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During their panel discussion following the editors forum, agents stressed that  authors, both published and unpublished, should have an online platform and be active on social media because that helps the agents sell their books.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


You can find me at:


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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:


JB caught up with Romantic Suspense Author Mary Burton


Jaye and Joanna


Shirley Hailstock makes her point.


Michele, Tina and guest


Elizabeth John and Maria have a laugh


Joanna and Amy DeLuca

IMG_0679 IMG_0693 IMG_0689

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.


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





2013 NJRW Conference Wrap-up Continues: An Interview with Keynote Speaker, Diana Cosby

As you know, the Femmes were present in force at the 2013 New Jersey Romance Writers Put Your Heart in a Book Conference. During the weekend, I got to spend a significant amount of time talking to the “Big Four” speakers, who all impressed me for different reasons. Historical romance author Diana Cosby was a personal favorite. Here, I hope to share with you just why I am in awe of this generous, talented writer.



Diana Cosby with male model

Diana and her cover model

 A retired Navy Chief, AGC(AW), Diana Cosby is an international bestselling author of Scottish medieval romantic suspense.  Her award-winning MacGruder Brother books are available in five languages, with the 6th book in the series released in December 2013.  Diana has spoken at the Library of Congress, Lady Jane’s Salon, in NYC, and appeared in Woman’s Day, on USA Today’s romance blog, “Happily Ever After,” MSN.com, and in Texoma Living Magazine.

After her career in the Navy, Diana dove into her passion – writing romance novels. With 34 moves behind her, she was anxious to create characters who reflected the amazing cultures and people she’s met throughout the world.   In August 2012, Diana released her story in the anthology, “Born To Bite,” with Hannah Howell and Erica Ridley.  Diana looks forward to the years of writing ahead and meeting the amazing people who will share this journey. Visit Diana at her webpage, http://www.dianacosby.com.  

JMR: Diana, thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed for the Violet Femmes blog. 

DC: My sincere thanks for the interview.

JMR: I was so happy to get to know you better at the New Jersey Romance Writers Conference in October.

DC: I enjoyed talking with you again.  Always fun.  I also had the pleasure to speak with several members of the Violet Femmes, what an amazing  group of women!

JMR: Thank you! You delivered an awesome keynote address, full of little gems. I loved the story of how you celebrated with your mail lady when you received “The Call”. What from your speech did you hope the attendees took away with them?

 DC: Thank you so much.  It was an honor to give the keynote address at the New Jersey Romance Writers Put Your Heart in a Book Conference.  My mail lady – Nancy – has been an amazing friend throughout.  From the start when she began delivering my rejections, we’d talk about my goals, which are huge, but she always believed in my dreams.  My goal for the keynote speech was to inspire others to believe in themselves and dare to go after their dreams.  Too often our doubts about our abilities keep us from trying something new.

JMR:  You’ve lived all over the world. What was your favorite place to live? (You don’t have to say New Jersey!) Why?


RWA 2013: 1 Day Until Atlanta

krlqqghz Tomorrow we leave for RWA 2013 in Atlanta. Yes, my head is spinning.

Today saw a flurry of emails with burning questions back and forth between me and my roommates. Are we taking the MARTA in to the hotel? (Answer: No.) Who’s bringing a hair dryer? (Answer: Michele.) What does one wear to High Tea at the Ritz? (Answer: A thong.)

In between all that, I had to wrap up at the day job, pack, dinner, get the kids ready for camp, laundry, post office, and bank.

You Get Out What You Put In

Last year, when I was in the thickest part of the work for the NJRW conference materials, juggling work, kids, writing, life, and volunteering, one person close to me kept asking, but why? Why do you agree to do that? Why do you give that writer’s group so much time? For lots of reasons, of course, however today I want to focus on that age old tenet: You get out what you put in.

Often, it’s the intangible stuff that’s so great, like that feeling of being included, getting the inside jokes, sharing history, forging friendships, the pleasure of common interests. Maybe you feel valued, because your time is appreciated or your contribution helpful. Or, perhaps there’s simply a sense of satisfaction.


