Christian Romance Author Liz Isaacson: 2015

Monday, December 14, 2015

New: Reader's Facebook Group

Okay, so I have a new idea for this coming year. 2016 is going to be amazing! I have a TON of stuff coming out next year, and I'm happy about that. But I've decided that I'd like to have a group of readers to interact with and give my books to for reviews.

I have 4 full-length novels scheduled to come out in 2016, two self-published and two traditionally published.

3 of them are romance novels: A contemporary from Cleis Press in July 2016, and two more of my western inspirational romances under my pen name, Liz Isaacson, coming in February and May 2016.

My last novel is RIFT, a YA time travel thriller coming from Jolly Fish Press in the fall.

I also have 6 anthology collections coming out in 2016. All 6 of them are romance anthologies.
1. Sweet & Sassy Beach anthology (sweet and sassy romance): April 2016
2. Western romance anthology: April 2016
3. Hot & Haunted romance anthology: October 2016
4. City Christmas anthology (all written by me, contemporary romance under Elana Johnson): November 2016
5. Country Christmas anthology (all written by me, western inspirational romance under Liz Isaacson): November 2016
6. The Knight Before Christmas anthology (Knight Brothers contemporary romance, under Elana Johnson): November 2016


So here's how things will run -- in my head, it's this perfect system, much like Santa's workshop. Haha! 

I'm setting up a private FB group where you can get these new releases for FREE! It'll run like a "book of the month" club, where a forthcoming title will be available each month. You can read as many of my books (for free!) as you wish, even if it's not their assigned month. I have a pretty large backlist. :)

What I need from you: Reviews!


Reviews are an author's best friend. They determine if advertising newsletters (like BookBub) will run ads for titles, if other people will buy the book, etc.

So for every book I give you, I'd love to have a review listed on Amazon. (I'm specifically looking for reviews on Amazon for 2016, not Goodreads.) If the book is a new release, I'd like the review to be listed during the first 5 days of the book's release. I will give you lots of reminders, of course, via the private FB group when the books are releasing. You'll have plenty of time to read the titles in advance.

You decide which books you want. You structure your reading around your life, vacations, etc. I'm excited to have more direct contact with my readers, and I'm willing to give my books away in order to get reviews.

If you're interested, please sign up in this form, and I'll add you to the private Facebook group!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Three Rivers Ranch Romance Series

My inspirational Western romance series has begun! Get the first book, SECOND CHANCE RANCH, now. Pre-order THIRD TIME'S THE CHARM, which will be released on December 1, 2015, and keep a lookout for the third, FOURTH AND LONG, coming February 24, 2016.

SECOND CHANCE RANCH: After his deployment, injured and discharged Major Squire Ackerman returns to Three Rivers Ranch, anxious to prove himself capable of running the cattle operation so his parents can retire. Things would be easier if the ranch wasn’t missing 1.6 million dollars, which forces Squire to hire Kelly, the girl who rejected his high school prom invitation, as his accountant.

She’s back in town with her four-year-old son, living in her parent’s basement until she can get her life back together. With fresh ink on her divorce papers and open gashes on her heart, she’s not ready for much beyond her new job on the ranch.

Squire wants to forgive Kelly for ignoring him a decade ago. He’d like to provide the stable life she needs, but with old wounds opening and a ranch on the brink of financial collapse, it will take patience and faith to make their second chance possible.


THIRD TIME'S THE CHARM: First Lieutenant Peter Marshall has never felt as safe and whole as he does at Three Rivers Ranch. With massive scars covering most of his upper body, he's self-conscious and searching for his life's purpose. He thinks he's found it in Courage Reins, an equine therapy program for veterans he's starting out at the ranch. He didn't plan on the beautiful Chelsea Ackerman looking at his deformities with admiration.

After her second failed engagement, Chelsea vows she'll never wear another diamond ring. But as she and Pete work together to train the horses and launch Courage Reins, she heals faster than she thought possible. Pete has a truckload of debt and no way to provide for a family, but Chelsea helps him see past all the obstacles, all the scars. With so many unknowns, Pete and Chelsea will have to develop the love, acceptance, and faith needed to find their happily ever after.



FOURTH AND LONG: Coming soon!


