Tag Archives: Kristan Higgins

Keynote Speakers Block Dangerous Curves! by Vivienne Lynge

Hello cyber-lovlies!  Vivienne Lynge here, wishing you a happy Saturday.  So it’s that time of the week where I sit down to write my blog post and today, I have to tell you, I’m torn.  Being dragged, is more like it.  I’m on page 225 of Dangerous Curves Ahead by our very own Sugar Jameson and frankly, I kinda resent the intrusion blogging is making into my fantasy world of Mike and Ellis. 

dangerous curves aheadSeriously.  Dangerous Curves Ahead will be available in a couple of weeks.  If you like romance, you need to order yourself a copy of this book.  Or get it at B&N when it comes out.  It’s wonderful.  And I’m honestly not saying that because I know the delightful Sugar personally.  Contemporary romance really isn’t my cup of tea, but I’m LOVING this story and quite sad that I have to be responsible from now until about 10:00 tonight.  But on the other hand, I am looking forward to snuggling down into my cushy bed and finishing the last 150 pages then!

But I digress from the topic I had planned to write about.  Keynote Speakers.  Normally, I’m not really keen on them.  I kinda let my mind wander, doodle, or jot down plot ideas whenever I’m in a situation where a keynote speaker is yapping away on some stage.  Ahem.  That was NOT the case at RWA Nationals 2013. 

The official Keynote Speaker was Cathy Maxwell.  I know I’ve read some of her books, but she isn’t a household name to me.  Well, she wasn’t.  Ms. Maxwell spoke about how a family acquaintance decided to follow his dream after a divorce in his late 20’s/early 30’s, but died young, just as he was headiing toward the top of his new field.  He was an artist and had never signed any of his work because he felt that he wasn’t good enough yet.   Of course, he had expected to have plenty of time left to perfect it.

Her message to the 2,000+ writers in the room was that we are good enough.  We should be proud to be writers, no matter where we are on our journey to publication, and that we should be proud to be a part of the often-maligned genre that financially supports the whole damn publishing industry.  She was a powerful speaker, with a powerful message that was touchingly told.  I admit, I grew a bit misty.  She was amazing and I didn’t have a second to daydream.

The next day at the Awards Lunch, there was a speaker, too.  None other that CT’s very own Kristan Higgins.  Now I’ve read some of Higgins’ books and I’ve spent a number of hours in her company, so I know her a little.  I know she’s funny and awesome. And while I didn’t expect much daydreaming time during her speech, nor I didn’t expect to cry which is why I wasn’t at all cautious with the vinegrette or scrumptious chocolate mousse when using my napkin.  BIG MISTAKE!

joe-manganiello-wetSure there were some funny pictures of her glammed up and in grungy writer-mode on the big screen, as well as a wet, shirtless Joe Manganiello.  And of course, she thanked her husband for years of great sex, and she read some funny snippets from fan letters. 

But then, the last two snippets weren’t funny so much as they were something else.  One woman wrote that she was approaching senior citizenship and had never been in love, but that reading Kristan’s books let her glimpse that experience enough that she didn’t feel so left out.  Another woman wrote that Kristan’s brand of hero was strong enough to let her know that her boyfriend beating her wasn’t okay, no matter how sorry he claimed to be afterward.  She said that Kristan’s book gave her the strength to end that abusive relationship and look for something better.

That’s when Kristan’s speech took a turn that few people expected.  She talked about very personal, dark experiences in her life ~ times when she turned to romance novels to get her through.  Jude Deveraux’s stories kept her going when the middle school bullies made every day a misery.  Nora Robert’s books were company during the long, dark wait in the hospital after her father’s tragic car accident and Julie Garwood helped after a devastating miscarriage. 

I think every woman in that room (and the handful of men too) has experienced those kinds of moments.  Moments of grief when the only thing that will help is to escape into a world where you know there will be a happy ending, and that you will see it in just a handful of hours, rather than the months and years that stretch out between you and your own happy ending.  If you can even see that far into the future at that point.  Tears poured down my face while I frantically searched my luxurious white cloth napkin for a mousse-free spot to blot.  FYI – vinaigrette stings when rubbed into your eyes.

