Femme Stalking: Lena Diaz

Femme Stalking {noun} The act of stalking favorite authors until they agree to stop by the blog and let us go all fan girl on them.FemmeStalkingLOGO_Trim_Final

Imagine my excitement when I read He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not by Lena Diaz right after we cooked up the idea of Femme Stalking. Not only is this book fantastic romantic suspense, but also, Lena’s Nursery Rhyme series is published by Avon Impulse—a digital-first imprint that unpublished-me really has her eye on! Good news for our readers, too: Lena is offering a giveaway—a digital copy for Nook or Kindle of both He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not and Undercover Twin. Simply leave a comment, and you are entered!

Jenna Blue: Welcome, Lena, and thanks for visiting! Let’s cut straight to that fan girl thing. He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not, is followed by Simon Says Die, and Ashes, Ashes, They All Fall Dead, creating a series. The nursery rhyme angle coupled with serial killer villains is brilliantly high-concept, not to mention creepy! How did you come up with it? Did the unique angle help you sell the series?

Lena Diaz: Jenna, thanks so much for having me on today and for your kind words about He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not. Fingers crossed for your Avon Impulse dreams. It’s an awesome line and HarperCollins is fabulous to its authors. As for your question, I wish I could say I’d come up with this as a series concept from the beginning, but I didn’t. When I wrote the first book, I sold it as stand-alone and didn’t envision a series. Then reader mail and reviews clamored for Pierce and Madison’s story (minor characters from the first book), so I pitched a second book titled The Widow’s Husband. Avon liked the story, but not the title. So I came up with Simon Says Die to make it similar to the first title. They loved it! The light bulb went on while writing SSD. I realized I might have the makings of a series. So I created the Buchanan family, with lots of hot, alpha brothers who could potentially each have their own book someday. The creepy “Nursery Rhyme Series” was born. I stumbled and bumbled my way into this series and am so glad I did. I’m having the best time writing these books and am totally in love with the Buchanan men HeKillsMeHeKillsMeNot High Res Cover

JB: Often I feel romance heroines are too perfect, strong, and resilient, so I loved that Amanda Stockton, the heroine in He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not, is still really struggling a few years after surviving a traumatic abduction. She felt incredibly real to me. Did you receive any pushback from your editor or early readers on this?

Writers’ Police Academy: A Romantic Suspense Writer’s Dream Come True


Bomb Squad and K-9 Demonstration

At the Guilford Technical Community College in Jamestown, NC, WPA 2013 boasted a DNA expert and forensic anthropologist, a psychologist and scientist, a medical examiner and a nurse, a prosecutor and a judge. The Bomb Squad was there, along with EMS, an ATF agent, a federal agent, undercover detectives, chiefs, sheriffs, captains, officers—I’ve only scratched the surface, the list goes on and on. Suffice it to say, crime scene to fire investigation, emergency room to underwater recovery, felony stops to dangerous microorganisms, they have every topic covered either in class or hands-on.

A.J. Scudiere and I tried handcuffing techniques (no bedposts, people, keep it clean!), and I learned self-defense techniques, then whaled on a dummy. P.A. DePaul got to suit up in protective bomb gear, and other attendees investigated an entire criminal case and then presented it to a judge. Carey Baldwin and some other lucky writers got to “ride-a-long” on real calls with local police.


Pre-pub Journey: Feeling like the Who’s in Who-ville

Always when I am at the beach, I’m reminded how big the world really is. Hearing the vast ocean crash and watching the horizon that stretches farther than my screen-weary eyes can see makes me feel tiny, like a speck. Inevitably I marvel at the scope of the universe, the secrets of space, the wonder of the sea, the size of the earth and it’s many continents—and more practically, the billions of people that exist. I am only the teeniest fraction of all that. This summer especially, I’m feeling inconsequential and left behind. This year has been huge for the Femmes. Many of these amazing writers have been offered contracts and are soon to be officially published. Yay, Ladies! So incredibly proud of you! So honored to work with you, and call you my friends! And yet, of course, I’d have to call myself a robot if I didn’t feel the inevitable tug of worry and doubt: what about me? When will it be my turn? It’s so easy to beat myself up: I don’t write fast enough, I’m missing a fab hook, I targeted the wrong places, I didn’t write to the market, I broke too many rules…


Photo courtesy of Jenna Blue, 2013

Of course, I’m making writing analogies as I sit in my beach chair, feeling smaller than ever. I am a speck, a grain of sand, one author among zillions, fighting against the tide. And any mention of a speck, brings me directly to the Who’s in Who-ville.