Why You Should Go to a Conference

With the one year anniversary of The Violet Femmes fast approaching, I’ve realized once again how blessed I am to have such a great group of women supporting me.

As you may or may not know, The Femmes came to fruition at last year’s Put Your Heart in a Book Conference, put on by New Jersey Romance Writers, an excellent sub-group of Romance Writers of America. Encouraged by a glass (or four) of white wine (it’s surprising how much wine can promote creativity), holed up in a hotel room after the awards ceremony, the Violet Femmes were born. It goes without saying that if we weren’t all at that conference, our little group might not exist. Which is what prompted me to write this blog.

First of all, I want to propose that we coin a new term…Pro-ference. Because, really, there are no “con”s to attending a writers conference.

So, here are my top five reasons for attending a Pro-ference…whether it be Put Your Heart in a Book, another local conference, or (gulp!), RWA Nationals:

1.  Camaraderie.  There is no better feeling for a writer than being in the company of others…lots of others…who understand the daily trials, self-doubt, and successes of being a writer. Plus, the sharing usually involves cocktails!


 2.   Advice.  Michael Hauge recently spoke at a special event for New Jersey Romance Writers, and he made an observation I found to be true from my first NJRW meeting. Romance writers, he said, above writers of all other genres, are generous to a fault when it comes to sharing information about our business.  Sure, there are egos, but I have never met a romance writer who guarded trade secrets more closely than Colonel Sanders guarded his secret fried chicken recipe. For example, at my first NJRW conference a couple of years ago, USA Today bestselling author Leanne Banks gave the Special Presentation, reserved for the first 100 registrants for the conference. We spoke a bit before her presentation, and I actively participated in a little exercise she conducted.Photo: Me sipping a "Harlequin Heartbreaker" at the Harlequin bash.

Later, she sat on a panel with Susan Litman, of Harlequin, and they talked about what Harlequin looked for in its different lines. Susan had just requested a full manuscript from me when I pitched her my category romance, so I sat in on that session. Leanne greeted me when she came in the room. Afterwards, I cornered her (poor woman!) in the bar as she grabbed a quick glass of wine, and asked her a question that had been nagging me ever since I had pitched to Susan. Leanne spent about fifteen minutes with me, answering questions and giving advice. And I had just asked her one question!

3.  Pitches.  As Michele discussed in last week’s blog, pitching is a prime reason to attend a pro-ference. Where else do you have the opportunity to meet, chat with, and pitch to several editors and agents in one place? Most regional conferences offer pitch sessions. NJRW’s conference offers lots…probably aided by our proximity to New York City, that publishing mecca. This year, NJRW’s Put Your Heart in a Book Conference offers a choice of almost 30 agents and editors…that’s a lot of potential to sell your manuscript!

 4.    Workshops. Probably the biggest draw for serious writers is the schedule of workshops offered. From the craft of writing, to resourcing, to brainstorming, workshops give us writers the tools we need to get the job done…not an easy feat, I can assure you. They help with confidence building, show us ways to get out of that corner we’ve just written ourselves into, and tell us what to do once we feel our manuscript is ready for someone’s eyes other than our own.

5.     Market knowledge. Whether it’s gleaned from editor and agent panels, or in conversations with other authors, finding out what agents and editors are seeking is invaluable information for aspiring and published authors alike. As audience demands are constantly changing, it is important to understand where the minds of the people helping you sell your book lay. Understanding the business of writing is instrumental in getting those books of our hearts published.

So, have you attended a pro-conference? What was your reason for attending, and what did you take away with you?



p.s. Stay tuned for a special contest celebrating the one-year anniversary of The Violet Femmes! Thank you to everyone who has followed us over the past year. We appreciate your support!

JeRoWriMo – Reflections on Writing in Unison

Congratulations to: Carin Marinan!  Her name was randomly selected out of all of our wonderful Violet Femmes followers for the month of romance — February.  A bouquet of flowers and a box of chocolate are headed your way.  Thanks to all of our followers, and be sure to check back at the end of March for another lucky winner.