Monday, September 28, 2015

Love is in the Air

So it's no secret that I'm a huge fan of romance novels. I love reading them and writing them. I just released my first inspirational romance, SECOND CHANCE RANCH, a couple of weeks ago. My sister-in-law read it and texted me and said, "This is like a Hallmark movie! And I mean that in the best way possible."

This warmed my heart. Because I love those Hallmark movies. And then I found out that Hallmark is showing a new movie every Saturday night! All the way until Christmastime, when the movies will be on twenty-four hours a day.

Love is obviously in the air! 

I've been busily working on the third book in my Three Rivers Ranch romance series. The second book, THIRD TIME'S THE CHARM, is at the copy editor and will be released in time for Christmas -- on December 1. 

Between now and then, I'm going to be watching a lot of Hallmark movies...


Monday, September 21, 2015

Things I Learned While Self-Publishing

So my western inspirational romance is out in the wild! It's been almost a week, and there's nothing quite like releasing a book, that much is for sure. It's been a fun journey, and I've enjoyed it. 

I've learned some things along the way too. 

1. Ask for help. I can't stress this enough. I can't make covers or do a lot of other design work. I hired someone to do that for me, and I asked friends for help with promotional graphics and such. There's no shame in this! I certainly am not good at every aspect of self-publishing.

2. Pay attention to what's going on around you. I'm in about five million Facebook groups. No, really. Okay, maybe only four million. I don't comment a lot, and sometimes I feel completely overwhelmed, but I pay attention. I see what other self-published authors are doing, and what they're saying works. 

I take notes of these things -- literally. I have about 10 drafts in my email inbox right now with notes. Ad sites, promotions, boxed set ideas. The list goes on and on. I think that's one perk of self-publishing. There are unlimited ways to produce and promote your work. 

3. Release the book! I have a game at school I have my 1st and 2nd graders play on the computer. It's called Seed Ball, and when I show it to them, I always say "Release the seeds!" in a really dramatic voice.

That's what you have to do with your book. And in more ways than one. You release it. I can't tell you how many times I changed the release date. And there were Reasons. But really, I was waiting for something I couldn't really put my finger on. 

So I finally chose a date and refused to change it. Not only do you actually need to hit Publish, but you need to release your attachments to the book. We put so much work and time and effort and emotion into our books, so this is hard to do. 

But it can be done, and it should be done. Release it. Let readers love it or hate it. 

4. Write the next book. I've done this, and it's currently with my editor. It's called THIRD TIME'S THE CHARM, and I'm getting the cover made right now too, because it will be released on December 1. #yay

Anyway, I learned tons more, but that's enough for today. I hope you'll give SECOND CHANCE RANCH a try. You can read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited. 


Friday, September 4, 2015

Whew! I'm Back!

Wow, summer has been so busy! The days flew by as I penned two more novels, revised a third, signed with an agent, and have been waiting on pins and needles for news from my submissions.

I mean, whew! It's a lot, and I suddenly realized I haven't blogged in months! But my schedule is normalizing again, so I expect to be around a bit more.

What have you been up to this summer??

Thursday, June 4, 2015

What You Should be Paying Attention To

This post first appeared on Thinking Through Our Fingers, a blog that I contribute to each month. To see the whole post, go here.

So I thought I'd talk a little bit about pitching. Not the baseball kind. The kind you can do in your pajamas, sipping apricot nectar, and scrolling through twitter. Have you seen the plethora of pitching opportunities that are available for authors these days? It is OUTstanding! (See what I did there? Did you??)




I could go through the many and varied opportunities over the course of the next six months. But John Berkowitz has already done that. You can see a pretty comprehensive list on his blog here.

Go see the advice I gave on preparing for and crafting your pitches.

What I really want to talk about is the opportunities that are out there now for writers. Yes, you can get discovered simply by querying. I know, because it's happened to me. But I have a #MSWL column in my tweetdeck that I check every day. If I see someone tweet that they want something similiar to what I've got, I submit it.

I've co-authored a book with a friend, and last week, I saw an opportunity to submit to a new editor at Carina Press. She was taking pitches on a blog post for that day only. If I hadn't checked, we would've missed the opportunity. She was offering feedback on your whole novel. And we were selected! So we got to send our MS in, and she's going to give us feedback on it. Free! A priceless opportunity.

