Friday, December 2, 2016


Me with some of the 2012 class of Golden Heart Finalists--the Firebirds

 The membership of the Romance Writers of America® was thrown into an uproar last week by the announcement of changes in the schedule for its annual conference in July. Several major revisions in the time-honored sequence of events were made by the elected Board of Directors, including moving the popular Literacy Signing (a charity event featuring dozens of writers, from big-names to debut authors) from Wednesday night to Saturday afternoon, a timing more like the RT Booklovers convention. The new schedule also places the big RITA® awards gala (for published authors) on Thursday night rather than at the end of the conference.

But the change that has drawn the most controversy was the decision to split the Golden Heart® awards ceremony (for unpublished authors) off from the RITA® event and schedule it at a luncheon on Thursday. I was not the only past Golden Heart® Finalist who considered this to be a clear demotion of Golden Heart®. Facebook and GH alumni loops were alight with animated discussion of the move, and most past GH honorees refused to buy the official RWA line that the separation of the ceremonies was an attempt to give Golden Heart® Finalists their own special spotlight.

How? By shoehorning the Finalists into a dark corner of the schedule in the middle of the day in the middle of the week, when many conference attendees would be busy with agent or publisher meetings? By depriving the new crop of Finalists of the experience we all had of dressing in our fancy ball gowns and attending the ceremony with The Nora and all the rest—and having them hear our names called out? And, most importantly, by announcing the winners of the Golden Heart® contest before the pitch sessions with agents and publishers that take place on Thursday afternoon and Friday?

As Board members were called upon to defend the decision, it soon became clear that the premier contest for unpublished romance writers in the world had slipped in importance within the organization. Entries were down for Golden Heart® in this era of indie publishing, Board members said, just like entries are down for chapter contests, so . . .

So instead of doing something to encourage entries in the contest—like requiring judges to provide feedback, or rethinking categories (why not split up the huge paranormal category to allow a separate SFR category, for instance)—the Board decided that GH® could no longer justify its position of importance in the organization. Other things, most notably the professional RITA® awards, took precedence, so the Board re-ordered the schedule to give GH® less time and significance.

The problem here is much larger than a seemingly small change in the conference schedule. It has to do with the definition and direction of RWA itself, which the organization has been struggling with for the last few years. What is, and what should be, RWA’s core membership? And how does RWA best serve that core membership? Are we an organization of romance writers? Or only of professional (ie. income-earning) romance writers?

Since its inception, the organization has sponsored continuing education and professional support for established authors (PAN). But it has also encouraged new and aspiring writers with networking, educational programs, mentoring, and paths to publishing (PRO). For years, members could say with pride that RWA was the only professional writers’ organization in the world that admitted unpublished authors, and provided a means for those authors to improve their craft

The Golden Heart® contest, as the pinnacle of the regional or chapter contest circuit for unpublished authors, was a major part of this improvement effort. In sending manuscripts out to contests, writers got specific feedback and encouragement they could get in no other way. By finaling in the Golden Heart® contest, they got recognition that they were “the best of the best.” And the publishing establishment saw it, too.

I had unsuccessfully queried nearly every legitimate agent in the U.S. who had not specifically ruled out science fiction or romance with my first book, Unchained Memory, before the manuscript finaled in the Golden Heart® contest in 2012. After I became a Finalist, I re-queried several of the same agents. All of a sudden, those agents wanted to see the full manuscript. And one, the wonderful Michelle Johnson, finally called with an offer. Many of my fellow Firebirds (the cadre of Finalists from that year) had the same experience. Even those who didn’t win the actual award saw a real boost in their careers from finaling.

But, the RWA Board is arguing, indie writers just aren’t interested in competing in contests. Why should they when they can self-publish without the help of an agent or traditional publisher? I would counter that getting the attention of agents and publishers is only one reason to compete. In fact, it’s the last reason. 

By the time Unchained Memory reached Golden Heart®, the manuscript had been through at least ten chapter/regional contests and had been polished according to the feedback I’d received. Sometimes I wish even now I could send my manuscripts through that crucible again. No critique partner will ever be as brutally honest as some of those chapter judges! And no editor will tell you to go back and start over on a project because it’s fundamentally flawed; he or she will only take what you give them and do their best to work with it. Self-published authors are at a distinct disadvantage because they have no one to tell them if they have gone horribly wrong—no agent, no publisher, no filter.

And if you don’t believe that is a problem, just glance through the hundreds of terrible titles your good book is competing with out there.

As a long-term member of RWA, I strongly believe it is the organization’s role to stand up for quality in the romance industry, and to help its newest members attain the highest level of that quality. Now is not the time to give up that role, or to diminish the importance of its biggest symbol, the Golden Heart®.


Thursday, December 1, 2016

I'm making progress...

Nanowrimo is over for another year, and once again I'm glad I didn't join in. As we've said here more than once, everyone has a different approach to writing, and Nano and I are not a match made in heaven. However, I have added about 20k words during the month, and I'm pretty happy with that.

Although I write space opera a la Star Wars, I have to have my suspension of belief set to high fairly often when I watch/read anything from the franchise, and I try to avoid that reaction in my own worlds. Not every planet has earth-like gravity and atmosphere, and my planets don't have the same climate all over. That said, it worked for Dune, too, and the more we see what's out there via telescopes like Kepler, the more we understand how wacky the universe can be. Even a planet orbiting a double star system is no longer seen as pretty silly (which it was when Star Wars first hit the big screen).

