Romance Writers of America: Pros and Cons

To be upfront right from the start: RWA seemed like too much trouble for many years. I put off spending the money for it for various reasons, but I have now joined and I will do my best as a new member to outline the various good and bad things about RWA for you in case you are trying to decide for yourself whether or not to jump in.

Lets start with the cons:

  1. Money money y’all (amounts are in U.S. dollars).

Membership costs around 99$ a year (plus a 13$ one-time fee when you first sign up.) It costs more if you want to join as a professional published author.

RWA offers classes for members (both in-person workshops and online) that range from 25-55$ a class.

If you want a group of writers to meet with, you can join a local chapter of RWA-these cost an additional membership fee which can be anywhere from 50-100$ a year. (There are smaller chapters that have 0-20$ fees. It really depends on where you live and how big the chapter is.)

Different local chapters offer contests where you submit your manuscript and it gets judged by at least two people, possibly an editor or agent if it makes it to the final round. Contest entry fees cost anywhere from 10-30$.


Oh, I’m not done yet.

You can attend a Regional RWA conference anywhere from 80-200$ a ticket for a weekend of speakers, classes, giveaways and assorted fun.

Or the big RWA National Conference once a year; starting around 200$ for the entrance ticket to the four day event and that doesn’t even count airfare and hotel rooms or food while you’re there. At the event you will find speakers, classes, marketing help, awards ceremonies for the big manuscript and book contests (this is like the Oscars, only with better writing) pitch contests with actual editors and agents right there in front of you, giveaways, raffles and assorted other goodies, all in the company of fellow romance authors. My budget doesn’t extend to the conference yet, so when it does I’ll write up a post about whether or not the conference is worth it.

By this point, your eyes have turned into two round dollar signs and you are backing away slowly, clutching your wallet to you in case RWA starts charging for breathing air. I feel you. I’ve been there.

2. You may get lost in the sheer amount of members.

There are roughly 10,250 members in RWA. If you just send off your money and join, and then sit back and never engage in any more activity online you will fall through the cracks. I’m sorry, but you will. Only join if you are feeling ready to stand up and shout for some attention to build your career.

Take a class or two. Shell out the additional money to join a local chapter, if it’s feasible. Volunteer to be a critique reader. Utilize the resources. Don’t waste that membership fee by just sitting there hoping RWA will do the legwork for you.

3. RWA is all about the romance.

I write Sci-Fi crime space operas, you might wail. Where is the money-sucking writer’s community for me? Well, not at RWA. It’s in the first letter of the acronym, helpfully provided in full as the title of this post. If you’re not interested in articles about the literary function of sex in a scene, this association may not be for you. There are other writer’s associations for different genres, I provide a link to a list of them in the next post.

Why is all of this worth it? That will be covered next (because otherwise this was going to be over 1,000 words and ain’t nobody got time for that much reading on a blog.) Find the pros article here


10 Fun Pranks to Play on a Bookworm

Although a substantial portion of us are introverted and pranks are associated with attention-getting extroverts, the reality is that a lot of us introverts love a well played trick.

We can have a wickedly quiet sense of humor, and this is the time of year for that tendency to come out and shine. With April Fools Day coming up, here are ten ways to pull a literary prank on your favorite book-loving friend. (With thanks to Ginni Chen over at Barnes and Noble blog for some of the ideas used, you can find her article here.)

No books were harmed in the making of this list.

Seriously, if you hurt the books be prepared for us to break out a level of crazy you haven’t seen since the last time you interrupted us while reading. These pranks are all about the good-natured, harmless fun.

1. If you have access to a number they don’t know, text them the first few sentences of a book they’ll never read. Then text that they have been signed up for “A Novel in A Month” messaging service. Pretend not to understand their desperate requests to “cancel subscription”.no

2. Change their five main phone contacts names to characters from a book. George R.R. Martin has like a thousand confusing ones to choose from, the only problem will be picking which names to use.

Side note: no one deserves to be labeled Ramsay. That’s just going too far.


3. Tell them (or write up and send an official looking notice) that all of the books by their favorite author have been recalled for causing grievous paper cuts because they are “so engrossing that they cause readers to turn pages recklessly and are a hazard to public safety.”


4. If you’re feeling artsy and have lots of time, print out fake book jackets for their books with fun made up names. (“Good Bye Vas Deferens: A Little Golden Book Guide to Vasectomy” “Fancy Coffins You Can Make Yourself” “The Beginner’s Guide to Human Sacrifice and the Raising of Demons”) Find printable templates here at Bound By Nothing.