So while I'm not hugely active on social media, I'm there, paying attention. I think it's a valuable skill all authors should use. Pay attention to what's going on out there. I've decided that the #PitMad and similar things aren't for my novel. I've participated in those before with my YA novels -- which seem to do better than my adult romance (which is what I'm focused on right now). 

You don't need to blanket the Internet with your pitch. You don't need to enter every contest and opportunity out there. It's about playing smart. Swinging at balls you think you can hit. So I pay attention. I read the agent bios in contests. If I haven't queried them before, and I think they might be a fit, I add them to my list. Online contests are a great way to get noticed, but not the only way. 

So be smart about it. If you have a novel in a genre that's hot, online pitches might be the way to get the attention you need. If you don't, you might do what I've done, and stick to querying privately. 


Either way, you should be lurking on social media. You should be paying attention to the #MSWL feed, and check in with #PitMad and #PitchtoPublication and #QueryKombat. When you troll these threads, you'll see other hashtags that will lead you to more opportunities. It doesn't have to take a lot of time -- I get on once or twice each day and read until I'm caught up to what I've read before. 

What are you paying attention to right now? Maybe I need to be watching that too!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Words About Waiting

Ah, waiting. Why must you be so hard? I think I'm a fairly patient person. I can put something on the calendar and let it go. Sure, I might think about it from time to time, but it doesn't interrupt my sleep patterns or anything.

As I've been querying, though, I've become more and more impatient. Especially when I think things should move just a bit faster than they currently are. I find myself getting a little frustrated that I haven't received a certain email, or whatever.

So this past week, I pulled back a little bit. I reminded myself that this is not the first time I've submitted my work, and things will happen when they need to happen.

So I closed down the gmail tab (gasp!) and went back to the other duties and projects I need to get done. It is somewhat freeing. I don't find myself centered around the computer, constantly wishing the email will show up.

So yes, waiting is one of the hardest things we have to learn to do as humans. I'm not sure it's ever going to get any easier. But I'm hoping that I'm getting better at filling the time while I wait. I take care of the house, the family, my job. I'm writing a new project and submitting another.

What do you do to fill the hours while you wait?

Friday, May 29, 2015

EXIT STRATEGY by Shirlee McCoy

Okay, so I think I have a problem. Every time I read an amazing romance, I want to write one in that same genre. Read FIVE DAYS IN SKYE, felt the pull to write an inspirational romance (I had already started one, and it just fueled by fire). Read A HOPE REMEMBERED, wanted to write a historical romance.

And now I've read EXIT STRATEGY by Shirlee McCoy, and I want to try my hand at a romantic suspense! See? A definite problem.


Let's take a closer look at EXIT STRATEGY: Lark Porter thinks she'll find answers about her husband's death when she returns to their former home, but someone doesn't like the questions she's asking. She's quickly taken captive, and all that stands between her and certain death is a mysterious stranger telling her to trust him if she wants to get out alive. 

Hostage Rescue and Extraction Team member Cyrus Mitchell marvels at Lark's strength and determination to survive. The closer they get to freedom, the more dangerous the situation becomes. Once free, though, it takes all the skills and training Cyrus has to outmaneuver the deadly killers on their trail.


I got this book from NetGalley, as it doesn't come out until next week. I would definitely recommend buying this book, and I just discovered that it's the second book in a series, so I've purchased the first Mission: Rescue title, Protective Instincts.

My thoughts:
1. Lark is multi-faceted. Strong, yet scared. Capable, but vulnerable. I really liked her as a heroine--someone who obviously needs the help of someone with more training and expertise, but someone who has a goal of their own.

Cyrus is equally as dimensional. I really liked that he had a past that drove some of the decisions that he made in the present. I liked his strength, smarts, and sincerity. At the same time, he had flaws, which is hard to do with a protector hero.

2. The suspense was suspenseful -- and believable! I've read some books that are supposed to be thrillers or suspenses, and they feel so far from reality that I'm not scared or kept in suspense. But EXIT STRATEGY keeps the tension on the page, the thought that Lark and Cyrus are just moments from being found, constant.