* * *

JeRoWriMo – Reflections on Writing in Unison

In February 2012, thirty brave members of the New Jersey Romance Writers took the plunge by participating in our own version of the National Novel Writing Month, fondly dubbed New Jersey Romance Writers Month—JeRoWriMo.

The goal: write 30,000 words in the month of February.

Although February 2012 was a leap year, that one extra day wasn’t enough to hold back the panic and self-doubt—was it possible to write 30K in a month or roughly 1,034 words a day?

JeRoWriMo was facilitated by published author Nancy Herkness http://www.nancyherkness.com/, who coaxed, charmed, and cheered us over every obstacle and along every milestone.

And, with great success. Our combined word count is an astonishing 383,247.  That’s about five completed novels—in a month.

The Violet Femmes word count isn’t too shabby either with 104,627 words. Together, we’ve written a novel and a half.

Yet, more impressive were the unexpected discoveries from this writing challenge.

Here are my reflections on this wonderfully satisfying experience.

Writing by the Seat of Your Pants

Working with a deadline helped my writing process. Why? I embraced the fact this was a draft—no one was going to read it. Time spent malingering over word choice or perfect phrasing was cast aside as the focus was on word count.

Not to say these issues wouldn’t be addressed. But later, during revisions.

I developed some useful tips as well. Microsoft Word’s highlighting pen was a newfound tool. Sketchy word—bright yellow.  Stumbling sequencing of scene—splash of green. For plot need-to-fix-er-uppers—blatant pink. Now, with a skeleton on paper, I could move onto dressing my manuscript up and turning my rainbow back to white.

Lesson Learned: Stop fretting and let the story unfold.

Let the Creative Juices Flow

My neighbors think I’m mad, with all the chortling and rambunctious outbursts of laughter—at various times of day, and night. Chances were taken because there was no time for self-doubt or the inner critique whispering, “Are you really writing that!” And you know what? Some of these risks still make me giggle, and might even see the light of day. Writing for a word count allowed the story to unfold in a spontaneous, natural way, and allowed the creative juices to flow.

Lesson Learned: Be fearless—even if the neighbors (or loved ones) think you’re crazy.

Prewriting Plotting

Writers can be plotters, pansters, or somewhere in between. My writing process falls with the latter. Knowing this, and foreseeing writing myself into a hole, I took the time to flex my plotter fingers, outlining scenes and story structure ahead of time.

Despite this, one bleak February evening, I bit my lip and hit the delete button, erring on the side of caution over word count. Yes, the manuscript is a draft but writing aimlessly would leave me with a draft rockier than a mountainside trail after an avalanche. And let’s face it, who wanted to dig out of that mess?

Lesson Learned: Keep awake so you don’t tumble into any rocky outcrops.

Writing in Unison

Imagine a choir of wonderfully talented women. The bass sings out in a mature, seasoned voice encouraging all to follow. A few confident altos join in, and everyone nods and smiles. A soprano lifts up the emotion from heights far above and tenors sweetly nudge from below. A harmonious blend of styles and voices unite in song, and together, their voices grow stronger, and stronger.

The most rewarding part of JeRoWriRo was the harmony within our group. Every time someone crossed the 30K finish line, a chorus of cheers sounded. Life hurdles were acknowledged, and warm hugs given. Inspiration sang out from every single participant. The nights when the world tossed a monkey wrench into the mix, daily updates refocused the direction.

Lesson Learned: Singing in harmony makes your solo performance even better.

So what began as a writing challenge became so much more. Friendships were established. The New Jersey Romance Writer’s chapter grew stronger. Published, RWA-Pro, and soon to be Pro writers joined hands, and gave a squeeze of wisdom laced with kindness and encouragement. You can do this.

Our 383,242 words completed sums it up best . . . we did.

Lesson Learned: Join a terrific organization like the New Jersey Romance Writers. You’ll be surprised by how much better you and your story will sing.

If you are interested in joining the New Jersey Romance Writers, here is our link: http://www.njromancewriters.org/

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