5. Text them random Shakespearean insults. Definitely do this with no warning or context.


6. Convince them that you bought Snake Eyes: A Nicolas Cage Activity Book to give them as a gift. The best part is that this book actually exists. I’m not saying you should buy it for real, but if you do please post a screenshot of their reaction. For scientific purposes.


7. Move the first book on their Favorites Shelf to the last position. Don’t move it so far away as a different shelf, just to the wrong place on the Shelf of Favored Authors. See how long it takes them to notice. It might take while for them to want to re-read that particular book, but I guarantee you they will find out. Tell me in the comments how long it took, the winner for least amount of time gets a big virtual high five.wait what loyd

8. Give them a Harry Potter themed day without warning them first. Make butterbeer (recipe via I Heart Naptime here). Write “The Chamber of Secrets has been opened” on their bathroom mirror in red lipstick. Wear a robe and demand that they join you in your fashion choices because Hogwarts has a uniform dress code (extra points if you already own a pointy hat). Quote the books at them whenever possible and insist that they use the accio spell whenever they want you to give them something.


9. Convince them that their favorite novel is being turned into a movie, by the completely wrong director and with terrible casting choices. Do they love YA? Michael Bay will be directing their favorite with Quentin Tarantino writing the script and Steve Buscemi will be starring. Sit back and enjoy their outrage.

michael bay

10. Write the word “Plot” on a strip of paper and twist it up. If they change their mind about any decision during the day, hand them the twisted piece of paper. Wait for them to get the pun.plot twist


The conundrum I’m facing today: Writers need a platform. For a platform, they must seduce people into caring that they exist and write books. To seduce, they must interact and self-promote.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin (AKA Bloglovin’ says I have to do this if I want my blog on their site.)

Not everything you hear about introverts is true, but it is sterling 100% silver true that I hate self-promoting. And, OK, to be honest I’m not super fond of interacting with strangers. Once I get to know you I like you, it’s that initial reaching out and connecting that holds the terror for me. No matter what actual situation is happening at the time, I get a mental image of myself dinking around other writer’s blogs and looking like this . . .

I feel you Steve. I feel you.

To have any chance of cutting through the white noise of half a million self-published books a year, whether or not I hate self-promotion is pretty much meaningless. So, consider this my nut-up or shut-up post with a shameless link to Bloglovin’ to follow my posts. Will write for high-fives.

I can recommend Bloglovin’ as a good way to condense the crazy amounts of blogs there are out there down to manageable levels for yourself, whether you want to follow S.E. White Books or not. Go forth, and find fun blogs.

off off
On second thought, this more accurately represents my mental state voyaging into other blog waters. The one with the eyebrows is me.

5 Steps For Encountering a Bookworm in Their Natural Habitat

The Bookworm (Lat. tineae librorum) may be found in any climate. Good-humored and gregarious around other bookworms, they are most abundant in comfortable, dry, book-surrounded areas but may be found anywhere there is a decent chance to sit down and read.

A steady intake of caffeine and the occasional biscuit is a bookworm’s diet of choice, although regular meals may be substituted.

Caffeine is an important part of the bookworm diet. Do not, however, plate it attractively with raw coffee beans because there is a good chance your bookworm will absentmindedly eat them.

A few hardy species have learned to close out external noises and read in areas previously thought inhospitable, i.e. the subway, a crowded venue or in a noisy class.

Bookstagram is a bookworm’s natural home online. Many other bookworms can be found there, talking about books and adding to a hoard of To-Be-Read titles which may never be read. Rather like a dragon who can’t help collecting piles of jewels, only to sit on them.

We recommend that you encourage your bookworm to create a new TBR pile when the first one reaches waist height, to mitigate the danger of avalanches.

An ideal space for bookworms

The only habitat thus far underpopulated by bookworms is underwater. They need a steady supply of literature and a regular intake of food and fresh air to survive. With the appropriate care your bookworm can last you many decades, happily adding to their hoard of titles and visiting thousands of other worlds, lifetimes, cultures and ideas through the medium of print.

Mostly harmless.

The nutrients in biscuits are ideally formulated for bookworms

The steps for proper care and maintenance of your native bookworm are as follows:

  1. The first and most crucial step in speaking to a bookworm who is engaged in reading: Don’t.
  2. Seriously, just go away.
  3. Give them uninterrupted time to read their books.
  4. A clear, well-lighted space which is free of intrusions is always recommended for your bookworm.
  5. Resist the urge to ask them what they are reading. The best course of action is to leave the area without speaking, perhaps after depositing a fresh drink of water.

For further reading on the subject please consult the guide that inspired this post; How To Talk To Bookworms When They Are Reading? via Ana Jembrek and Books Rock My World.