If you've never tried out a romantic suspense novel, give EXIT STRATEGY a spot on your list. You won't be sorry!

What have you read lately that has inspired you to write?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Pinch Point, Pinch Point

So I've been working on a new romance. It's actually the second in a series, and I feel like I know the setting and I've been working on the characters. One of my biggest problems, though, in writing writing romance is maintaining the conflict between my hero and my heroine. I think I tend to let them get together too fast.



I've been reading some articles (Harlequin did an amazing Boot Camp this past week, with a fabulous article by Harlequin Superromance author Vicki Essex on how to write memorable characters), and I bought a book (The Complete Guide to Writing Heroes & Heroines, above), and I've really been trying to map out the highs and lows in my books before I start writing them.

I also attended a conference over the weekend, where a speaker spoke about pinch points. I'm familiar with them, because hey! They're in the romance planning sheets I found on Jami Gold's website. (You should totally be using these! I love them!)

The presenter said that the pinch points pull the character back to their starting place and the turning points push the character toward their new state.


  • Pinch points -- pull the character back
  • Turning points -- push the character forward


I loved that. It made so much sense inside my head. It's helped me map out the ebb and flow of my hero's and heroine's relationships.

Do you outline using pinch points? What advice do you have for outlining a romance?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Learning From Rejection

So the Harlequin announcement for the From Blurb to Book announcement was last Friday. It was happening for me at 10:00, and I was attending a writer's conference that day, with a pitch session with an editor at St. Martin's at 10:10. 

I should've waited to check the announcement, but do you think I did?? Ha! No way. And when I didn't find my name on the list, I'll admit, I was disappointed. 

Which is ridiculous really. When you've been rejected as much as I have (which is A LOT), I know better than to be too hopeful, or too optimistic, or too whatever. But still. For some reason, which I still don't know, I really wanted to move on to Stage 3. I still really want to place my books at Harlequin. 

Anyway, I wasn't on the list, and I was with my critique partner and friend, and I had a pitch in literally four minutes. It was a tumult of feelings, and I didn't quite know what to do with them. So I hitched on my smile and went to my pitch session. It went well, and she requested the full manuscript. So yay!

And yet, I still struggled for the rest of the day. I had to leave early for my daughter's dance, and I went home uninspired and kind of down. I missed an super-inspirational keynote, and as I was reading the tweets, I was further discouraged that what I apparently needed (inspiring words from someone who's been where I currently am), I hadn't gotten.

I got my feedback email from the editors, and it's honestly not bad. The things are fixable. It's just a matter of me doing the work--which honestly, sometimes I don't want to do. I think that's the real problem. I always feel like I'm working, working, working, but never making it to SOLD.

I went back to the conference the next day, and I attended an intensive editing workshop. I got the inspiration I needed! The instructor said things that reminded me that I CAN do hard work, that I CAN edit my writing to make it better, that I CAN move forward after rejection to success. 

So that's what I'm going to do. 

What have you learned from rejection?

Monday, May 18, 2015

THE ACCIDENTAL BRIDE by Denise Hunter

So I've been reading a lot of inspirational fiction in the past few weeks. One of my new favorites is THE ACCIDENTAL BRIDE by Denise Hunter. I know it's not a super-new novel, but she's a new author to me.

About THE ACCIDENTAL BRIDE: When a wedding reenactment turns real, Shay finds she's an accidental bride.

Shay Brandenberger is raising her daughter in Moose Creek, Montana, on her childhood ranch, nestled against the Yellowstone River. Despite the hard work, she can't seem to keep her head above water--and now the bank is threatening to foreclose. She prays for a miracle, but the answer she receives is anything but expected.


Having agreed to play the bride in the Founders' Day wedding reenactment, Shay is mortified to be greeted at the end of the aisle by none other than Travis McCoy, her high-school sweetheart--the man who left her high and dry for fame and fortune on the Texas rodeo circuit.


Then the unthinkable happens. Thanks to a well-meaning busybody and an absentminded preacher, the make-believe vows result in a legal marriage. But before Shay can say annulment, Travis comes up with a crazy proposal. If she refuses his offer, she may lose her home. If she accepts, she may lose her heart.