I didn’t expect Kristan’s message to as powerful as Cathy’s had been and I was wrong.  Dead wrong.  Kristan’s message to us was that not only should we be proud to write romance as Cathy had said, but that we have an obligation to do it well.  The women of the world need us to see them through their dark times and let’s be realistic, the world is often a very dark place.  If we choose to pursue this career, we damn well better apply our talent, hone our craft, learn about the business, and produce the high-quality fantasies people, women, need.

Today’s secret: Romance really isn’t the red-headed stepchild of the publishing world.  These trashy novels are actually very important to a lot of people, in a lot of ways.  That really shouldn’t be a secret.

So – time to spill.  What’s your all time favorite, post-publication-of-the-Flame-&-the-Flower-by-Ms-Woodiwiss-back-in-’72, trashy romance novel?  I’ve got a lot of faves, but how about these: Velvet Angel by Deveraux, For the Roses by Garwood, A Heart so Wild by Lindsay.  To name a few.

Top 10 tips, quotes, and advice I heard at RWA2013

PJ Sharon here, happy to be home after a fun filled week in Atlanta at RWA 2013. It was such a busy week, I couldn’t possibly recap all the cool events, workshops, and networking opportunities I enjoyed. So instead, I thought I would share the highlights in a top 10 list. I’ve paraphrased the exact quotes, but wanted to share the amazing messages from some notable authors and industry professionals.

1)      Advice from Indie author Bella Andre. “Writing is a business. Know who your readers are and write what you can sell. If it’s not selling, change something. Put a new cover on it, change your description, or change the categories on your book’s page.” This is paraphrased, but definitely the gist of her message. I had the opportunity to chat with her and she gave me some very good career advice. She was awesome and I’m now a huge fan girl.RWA2013 me and Bella Andre

2)      Kristan Higgins in her incredibly insightful and moving luncheon speech. “What we do makes a difference. Romance novels can help people through the darkest, loneliest, and most painful times in their lives.” Really…if you ever doubt the worth of what you are writing, you need to remember how you feel after reading a heartfelt and powerful love story by one of your favorite authors.

3)      Michael Hague on the ultimate tool for understanding your character’s deepest fear and motivation. “I’ll do whatever it takes to achieve that goal, just don’t ask me to_________.”

4)      Author Carla Neggars on Writing as Work/Writing as Play: Do they need to be either/or? “It comes down to creating a dynamic dialogue between work and play. It’s about abandonment and concentration, the continent of reason and the Island of intuition. Set a schedule with intention and stick to it.” 

5)      Tips on e-mail marketing from Heroes and Heart Breakers authors.  “Create a catchy subject line that has searchable key words and offers a promise. Meet that promise. Send out newsletters on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. Balance info with offers and engagement of readers. Blend editorial and marketing with a call to action from your readers sprinkled in.” There was some talk about gaining newsletter followers by using Romance Studios, adding your newsletter link to an automated Twitter response for new followers, adding the newsletter link to your Facebook page, Author Central page, etc.

6)      Mark LaFebvre from KOBO Writing Life on their now offering pre-orders for Indies. “We’re open minded in Canada.” I loved this guy and can’t wait to start working directly with KOBO to sell my books.

7)      Bella Andre says that audio books are the latest big thing and SEO is the key to attracting your readership!

8)      Author Barbara Freethy recommends at least three proof readers for Indie-pubbed books. I agree!

9)      Agent Christina Hogrebe recommended book bloggers for promoting your YA titles. “If a high traffic blogger loves your book, it can go viral in no time.” Here’s to hoping she’s right!

10)  A quote from award winning author and RITA Awards emcee, Christie Craig. “The difference between northern writers and southern writers is that northerners start their stories with ‘Once upon a time,’ while southern storytellers start every story with ‘You ‘aint ‘gonna believe this sh**.’” Christie Craig was hilariously funny and did a fine job as emcee. WTG Christie!

RWA2013 me and Katy Lee Beyond all of these excellent tips and so many more from people like Cathy Maxwell, our keynote speaker, and the excellent agent/editor panels, the best part of the conference for me was the new friends I made and the wonderful companionship of my CTRWA peeps (other than D.S. who it turns out is a terrible covers hog).

