into the most flexible positions. It made for some very creative sex.

            But now he only had thoughts of Kate as he stroked her foot. He remembered she had the sexiest toes, always polished with bright colors. He wondered if she just did that for the summer or if they’d be polished now.

            “You’ll be appreciating the special skills she taught me in a few minutes.”

            “Yeah, we’ll see.” She crossed her arms around her middle but closed her eyes again.

            Not being able to resist, he stripped off her sock and felt his pulse increase. They were just like he remembered. Candy cane red today and perfectly manicured. He reached for her other foot and started the same ritual.

            He studied her relaxed face, a slight curve to her mouth. A moan escaped her mouth and he wanted nothing more than to reach for her across the table and kiss her. Fully aroused, he sat trying to will away his erection all the while thinking how much he wanted to run his mouth up the length of her slender leg.

            “I take it you like?” he asked, his voice husky with desire.

            “Mmm hmm,” she murmured. “You’re hands are magic.”

            And then, almost as though she just remembered that he was the one rubbing her feet, she sat up, now wide-awake. From the heated glaze of her eyes, he knew she was just as turned on as he. A satisfied smile spread across his lips.

            “I seem to recall your saying that about a lot more of me than my hands.”

            She licked her lips and met his smoky gaze with her own. “What, are you fishing for compliments now? I didn’t realize you were so insecure.”

            “I’m not. I wanted to see if you still remembered.”

            “You should know you’re not very forgettable. Of course I remembered.”

One Year Anniversary Contest

That’s right. The Violet Femmes blog will be 1-year old in November.

One year ago, four romance writers attended the NJ Romance Writers conference. After many wonderful workshops, good food, and a bottle of wine, concept for The Violet Femmes blog was born.

We’d like to take this opportunity to announce and welcome our newest Femme, Jenna Blue. Jenna has guest-blogged with us and we’re thrilled she’s officially joining The Femmes. Stay tuned for a fresh look to our blog coming over the next month.

In conjunction with NJRW’s Put Your Heart In A Book Conference (10/12-10/13), we’re starting our celebration a little early. If you’re attending the conference, stop by the Goody Room and look for our special gift. Visit The Violet Femmes website 10/12-11/16 and enter our anniversary contest. You can get to the contest link from the upper right-hand side bar or directly by clicking the image below:

Thank you for following us over the past year. We look forward to many more exciting topics and guest posts over the next year!

Hugs from The Violet Femmes,

Maria, Michele, Joanna, Jaye, and Jenna

Castle of Dreams Part 2

Welcome back for Part 2 of our round robin short story month. I hope you enjoyed reading Jaye’s great start with Amelia & Rafaele’s story. This week, I get to pick up where Jaye left us hanging. So pull up a chair, a glass of wine, and enjoy!

Before I start, though, a huge CONGRATULATIONS to Femme Michele Mannon for her first contest final. Her story, OCTAGON GIRL, finaled in the Sheila Contest in the Single Title category. Best of luck in the final round Michele! We’re all rooting for you!

Don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win this month’s prize…a tin of specialty tea and a mug, from Hugh Jackman’s Laughing Man coffee and tea company (www.livelaughingman.com).

Okay, without further ado, here’s Part 2 of Castle of Dreams. Enjoy!

Maria

Amelia thought the time and distance apart would lessen the heat of their passion, but it was even more explosive than before. Rafaele’s mouth commanded hers and she opened her lips, desperate to taste him. And oh, did he taste good. Like the Malbec wine he drank, sweet and rich in texture.

He broke away and kissed along her neck. “I’ve missed you, cara mia. Please tell me you missed me, too.”

Miss him? She’d done nothing but over the past five months. What wasn’t to miss when she’d found her perfect man…and then had to let him go.

“I did, Rafaele.”

He slid his hands under t-shirt and was working his way up her back. In no time he’d unfastened her bra and filled his hands with her breasts. She nearly fainted from the pleasure. But she wasn’t ready for this…yet. They had things to discuss first.

“Rafaele,” she gasped.

“Yes, cara,” he whispered before simultaneously claiming her mouth and rubbing her nipples between his fingers.

They were moving now and before Amelia knew it, he’d led her onto the couch. Things were happening so fast, her mind couldn’t catch up with the brigade of sensations hurtling towards her.

She jerked away from his embrace. “Rafaele, we must talk.”

“Later. Now I want to make the most passionate of love to you.”

Yeah, he’d made that pretty much clear as his fingers slid under her skirt and were making their way up towards her…

“No. You need to stop.” She used all her strength to push at his broad chest. When that didn’t get a reaction, she did the only thing she could think of. She yanked a few chest hairs.

“Dios mio! What are you doing, cara?”

“Don’t you want to know why I’ve come here?”

“Your reason doesn’t matter now that you’re here.”

The familiar smell of his cologne filled her nostrils, making her want to do nothing more than straddle him on that couch. She took a steadying breath and rose to get some space.

He sighed. “Fine, cara. Tell me why you’ve finally come, after all these months.”

She felt him behind her and when she turned, he handed her a glass of wine.

Amelia took a deep sip and enjoyed the way the sweetness of the wine exploded with flavor in her mouth before sliding smoothly down her throat. “Made in your vineyard?”

He nodded.

She was procrastinating and based on the look he gave her, he knew it.

“I finished my master’s degree this semester,” she blurted.

“Wonderful, cara. Congratulations and a celebration are in order, then.”

After eight excruciatingly long years, she now had both a B.S. in Interior Design and Master’s in Architecture. It was a both a relief and a worry, now that she needed to get herself a job and pay off all those loans.

“I want to apologize for what I said to you when you left last year.”

“The part where you refused to come here to live with me or the part where you said you never wanted to see me again?”

A blush crept up her neck and stained her cheeks. “Both.”

He pressed a hand to his chest. “You broke my heart, cara. I’ve been lost here without you.”

“Your visa to teach at NJIT was up and I still had over a semester left to finish there. I was so close, Rafaele, I needed to finish. And you needed to get back to your family and run the vineyard. How is your brother?”

Pain flashed across Rafaele’s face. “He passed at the beginning of the year.”

Tears filled her eyes and she reached for his hands. “Oh, I’m so sorry. Why didn’t you let me know?”

He stiffened. “Because after you mailed me back the unused airline ticket I sent you, I didn’t think I’d ever hear from or see you again.”

She flinched. She had no right to attempt to step back in his life. But there was still one thing she hadn’t told him.

“I may have come if you offered more than a warm bed.”

He raised an eyebrow at her. “What do you mean?”

“I wanted to be more than your lover. You asked me to come to live with you, in Italy, with no long-term promise.” She took a deep breath. “I thought you were going to propose to me, Rafaele. And when you didn’t…well, it hurt.”

He cupped her face. “I had planned on doing just that when we arrived here. I wanted you to see my house, my vineyards. I wanted you to be sure before I asked you.”

Her heart jumped into her throat. “Really?”

“Really. The question is, would you have said yes?”

She thought for only a fraction of a second. “Hell yes.”

He kissed her then, a slow and deep kiss that held the promise of an eternity of love and passion.

Suddenly, there was a crash behind them. Amelia jumped and grabbed onto Rafaele.

A woman Amelia had never seen before stood across the room, a tray of food and broken plates now on the floor, hands on her hips. “Who the hell are you, puttana, and why are you kissing my fiancé?”

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