Shay isn't sure if the recent events are God's will or just a preacher's blunder. Will trusting her heart to the man who once shattered it be the worst mistake of her life? Or could their marriage be the best accident that ever happened?


My Thoughts:
1. While this was inspirational, it was light on this end. I've been realizing that there are different degrees of the inspirational element in each novel. I didn't mind that it didn't have more of a Christian element, it was just something I noticed. Maybe I'm reading with too much of an author's eye!

2. I really liked Shay as a main character. I thought her grudge against Travis was realistic and deserved. I liked that she was vulnerable in some ways, and strong in others. She had a real past, and it was communicated through her choices and actions now.

3. I loved the premise of this book! When my friend recommended it to me, I was sold just on the idea alone. And the book delivered. I loved the accidental marriage and the proposal that Travis comes up with. I really wanted him and Shay to work things out, and since it's romance, we already know they will!


I hope you'll pick this book up if you haven't yet. What inspirational romance have you read lately that you loved?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Joining RWA

So after several years of writing, now that I'm starting to look at it with an eye toward publication, I decided to join RWA. I'm well-versed in online forums and groups, so I don't think that's a problem. What I'm not sure about is what I can do with all that stuff on RWA. 

I poked around a little bit, but honestly, I didn't find all that much. Is there more than what I'm seeing? 

I joined my local chapter too, and I think that might be a place where I can really sink my teeth into. I just don't know. I've joined national organizations before, and never gotten much out of them. But, I thought since I'm getting serious about writing and publishing romance, that joining RWA made sense. 

I'm just wondering how to get the best use of it. Any ideas?

Monday, May 11, 2015

Reading and Editing, A Writer's Recovery Period

So I sent in my entry for the Harlequin contest, and it was intense getting those pages ready. Afterward, I was completely burnt out. I couldn't read, and I couldn't edit, and basically I sat on the couch like a slug for a few days. 

Thankfully, that passed, and I've read a few books since then, and I got right to cutting those extra 13,000 words from my novel. See, Love Inspired has strict word count guidelines, and my book was too long. I'm happy to report that I've cut just over 12,000 words from the book, so I'm in the 60,000 range, but I still have about 900 words to trim.

Even that got old. The thought of opening the book one more time and reading it again... Nausea may have set in. 

So I took a few more days off. Watched a lot of Burn Notice. Every reality TV show available. 

I think these recovery periods are essential for writers. Deadlines are important, and it's good to learn how to work with them, but there's always a price to pay afterward. For me, my recovery periods include a lot of movies and going to performances and just getting away from the computer.

Now that I've had several days, I've decided to write again. Yay! I outlined (sort of) and started a new book over the weekend, putting in almost 8000 words. Drafting is my favorite thing to do, so I'm glad I'm most recovered and ready to dive into that pool again.

What do you do during your recovery periods?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Taking the Knife to Your MS

So I made it into Stage 2 of the Harlequin #Blurb2Book contest! I'm super-excited, and in fact, I've spent the past couple of weeks obsessing over my synopsis, cover letter, and pages. I sent them in last week, and now I'm turning my attention to the full manuscript.

The premise of this contest is to go from blurb to full book in just 5 months. I'm sort of cheating, because my book has been finished since January. I've edited it a couple of times and my critique group has read the first three chapters. 

But, according to Harlequin's Love Inspired guidelines, my book is also 13,000 words too long. So now, as I go back to the full manuscript, I am looking for places to cut. A lot of places. I've done this before, but it is always a difficult process. When we write, we put in scenes we think we need. So now I have to decide what I don't actually need in order to meet the guidelines of the contest.

Whether I make it into Stage 3 or not, I think this will be a valuable edit. I'll have to evaluate character, plot, and motivation on a deeper level, which is never a bad thing. 

Have you ever had to cut a lot of words? How did you go about doing it?

Monday, April 20, 2015

Some Thoughts on Burning Out

So I made it into Stage 2 of the #Blurb2Book contest Harlequin is doing! Yay! (I blogged about the announcement last week before the lists were posted.)

Anyway, the second stage requires a submission package that includes a 3-5 page synopsis and the first three chapters. I've written my entire book (it needs lots of work still, but it is done), but I hadn't tackled a synopsis yet.