Ways to overcome hitting the proverbial brick wall

Before I begin this week’s blog, I’d like to welcome Diana Quincy, who has officially joined The Violet Femmes. This busy author juggles family, a day job, and writing. Her first book, Seducing Charlotte, is available now. And we can look forward to reading the sequel, Tempting Bella, which will be available September 9th. Click the “Our Books” tab for links to Diana’s books, and catch up with Diana and her latest releases at http://dianaquincy.com. Welcome, Diana, and we look forward to reading your posts!

Rejection, low contest scores, plot or conflict issues, negative feedback on your WIP? Sound familiar to anyone? Or should I say, does this sound familiar to EVERYONE! Like most of us who’ve embarked on this writing journey, you can identify with one or all of these. All can negatively impact our confidence and weaken our desire to continue to pursue our dream.

Generally, I’m a positive person and work hard to accomplish any goal that’s important to me. But I’d be lying if I said I never succumbed to feeling like I’ve hit a wall and can’t figure out a way to get to the other side.

A few months ago, I listened to a motivational speaker from my day job who spoke about accomplishing goals. Her name’s Vernice Armour (http://vernicearmour.com/), and she’s the United States Marine Corps’ first African American female pilot. I found her words very inspiring and applicable to any aspect of your life. Here are some key takeaways and how I related them to writing.

“Acknowledge obstacles but don’t give them power.” Vernice Armour

We’re told when we first started writing that it’s a hard business to break into. It’s a hard realization to understand until you’re there. And once you are, you have two choices: you can put that manuscript and your laptop away or you can keep going. Start a new project or revise your WIP, applying lessons you’ve learned along the way. Keep working to perfect your craft and to make your writing the best it can be. Continue to pitch your stories and seek alternative forms of publication.

Keeping the Pages Turning in Romantic Suspense (Lessons I’ve Learned the Hard Way)

Revisions on my current manuscript have been torturous. Murky, slow and agonizing. Why? I blissfully (stupidly) ignored the tenets of what makes a romantic suspense a real page-turner. To the point where my agent, after having read the first 55K words, essentially said, “Well it all hangs together, but it reads like a contemporary romance.” Ouch. That’s not to say that contemporary romances are dull—in fact, they are some of my favorites to read. However, if you grab a romantic suspense, you expect to be biting your nails. NailBiterGal_124527807Or, according to Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia’s definition: Suspense is a feeling of pleasurable fascination and excitement mixed with apprehension, tension, and anxiety developed from an unpredictable, mysterious, and rousing source of entertainment. There’s more, but you get the idea.

Below, I’ve shared the 11 best methods I’ve found to enhance suspense. No need to use all of them at once, nor are they listed in order of importance. Simply pick a few, make them integral to your story, and viola, readers will burn dinner because they snuck a few pages while standing over the range. The extra bonus? The same elements, ahem, make the story far easier to write.

1. A Solid Conflict. Opposing forces. Absolute must do’s. No other options. Any story in any genre will fall flat without well-constructed conflict. The simplest formula I’ve seen is Madeline Hunter’s: She MUST DO SOMETHING, and He MUST STOP HER from doing it.

What’s Your Theme?

There’s No Place Like Home

A short while ago, with an eye roll and long suffering sigh, my ten year old daughter asked why do I love reading and writing romance? More than anything I love watching the complications towards happily ever after unfold and being “present” during that exciting time when a couple comes together and starts to form a family. To this end, I believe that is one of the things that inspired me to write a series. As a reader and writer, I like catching glimpses of a couple after their happily ever after in future installments of the work.

I have written in two genres now and the same overarching theme in each manuscript is Home and Family. Regardless of age, gender and conflict, all of my characters are looking not just for their happily ever after, but for a place to call home.

Revising the Pitch—A Writer’s Show and Tell

ImageBefore I take out my humble red pencil and oversized eraser, I’ve got two exciting announcements to make.

First, the winner of Diana Quincy’s new release “Seducing Charlotte” is Nicole Doran! Congrats, Nicole!

Second, we are thrilled to announce a new member of The Violet Femmes: RoseAnn DeFranco! RoseAnn writes both Contemporary and YA Fantasy, and her wonderful, Jersey Shore-set romances are soon to be published with The Wild Rose Press. She is smart, generous, hardworking; and she makes a mean meatball, too. Suffice it to say, we are honored that RoseAnn will make us six!

Now, to work. I really struggled with the pitch for my current manuscript UnhingedEarly attempts yielded this monstrosity:

After finding herself and her teenage son nearly homeless after her rat of an ex wiped her out and then abandoned them, Evie Radnor’s entire focus revolves around creating a safe, stable, flush environment. To this end, she’s determined to both help others and grow her fledging business, which helps at risk homeless and their families secure jobs, without the help of a man. The first big turning point for her—a contract with Miller’s Markets.