Please feel free to share some of your highlights in the comments section below. And speaking of favorite conference highlights, check out all the spectacular shoes! Can you guess whose they are?shoe pic

Top 10 tips, quotes, and advice I heard at RWA2013

PJ Sharon here, happy to be home after a fun filled week in Atlanta at RWA 2013. It was such a busy week, I couldn’t possibly recap all the cool events, workshops, and networking opportunities I enjoyed. So instead, I thought I would share the highlights in a top 10 list. I’ve paraphrased the exact quotes, but wanted to share the amazing messages from some notable authors and industry professionals.

1) Advice from Indie author Bella Andre. “Writing is a business. Know who your readers are and write what you can sell. If it’s not selling, change something. Put a new cover on it, change your description, or change the categories on your book’s page.” This is paraphrased, but definitely the gist of her message. I had the opportunity to chat with her and she gave me some very good career advice. She was awesome and I’m now a huge fan girl.RWA2013 me and Bella Andre

2) Kristan Higgins in her incredibly insightful and moving luncheon speech. “What we do makes a difference. Romance novels can help people through the darkest, loneliest, and most painful times in their lives.” Really…if you ever doubt the worth of what you are writing, you need to remember how you feel after reading a heartfelt and powerful love story by one of your favorite authors.

3) Michael Hague on the ultimate tool for understanding your character’s deepest fear and motivation. “I’ll do whatever it takes to achieve that goal, just don’t ask me to_________.”

4) Author Carla Neggars on Writing as Work/Writing as Play: Do they need to be either/or? “It comes down to creating a dynamic dialogue between work and play. It’s about abandonment and concentration, the continent of reason and the Island of intuition. Set a schedule with intention and stick to it.”

5) Tips on e-mail marketing from Heroes and Heart Breakers authors. “Create a catchy subject line that has searchable key words and offers a promise. Meet that promise. Send out newsletters on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. Balance info with offers and engagement of readers. Blend editorial and marketing with a call to action from your readers sprinkled in.” There was some talk about gaining newsletter followers by using Romance Studios, adding your newsletter link to an automated Twitter response for new followers, adding the newsletter link to your Facebook page, Author Central page, etc.

6) Mark LaFebvre from KOBO Writing Life on their now offering pre-orders for Indies. “We’re open minded in Canada.” I loved this guy and can’t wait to start working directly with KOBO to sell my books.

7) Bella Andre says that audio books are the latest big thing and SEO is the key to attracting your readership!

8) Author Barbara Freethy recommends at least three proof readers for Indie-pubbed books. I agree!

9) Agent Christina Hogrebe recommended book bloggers for promoting your YA titles. “If a high traffic blogger loves your book, it can go viral in no time.” Here’s to hoping she’s right!

10) A quote from award winning author and RITA Awards emcee, Christie Craig. “The difference between northern writers and southern writers is that northerners start their stories with ‘Once upon a time,’ while southern storytellers start every story with ‘You ‘aint ‘gonna believe this sh**.’” Christie Craig was hilariously funny and did a fine job as emcee. WTG Christie!

RWA2013 me and Katy Lee Beyond all of these excellent tips and so many more from people like Cathy Maxwell, our keynote speaker, and the excellent agent/editor panels, the best part of the conference for me was the new friends I made and the wonderful companionship of my CTRWA peeps (other than D.S. who it turns out is a terrible covers hog).

Please feel free to share some of your highlights in the comments section below. And speaking of favorite conference highlights, check out all the spectacular shoes! Can you guess whose they are?shoe pic

RWA 2013 Wrap Up

I’m back from my first RWA conference and I’m EXHAUSTED! But I’m feeling invigorated too. I’m excited to write again. I’ve been so busy with life that writing began to feel like a chore. But five days in a hotel with 2500 romance writers and I feel like I’m ready to charge ahead and push myself to write the best damn book possible.

Here’s a recap of my week. (WARNING: Some serious name dropping is about to happen.)

I arrive on Tuesday. Not much is going on. Most of the writers are just arriving. The place to hang out is the bar. Alcohol and romance writers. Yes, please. Of course I’m there with my lovely CTRWA chaptermates. Suddenly I look up and see Nora. NORA. Do I even have to give a last name? Nora Roberts. J.D Robb. Holy shit. I’m star struck. I stare at her. STARE. Because I can’t take my eyes off of her. Romance writers are my rock stars. And there Nora was sitting with a group of friends and her publicist that never leaves her side. She looks rich and fabulous and  famous. Like she’s the queen of romance. And to me that’s pretty damn cool.