I've written them before, so I wasn't worried about it. I set to it and had a pretty decent one whipped out in a few days. Since my chapters were already written, I re-read the Love Inspired guidelines, combed the boards for more help, and edited the first three chapters.

Again. And then again.

And again. Again. Again. Again.

I felt like the bee on The Bee Movie, when he's trying to get out of the window that first time.


This time. This time. This time!



By Thursday, I seriously wanted to do anything and everything EXCEPT read my own words again. Other people's words were equally as nauseous to me. I tried writing a new book. No dice.

I needed a break. I was burnt out.



I've been writing for several years, so I've reached the Point of Burning Out several times. I've been here before. I know what I need to do: step back and take the break I need. So I passed my submission package on to a few trusted beta readers, and I set a date for when I can come back to my pages.

Between now and then, I'm not reading or writing, and I can't wait for the mental vacation!

Have you ever been burnt out? What did you do to rejuvenate your creativity?

Friday, April 17, 2015

Thinking Through Our Fingers Blog

So I'm excited to announce that I've been invited to be an author on the Thinking Through Our Fingers blog! There are a great group of writers there, including Katie Purdie, Jolene Perry, and Tasha Seegmiller. I'm excited to see what I can learn from them, as well as what I can contribute.

I'll be blogging on the fourth Friday, so be sure to get over there and see what's going on!

Monday, April 13, 2015

#Blurb2Book Announcement Today!

Okay, so I'd decided to stop entering contests like Pitch Madness and Pitch Wars and Pitch Slam. I didn't do very well in those arenas, and I wasn't sure if it had anything to do with my book/pitch. I've recently started querying, and I've gotten a 40% request rate so far. So I think I was right in thinking that my romance wasn't the right genre for the agents participating in those pitching events. 

But Harlequin's Love Inspired line was doing a contest called From Blurb to Book. Harlequin is a publisher that publishes romance -- they're exactly who I want reading and considering my book. So I entered. 

The announcement for those who made it into the second round are today. I entered for the Love Inspired line (there's also Historical and Suspense), and I'll find out today at 3 PM Eastern time if I made it into the second round.

I'm excited about it, but I'm also realistic. I know that lots of people entered (326, in fact!), and my submission might not have stood out. I know rejection is part of the publishing game. I still have my fingers crossed!

How have you fared during contests? 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Writing Romance -- Not As Easy As You Think

Okay, so I'm not new to the writing game. I'm going into my eighth year of doing this for real, meaning I'm writing to publish, not just because I think it's fun (though I do). I've been published both in the traditional market and the self-publishing realm under another name, in another genre.

Believe it or not, I used to think reading romance was -- gasp! -- boring. I mean, I knew how it was going to end, so what's the fun in reading? I didn't realize that the joy, the journey, lay in how we get to the end. 

So when I started writing straight romance (all my books have romance in them) last year, I had quite a steep learning curve. 

What I've Learned:
It's about satisfying the reader. So I've spent a considerable amount of time reading romances and noting the things I really like about them. I've also had to spend some time telling myself that writing romance isn't necessarily about what *I* like in a character, but rather what romance readers are looking for. 

And romance readers are mostly women. And women want a heroine they can relate to. Someone who's still beautiful and has flaws, but is relatable. They definitely want a hero that is swoon-worthy. Someone who can provide for and take care of the heroine, but also has things they need to overcome. 

So I've worked on the characterization of my heroines and heroes. 

Of course, I want to write the stories I love, in the way I want to. I'm still doing that. I've just realized that there are rules to romance, and they aren't as bendable as the other genres I've written in. 

I've also made a list of things that I see in virtually EVERY romance I've read. I realized that those elements are there for a reason, and if I don't have them in my romances, I might need to reconsider what I'm doing. 

Secondary characters, or a cast of characters is usually appreciated. Family dynamics are always a plus. Strong motivations for both parties. External and internal situations that both drive the characters together and keep them apart. Animals are usually welcome. Each person needs to sacrifice to be together. Each needs something at stake. 

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. I'm still learning, but these are the things I consider now before I even start writing a new romance. 

What do you think of my list? What do I need to add?


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Writing Report!