So, I've been tweaking and re-thinking. I'm pretty happy with where it's going from the technical plot perspective. After that I'll have to fill in the romance bits. As usual, this won't be a straight out romance, but the romance will definitely be there.

Before I give you a snippet, let's talk about the only important thing to happen in December this year. No, not the solstice and its associated festivals - ROGUE ONE. I'm really even considering going to a cinema to see it. I promise you'll all be the first to know if I do.

Meanwhile, a piece from The Stuff of Legend. Our heroes are planning a night-time sortee to collect information they need for their quest. The passages in italics are conducted via their implants, so they are private conversations.

The staff were hanging around, but in the kind of way that indicated they wished the guests would hurry up and go away. Lady Ednah thanked the waiters and chef profusely, and left large tips, resulting in bows and beaming grins.
"We all retire for the night. Robert will check for surveillance. When the coast is clear, Olivia and I will go out to the temple. Take my lead, please." Jak stood. "That was lovely. I'm looking forward to bed." He flicked an eyebrow at Olivia. "Aren't you, my dear?"
Olivia hardly heard the innuendo. Go out to the temple, tonight? In the dark? In that weather? "Bed? Oh yes."
In the elevator car, Jak said, "Your room. Robert put my suit in there earlier."
Robert had been in her room? Seething, Olivia managed the sweetest smile she could. "We're going out in that?"
The elevator door swished open just in time for a rumble of thunder.
"They won't be expecting it." Jak slipped an arm around her shoulders, wished everyone goodnight and strolled to Olivia's door, waiting for her to open it.
She slid the card key into the slot. "Please don't imagine you'll be getting a leg over."
Jak chuckled, and said aloud, "I have a tendency to go to sleep after a heavy sex session." He closed the door behind them. "So I'll pass for now. There's no surveillance in the rooms." He sat down on the bed. "At least, there used to be, but the system has succumbed to the elements, and nobody bothered to fix it. Which is good."
His green eyes twinkled. He knew he was riling her, and he didn't care. Her body didn't seem to be taking much notice of her telling it there would be NO leg over. "So we're going to the temple in the middle of the night?"
He spread his hands. "They won't be expecting it. And I promise you, we won't get in there tomorrow. It will be guarded." He patted the bed beside him. "Sit down. Relax. We won't be going until Robert says it's safe."

Action/adventure and a dollop of sex. That's my kind of story :)

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Merry #ScifiRom Christmas #amwriting

It might still be November (just!) but I've already been preparing for Christmas - lots of school events to attend, pressies to buy before the rush, and all my social media to set on automatic while I take time off to spend with my family. And that last gave me an idea.
Every year I bemoan my inability to write holiday themed scifi romances. My mind has a real issue with the whole idea of Christmas in Space especially. So far I've published one Halloween paranormal romance short, while my winter SFR WIP has become more of an SF mystery with a mere trace of romantic elements, and my Easter spoof SFR remains unfinished.
A Paranormal Romance Short
Available at... 
Amazon | B&N | iBooks
So this year, when the SFR Brigade Showcase announced a special holiday edition with a giveaway, I finally decided I was just gonna have to do something Christmassy whether muse liked it or not. And so, last week, I began writing a Christmas short story for Keir and Quin (she's an early 21st century girl, so she's at least familiar with the concept of Christmas even if Keir isn't, lol). What do you think of the cover? I'm trying for an old fashioned Christmas card look.
It'll be a free short to be given away during the SFR Brigade Holiday Showcase on the 15th-19th of December. And you won't even have to do anything to get it (although if you haven't read book one and two of my Redemption series then: 1. You might not have a clue what's happening and who anyone is and, 2. If you haven't read book two, then potential spoilers, since there'll be a couple of characters you won't have met in book one. (Sorry!)
To be honest, I'm mostly excited about the fact that I actually want to write after a long period of not even missing it, so this is a good sign. I'm already 3K in, so I'm thinking this might hit the 4-5K mark (so it won't be my shortest piece). It'll be a downloadable pdf for the event, and I'll even throw in my recipe for blue star cookies (which make an excellent Christmas treat or even a decoration for your tree). In case you need the sales links for the two main books (and to help pay for my cosplay addiction Christmas dinner next round of edits), here they are:
A Science Fiction Romance Novel

Available from...

iBooks | Nook | Kobo
Print available from...
A Science Fiction Romance Novel
Goodreads | Webpage
Available from...
Amazon | ARe
B&N | Kobo | iBooks
Amazon | B&N
The Book Depository


Spent all your book budget on Christmas presents? Pick over 100 FREE science fiction and fantasy books (including several scifi romances) on the 3-4th of December from multiple online retailers. Click HERE.
The SFR Brigade Holiday Showcase starts 15th of December, and so far there are about 17 authors all set to dazzle you with their posts and give you some early Christmas presents. Don't miss out!

Status Update
I'm writing again! As I mentioned above, I'll be preparing a Christmas themed short for Keir and Quin from my time travel romance series, Redemption. I'm still poking at Keir's Shadow which is promised for next year. I'll also be winding down my social media ready for the Christmas break.

Chook Update
My girls are not really enjoying the weather, but at least their new coop has more shelter. Here's a couple of pictures. Pitch has undergone quite a transformation with her winter plumage, going from black with small white speckles to big white splotches. Maybe she thought the snowflake pattern would give her better camouflage for winter, lol.