Wednesday there are no workshops. Many of the writers and still filtering in through out the day. Registering. Getting the big bag of books and goodies that come with registration. There’s a mall connected to the hotel. Of course I go shopping with my chaptermates. We grab a cheap dinner in the food court. There is a Jill Shalvis sighting. I have to stop myself from yelling out to her. “Where’s Higgins?” Or “Do you have any extra cookies?” (You have to follow her on Facebook to understand what I’m talking about.) Later that night there was the HUGE literacy signing. Sixty thousand dollars was raised Wednesday. Our own Katy Lee was signing. I was so proud to see her. I then went to see Brenda Jackson. She just turned in her 100th book. 100 books! I look at her and I’m amazed. I totally embarrass myself. “I want to be you when I grow up,” I gush at her. “I think you are amazing!” Luckily she doesn’t call security on me and lets me take a picture with her. She’s so gracious and lovely. I wish I could be like her, but she has more poise in her little finger than I have in my whole body.

Me and Ms. Jackson

Katy Lee

Thursday was a big day for me. I went to some interesting workshops. My first was on avoiding cliche and then I went to Beverly Jenkins and Brenda Jackson’s workshop on writing family saga’s. Me and sister scribe Viv really enjoyed the talk. and Beverly Jenkins is probably one of the most funny writers I have ever seen. “Keep your shit together,” is what I took away from that workshop. I needed to hear that from Ms. Jenkins. As writers we all need to hear that. I met with my editor Holly for the first time. I started working with her over a year ago and we have worked on three books so far, so it was great to see her in person and just chat. Later that day was the Keynote luncheon where Cathy Maxwell gave one hell of a rousing speech. She simultaneously made two thousand of us want to pick up our pens and jump back into our writing. Later that day I’m in the elevator with a couple of ladies, one of them was wearing an orange first timer ribbon like I was. The other woman, a sweet looking petite redhead, asked us how we were enjoying our conference. We had a nice chat on the way down to the lobby. Even after the elevator stopped the redhead and I kept talking as we walked out. And then she introduced herself. “I’m Jayne Krentz,” she says. Jayne Krentz. Jayne Ann Krentz. Also known as Sabrina Quick, author of so many amazing novels. I have read a half dozen of her New York Times bestselling novels. I stupidly say, “You’re Jayne Ann Krentz?” She kind of makes a vague gesture towards herself, as if to say, “Yeah, dummy. I’m just a normal person.”  She is a normal person and a very nice person. Later I go to her signing and she signed at book to me, “Thanks for the elevator ride that I’ll never forget.” I LOVE her.

Jamie and Viv

Friday was an amazing day. Kristan Higgins gave the awards luncheon speech. I don’t know how to put into words how freaking fantastic she was. I laughed and cried and got goose bumps. If you ever get the chance to listen to it please do. She showed us a side of herself that we don’t normally see. She spoke about bullying and loss and poverty and grief. And how reading romance helped her through the tough times in life. As a member of her chapter I was so proud to see her up there. And for the rest of the conference I was proudly telling the world that I was in The Kristan Higgins chapter. I also met with my Harlequin editor, Tara, that day. What I write for Harlequin is vastly different from what I write for St. Martins Press and we talked a little about how I was going market and build a new brand. Later that night I met up with Amelia Grey and Mary Jo Putney to head to SMP cocktail party. Amelia is a historical romance writer who wrote one of my favs, A Duke to Die For. And Mary Jo Putney… When I met her she was just introduced to me as Mary Jo. I didn’t realize she was the Mary Jo Putney. She’s a legend and she was the recipient of the 2013 lifetime achievement award for RWA. She’s also super quirky and funny. If you don’t know her, read her books. We walked the six or so blocks to the party together. I was wearing stupid high, strappy shoes that were not made for walking. By the time I got to the party my feet were hurting so bad I could barely stand. So I left that party early, went back to my room, put on flat shoes and headed out to the Harlequin party. They throw an awesome event and I was honored to be apart of it. Romance writers and the best dancers. And those inspirational romance writers really know how to party. It was great seeing everybody have so much fun.