Happy Birthday to the Master of Rhyme

Happy Birthday to Theodor Seuss Geisel.

My heartfelt, grateful thanks for the side-eye looks of horror and confusion from volunteer readers that I bring into my PreK class and then unleash the good Doctor’s work on. Their disbelief that they have to learn what is essentially a new language, on the fly, in front of twenty five wiggly four-year-olds warms my heart on the coldest of days. I thank you, Dr. Seuss, and I read your books every year.

Yet Another Defense of Romance

“Art is a creative endeavor that elicits an emotion, so yes, romance novels are art.” -Andrea DaRif

If you don’t like romance and refuse to read it, it might be time to re-evaluate that attitude and try out what the critics like to refer to as a “bodice-ripper”. Got an argument about why you shouldn’t read it? Cool. I’ve got an article for you.

Yes, I poke fun at the tropes that romance uses. I’ll poke just as much fun at other genres on here, just wait until I have some time to get into the overused YA clichés. It’s possible to have some fun and also respect the genre at the same time, and I have the greatest respect for romance. Like any of the best literature romance gets deeply into the human psyche; the mistakes, flaws, hopes, fears and needs that bind us all as sentient beings. So, let’s dive into the arguments against romance and have some fun.

“Romance is smut.” Smut is available, if that’s your thing, but the actual definition of romance is the story of a relationship between two people. These people are attracted to each other, which sometimes leads to sex. Explicit descriptions are optional and there are romances out there with zero sex if that’s what you want. For every high-minded argument about literary porn there are roughly 1000 other people willing to buy it. Selling books is a business, and sex sells. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ You find me another genre that doesn’t include even one romantic relationship and a smidgen of sex, anyway.

In the good ones sex is not center stage. The primary plot is the twists and turns and heart-aching dips a relationship can take. For a good take on this idea, read Jessica Tripler’s article from Book Riot The Literary Function of Sex Scenes in Romance. Or pick up a Nora Roberts, any Nora Roberts, and give her a try.

“Romance gives women unrealistic expectations.” Point A: Orgasms should nOT BE AN UNREALISTIC EXPECTATION. Dude.

Point B: Let’s just all assume that if readers can be trusted to devour a Stephen King novel and not feel an immediate need to hunker down in the nearest sewer luring small children into the deeps with balloons they can also be trusted to know the difference between a romance novel and real-life. Murder mysteries don’t turn people into crime scene investigators, Sci-Fi doesn’t make us suspect aliens in every shadow, YA dystopians don’t lead people to rise up against oppressive regimes and get cool tattoos. Why is romance supposed to be the only genre that will lead readers astray while everything else gets a pass? Article from the Yale Herald in defense of romance. The Yale Herald, people.

“Romance is oppressive to women and puts them down.”  Romance novels are primarily written by women, for women. Why would women write books putting themselves down? And if they did, why would other women buy them? The logical conclusion to that is; romance is primarily written by women about women making choices in their relationships. They make the choices, they hold the power, Q.E.D. they are not oppressed.

And anyway, weren’t we just reading about how romance gives women unrealistic expectations? So . . . does that mean they give women an unrealistic expectation of being oppressed? 0_O

To be fair, there are books out there that contain themes that lend themselves to this idea. Especially in the 1970s-1980s, North American romance novels went through a bad time with some rape plots. It would be easy to take those books and say ‘that proves it’ and flounce off to drink lattes in a beret and condemn the whole genre. But it’s taking the coward way out to do that. If you read those books, the woman ended up with the power in the end of the story, flipping the script. They examined a real-life issue from a woman’s perspective, and gave readers the tools to understand and possibly move past it. Plus there was usually a lot of revenge and killing going on by the end. Rape and revenge, it’s a trope. Really.

There are gray areas, and it’s a discussion that needs to happen so if you have an example of something that promotes this argument point it out. Just like any other form of art, themes change as new perspectives come in and flaws are exposed. For this one, head on over to the Smart Bitches Trashy Books blog and check out Imma Read What I Want by Elise.

“Romance is shallow, non-literary fluff.” So if everyone isn’t sobbing while evaluating their life choices by the end of it, it’s not literature. Do the people who make these arguments even hear themselves? What is so terrible about being happy? Readers are not lazy or stupid because they want to feel the gentle warm glow of a Happily Ever After at the end of their book.

Every genre has merits and deserves to be read. Fantasy lets you believe in magic when everything around you is so mundane it hurts. Sci-Fi makes the impossible seem like it’s just a galaxy and one scientific discovery away. Thrillers give you that roller coaster fear without the actual risk of death, always a plus. Horror dives deep into the human psyche, kind of the polar opposite direction from Romance. Literary Fiction gets you drunk on someone else’s pain with beautifully alcoholic concoctions of words.