February Romantic Moments

In commenting on Maria’s February post, I used up my ace in the hole from Love, Actually (the scene where Colin Firth tracks down his love, crowd on his heels, and asks in her language (which he’s still learning) her to marry him. Sigh. In trying to come up with another favorite, I’ve realized something. Like Joanna, I’m not that big a fan of the grand, sweeping gesture or extravagant action. No lighting up the Empire State Building, please. Case in point, remember the scene in the movie Say Anything where John Cusack the underachiever, with his weird long coat, holds up the boom box, blasting Peter Gabriel’s In Your Eyes to the valedictorian girl he’s crazy about, played by Ione Skye? I’ve seen women moan and reference this as one of the most wildly romantic moments ever. I’ve always thought it felt more stalker-skeevy or at least go-away-you’re-incredibly-annoying-ish.


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

Preparing for a Conference

You’ve registered for a conference. Hopefully its NJRW’s Put Your Heart In A Book Conference. Now what?

If you’re like me, it’s been months since you registered. Life moves on and you forget. Suddenly, you look at the calendar and realize it’s almost here. Here are some tips on how to prepare for a conference.

Finish that manuscript!

Are you 90% done with your book and haven’t found the time to finish or edit it? Maybe your kids were home all summer and you couldn’t find ten minutes, let alone an hour, to put two intelligent sentences together. Sound familiar, anyone? Or maybe your day job was so crazed you fell into bed exhausted each night (this one is really familiar to me). Whatever the reason, now is the time to push to get that manuscript as complete as possible.

This year, NJRW is sponsoring a first ever “Push to Pro” event. Over the course of six-weeks, members will work to achieve a writing goal they’ve established to get that manuscript pitch (and PRO) ready. Kudos to NJRW PRO Liason, Marlo Berliner, for coming up with and running with such a great idea. May all of you who entered meet your goal!

Agent/Editor Appointments

Be sure to look at the chapter’s website and see which agents and editors will be taking pitches. Do your research to know which are most suitable for what you write. SIGN UP! Don’t forget to register for the pitch sessions and provide your list of agents and editors you want to meet. If you haven’t already, read Femme Michele’s post on “Writing the Perfect Pitch” to help you prepare.

Business Cards

Regardless of your publishing status, get business cards. You can print them yourself or get them fairly inexpensively at Vistaprint. If you find it difficult to initiate a conversation with people you don’t know, they’re great ice breakers. People naturally look at your card and will ask questions about what you write, whether or not you’re represented by an agent or are published. It’s a great way to network.

What to include? People have varying opinions on this. I try to keep it simple so I don’t have to keep getting them printed. Here’s what I have on mine: Name, Pseudonym, “Writer” (although some people have Contemporary or Historical Writer, etc), email (please make sure it’s a professional email), website or blog (if you have one). I get cards without the shiny coating so I can write on the back if I want to give out my phone number or share any other information.

What to Bring/Wear?

My favorite topic…clothes! I love clothes and shoes. I love getting dressed up. Not every day, mind you, but I like putting aside my yoga pants to put on something that makes me feel feminine and well…sexy! Why not? We’re writing romance novels, many of which are sexy, so why not feel it? I feel confident when I’m a little more dressed up. I may not be published yet, but I’m going to act and project the image of what I desire to be…PUBLISHED.

That being said, pack practical. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. Most conferences are business casual, meaning slacks and a nice shirt or a skirt or a dress. Wear layers in case the workshop rooms are warm or cold. When pitching, you don’t need to wear a suit, but I’d wear something appropriate for a job interview. First impressions are important and do you really want to make your first one while wearing a stained NY Giants sweatshirt and ripped jeans?

Some conferences, like Nationals and NJRW’s Put Your Heart in a Book, have an award ceremony that’s dressier. Personally, I’d go along the lines of fancy party/wedding attire, although I’ve certainly seen people wearing more casual clothes. A dressy pant suit is nice, too. For PYHIAB, prior to the ceremony there’s a cocktail hour where you can and should network. Another great ice-breaker is to compliment someone’s attire.

If you haven’t done so, registration for NJRW’s Put Your Heart in a Book conference has been extended until September 30th. You can register by going to http://njromancewriters.org/index.php?/conference/put_your_heart_in_a_book_conference/.

It will be a great conference. Stop by and say “hi” to the Femmes. We’d love to see you. Be sure to check out the goody area, where we’ll have some special treats for you.

In case you hadn’t noticed, you no longer have to enter ‘wordpress’ as part of the URL. You can reach us directly at http://thevioletfemmes.com. As our 1-year anniversary nears, we’ll be sharing some more exciting news and have a special contest. Come to the conference and stay tuned to the website for details!

Hope to see you at the NJRW conference in October!

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