Best Speech Ever

Saturday the exhaustion starts to kick in. I’m too tired to make it downstairs for any workshops. But I do manage to get my act together enough to mail the dozen or so books home that WILL NOT fit in my suitcase. Later that day I have my first on camera interview with Fresh Fiction TV. I was nervous as hell, but the people at Fresh Fiction are so nice they put me at ease and when I spoke about my book, DANGEROUS CURVES AHEAD, I was actually coherent. After that I went to my very first book signing. St. Martins Press was kind enough to order fifty ARCs for me to sign. I didn’t think anybody was going to come to my line. I’m such a newbie and Cherry Adair was there! But all my books went and they went quickly and strangers were asking to take their picture with me. It was surreal and awesome and so much fun to meet and talk to all those people. I finally felt like an author. After countless rejections and years crippling doubt I finally felt like I had made it. It was a great feeling. And I want to thank all the CTRWAers who came out to the signing to encourage me! Your presence there really helped put a girl at ease.

author

Saturday night was the RITAs, the Oscars of the romance writing world. The event was fun we had great seats and I got to see some of my favorite authors take home that beautiful golden statue. It was a great way to end the conference. Being there that night gave me new goals. To win a RITA. I don’t care how long it takes. I’m going to keep writing the best damn possible books that I can until I get there. And my other goal is to publish 100 books whether it be through  the traditional model or self publishing. Buy the end of 2014 I’ll have 5 books and one novella in print. I’m on my way. And I’m going to keep writing until I can’t do it anymore.

You can probably tell by this long and rambling post that my brain is fried, but it’s a good kind of fried. How was your week? And what goals do you have for yourself.

Why Don’t You Cooperate?

Hi, all. Suze here. Welcome!

A couple of weeks ago, I learned a new word! And I’m about to use it in a sentence.

If you want to succeed in the writing business, don’t be afraid of cooperatition.

What’s cooperatition, you ask? Well, clearly it’s an amalgam of cooperation and competition. I’m crossing the border into Jennifer Fusco/Market or Die territory, here. The theory is that if two individuals/businesses are providing the same or substantially similar services, if they work together both will benefit–even if they are in competition with each other for the same customers. Ever hear the expression A rising tide lifts all ships? Same principle. Need a movie reference to understand it better? How about Miracle on 34th Street, when Mr. Macy and Mr. Gimbel send customers to each other’s store if their own doesn’t carry a requested item? Good will abounds and sales go through the roof. As Charlie Sheen might say: Winning!

Make no mistake: Writers are in competition with each other. But it’s much more subtle than, say, the rivalry between Pepsi and Coke or Microsoft and Apple. Writers compete with each other for spots on a publisher’s roster, for the attention of an agent, and for readers who have only so much time and so much money to spend on books.

But readers are the most wonderful kind of repeat consumers. They don’t buy/read just one book a year. And if readers see that an author promotes other authors and behaves professionally and enthusiastically toward them, they will think better of the writer for being a decent person who loves her craft. Theoretically, that translates into sales. As a consumer, I don’t buy products from jerks if I can possibly help it. And that goes for books and authors too!

Here are some ideas for practicing cooperatition with other authors with whom you share a readership (or potential readership):

  1. Partner with someone. Example: Kristan Higgins and Jill Shalvis and their Facebook Man Wars. If you’re not familiar with Man Wars, check out these two authors on Facebook–once a week or so they choose a theme (men in uniform, Australian guys), post pictures of the hottest possible guys, and write funny, sexy captions. And they’re usually zinging each other in a friendly way. This technique promotes their brand (romance and hot guys) and engages readers with new content all day long–with nary a sales promotion in sight.
  2. Promote other authors–especially those with products similar to yours.  Offer congratulations on Facebook and Twitter when a colleague hits a bestseller list or releases a new book. Leave positive reviews on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Goodreads. Hopefully, they’ll do the same for you. Even if they don’t, you’ve still put a lot of Macy’s/Gimbel’s-style goodwill out into the universe–and the universe tends to notice things like that.
  3. Assemble a group of authors into a partnership that is about more than sales. Example: Jungle Red Writers bills itself as “The View. With bodies.” These mystery/crime fiction authors often talk about timely topics in a panel-type format. I think it’s brilliant! Yes, their books are mentioned, and links abound, but there is plenty of non-sales content as well. Another example: Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen. These writers of culinary mysteries post new recipes every day–again, promoting their brand and providing new content for readers. And if readers like one author’s books, they’ll probably like–and buy–the others.

What do you think about cooperatition? Do you have any ideas to add to the list above? We’d love to hear about it!