Fluff! Look at all of the fluff!

At the core Romance is about the most basic, central human need: to belong.

To be wanted. To know that someone else chose you to love, flaws and all. That’s pretty powerful. For this argument, please read this article from Publisher’s Weekly by Kristan Higgins.

Option A. Feeling the urge to check out a romance novel? Here’s a list with 100 great choices; NPRs reader voted list of favorites

Option B. Still not convinced? Read one last article, containing mentions of flaming sticks and eyeballs, from the Queen of the genre herself; Nora Roberts defense of romance

Option C. Romance is just not the genre for you and that’s OK. Thanks for giving this defense of romance a chance anyway.


The Magic of Manuscript Rejections; Round 4


The scoreboard:

  1. Established Medium Size Agency (or EMS): #pass, with a very polite form letter. Much appreciated.
  2. EMS: No reply, which means #pass
  3. New Small Agency (now NSA): Zero reply, #pass
  4. EMS: No reply. #pass.
  5. Small Independent Agency-Romance Only: #pass with the kindest personal letter full of pointers.
  6. EMS: #pass, with a slightly more personalized form letter. I’m actually very excited about that.
  7. New Romance Only Agency: #pass with an encouraging form letter.
  8. Big 5 Imprint: No reply, #pass.
  9. EMS: #pass with a nice form letter.
  10. Small Boutique Agency: #pass with an encouraging, although non-specific letter.
  11. EMS: No reply #pass
  12. EMS: No reply #pass.
  13. EMS: Also thinking #pass.
  14. EMS: Another no reply #pass.
  15. Small Boutique Agency: #pass with a nice email.
  16. EMS: Quick turnaround on a kind #pass email. I have learned that if they email you the next day that is not a good thing.
  17. Old Venerable Agency: #pass with a form email. At least it was kind.
  18. Romance Only Imprint: Submittable says it’s a #pass, only they turn your little hopeful blue “In Progress” button to dead, ashy grey “Rejected”. Thanks Submittable.
  19. EMS: #pass with a nice email
  20. Second Big 5 Imprint: #pass with a form.
  21. EMS: zero answer #pass
  22. Novella Only Small Agency: #pass? No answer and no acknowledgement that they received it, so for all I know it’s lost and wandering in the ether of cyberspace, crying for me. I’m sorry, my beautiful manuscript. I cannot find you. I’m barely computer literate.

The unending waterfall of #pass without even a spark of interest in a partial is wearing me down, so I’m taking a break from querying to get my manuscript beta-read like a mofo and work on my query letter some more.

And finishing my next manuscript.

Also researching where to keep querying, when I start up again.

Also joined a reading challenge (#HRChallenge2017), and a new idea for another book just kinda landed on my head, like a giant apple. It hurt. And needs to be outlined so I don’t lose it.

Since I’ve made this sound like so much fun, why don’t you polish up your own manuscript and go for it? Here’s a link to the site Every Writer with a comprehensive list of publishers that they add and update when needed. They are rockstars for doing this.


Romance Reading Challenge 2017


hr-challenge-2016-badgeYes, I’ve been suckered into 2017 reading challenges. How can I resist a challenge that is tailored to the exact genre I’m trying to write? I have to research, so why not reach for the stars and become a countess for reading the books I’m reading anyway.



Lets be brutally honest here and admit that being called Countess in casual conversation sounds fabulous. To attain this level I have to read between 16 and 25 historical romances

If you’re interested in joining the challenge runs all year (until December 31, 2017) curated by I Heart Romance & YA and you can sign up at any time. If you’re feeling frisky and very British, you can aim for the level of Queen reader and get through 50+ books this year.

Book Tally as of 3/1/17

  1. It Happened One Autumn by Lisa Kleypas
  2.  Devil In Winter by Lisa Kleypas



I’ve also signed up for the Bad Boys of Romance Reading Challenge 2017. If there’s one thing I cannot resist it’s a bad boy or a redeemed rogue. *swoon* I’m aiming for Level 1-Capturing the Bad Boy (5-9 books) since I can always level up and get that bad boy thinking about things like balls and chains (that’s level 2).

The challenge  is curated by Delighted Reader and sign-up is open until November 30, 2017.

Happy Reading!


featured image artist Rachel Walker


RWA Chapter Contests: Experience is What You Get

A resource I’ve found that other writers may want to know about: RWA chapter contests.

Whoever had the idea for these, they were right. The whole thing in a nutshell: different RWA chapters have different themed contests that you can submit your manuscript to. A California chapter has the “Hooker” contest, for example, where you submit the first three pages of your book and see who has the best “hook”. I’ll just guffaw quietly over here for a minute. No one said contest themes had to be boring. For my first big hurrah, I entered the West Houston RWA Emily Contest. I dove in with both feet, held breath, and a super raw manuscript. I failed to place in the finals, but with a touch of pride I can say that I did not fail spectacularly.

RWA Chapter Contests List

One of the best parts about these contests is that you get free editing and critique reading. Well, not free because there are entry fees (anywhere from 10$ to 25$.) But cheap, anyway. For most contests three different judges look over your entry, generally the first 2-5,000 words, or first two chapters, or some similar small slice of story, in the first round and score it based on a judging sheet. I volunteered as a judge for the same contest in a different category, and the knowledge I gained from the whole process cannot be overstated. What the judges are looking for, what I had to look over critically, is what makes a good novel.

me: waiting for my entry to come back all covered in judgement








Therefore, it can be applied to make my novel a good one. The three judges had good things to say about my story (be still my beating heart!) and also had lots of constructive criticism, which I have utilized. It’s the equivalent of three pretty darn good critique readers and the scoring sheet they work off of is useful. If you make it to the final round the judges are two actual agents and/or editors from publishing houses. Actual Agents put their eyeballs on your work and it’s not from the slush pile, let me just say the beautiful words again. Since they will be judging your excerpt, they might like it and call to ask you about it. That’s worth 25$, wouldn’t you say?

Anyway, no finals in the Emily Contest for me. I have polished the heck out of my manuscript, tried to address my various author sins, and submitted it to three more contests. If the whole idea sounds good to you, the link to the webpage with the whole list of contests is up top.

fishing for agents be like:

First off: The Chicago North RWA Fire & Ice Contest. Entries close March 31, 2017. I will have my judged entry back by April 17 and find out if I made it to the finals (they are very good about getting entries back when promised). If I did, winners are announced May 22.

Second: The online RWA chapter Hearts Through History contest, Romance Through the Ages. Entries close March 31st again. Finalists are announced by May 26th and winners will be announced at the RWA national conference on July 26, 2017.

Third: The Cleveland Rocks Contest from Northeast Ohio RWA opens for entries on Valentine’s Day (someone in their publicity department had a  golden moment there.) Entries close March 31 and finalists (me! me! please me!) will be notified in mid-September.

So, lots of waiting. Meanwhile I’m about halfway through my next book and have a couple others impatiently bumping me for their turn, so if I fail to make it to the finals in these three I’ll just polish up the next book and try again. What I lack in good sense I make up for in pure, visceral stubbornness.






Header image credit: & Jessica Ruscello


Head Hopping


The next author sin I need to address: Head Hopping. For an excellent, succinct post about this and the different types of POV in general, head over to author Juilianne Johnson’s blog and this post.

This one is becoming a sticky point for me. I hop between my characters without even noticing because I’m so involved with them it’s effortless. My beta readers have pointed out, rightly, that they aren’t immersed in the characters like me and when I do this it jars them out of the character they were getting into. This is 100% correct and a problem I need to fix.

That’s why I’m actively working on improving, researching fixes, reading books in my genre and writing hundreds of words a day myself. Sure I’m writing for my own enjoyment but the ultimate goal, the glittering golden prize wavering in the distance is getting someone else lost in my stories too. That means making the reading seamless and sticking to a POV. I’m trying for Third Person Limited, with my two main character point of views. That means taking turns and trying to make the transitions smooth. OK, I’ll practice that until it comes easily. It ends up looking more like Third Person Omniscient a lot though as I narrate and dip between characters and that creates this head hopping problem.

But . . . sometimes the relationship ends up being the main character, the action is coming thick and head hopping happens. If it’s telling the story and not tossing my readers out of the spell on their ass, it’s all good right? Especially in Romance, the POV seems to be a bit more fluid. Readers coming from YA where it’s all first person and strictly main character POV might be a bit jarred by it. Readers coming from a pure fiction background where it’s all one person’s journey into spun gossamer webs of words are definitely unsettled by it.

In the end my instinct is that I’ll have to stick to trying to be the best writer I can and always improving, learning to tell a story and convey the strongest emotion. I have a suspicion that this will include the occasional head hopping along with my multitude of other grammar sins. On the bright side, that means I can look forward to giving a future academic who has sunk low enough to read housewife porn for some reason a nice stress tic and some slow-dawning self doubt about their life choices. #Lifegoals

Another article on this issue; Randy Ingermanson’s excellent take on Head Hopping (The author of “Writing Fiction for Dummies”)




Featured image: & Alisa Anton