Okay, so I sort of fell off the face of the planet there for a few weeks! I was busy with writing things, I promise. 

First, I sent my novel to a freelance editor for a developmental edit. I got her notes back about mid-month, and got to work right away. One thing I learned: I'm not that great at developing secondary characters.

So I had to dive into the layers of the story and build them up. And that's hard, intricate work. I feel like I'm playing dominoes and if I make one false move, bam! The whole thing is going to go down.

As I neared the end of the revision, I knew I wanted to start querying. So I spent what felt like years on QueryTracker, Publisher's Marketplace, and Agent Query looking up agents and making a list. Oh, and that pesky query letter needed a polish. I sent that to my critique group to get some extra eyes on it.

And last week -- on April Fool's Day no less -- I started querying! This isn't my first time in the pool, but I had forgotten that it's a lot of waiting. Perpetual waiting. So. Much. Waiting. 

So yeah. That's where I disappeared to. What have you been up to with your writing? 

Monday, March 9, 2015

To Pitch or Not to Pitch?

So I've been gearing up for #PitMad for about a month. I've been writing and rewriting pitches. I've been participating in some other online pitch opportunities.

The thing is, I haven't done super-well. Yes, I've gotten a request or two. Nothing major. I know the competition is tough, but after this last round of nothing, I had a distinct thought. "My novel isn't loud enough to stand out in a twitter pitch contest."

And I determined not to participate in #PitMad.

Because while I think my book is good, and there's a market for it, it's not something that's wildly looked after by the agents on twitter. That doesn't mean it won't find an agent or an editor. But after spending a lot of time online lurking in the hashtag threads, I've realized that there aren't a lot of adult romance agents in those threads. One search of the #MSWL proves that. (Yes, there are *some* people there. Not nearly as many as YA fantasy or another genre.)

But since #PitMad is coming up, I am reconsidering my thought. Maybe I'll throw out a tweet or two. I don't know. I think it'll be such a windstorm that a genre like mine, with a book like mine, just won't stand out. And then I'll be disappointed again.

I can query and submit. I'm not stranger to that. I just haven't decided if pitching is the way to go for this novel/genre.

Thoughts?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Buying Books for Research

Yeah, that's right. That's what I'm doing... Ha! But I am getting ready to start submitting my contemporary romance to agents and editors. I've been doing a lot of research on the books I've read that I think are like mine. I'm checking out who sold those books, and to what publishers. I'm researching the publishers and agents using QueryTracker, AgentQuery, and some good old fashioned stalking on twitter and company websites.

Two books I just bought this week are LOVING YOU IS EASY by Wendy S. Marcus and CAN'T ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU WANT by Chelsey Krause.

I'm excited to read both of these titles and see if they compare to mine. Because they're both Random House Lovestruck titles, and if they fit, I'd like to submit to the publisher.

I think it's important to take the time to do the research when getting ready to submit. I recently sat in on a panel where someone suggested buying the books of a publisher you're interested in. I think it's really sound advice.

After all, it's not a race to submit. I want to make sure I'm trying to make the best match with my work to publishers and agents.

And if that requires me buying books, so be it! It's a sacrifice I'm willing to make.


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Keeping the Tension High

Writing romance has had a big learning curve for me. Putting romantic elements in my books has always been innate, but writing a book that's main focus IS the romance is a who different story.

Luckily, I have some great critique partners who've helped me realize some things. And double-lucky for me, I'm able to spend a lot of time reading and analyzing romance novels. I'm taking notes of what's similar, what each author does, and when, and why.

There's been something I've learned about keeping the sexual tension high. This was hard for me until I read enough and talked to other people enough.

Here's what I've come to realize. The romance -- and the sexual tension -- is all about push and pull, come and go, fast and slow, ebb and flow.

It's even a rhyme!

Keeping this in mind helps me push the romance forward, keep the tension high, and keep the stakes on the page as often as possible.

The hero and heroine come together, and then back off. Things move quickly, probably too quickly for one of the characters, and then they slow down. Everything seems to be working out wonderfully, and then they get sticky.

It seems obvious, but it was revolutionary to me. What have you learned that's helped you keep the tension high in a romance?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Cowboy Romances

So I've been researching and preparing to write a romance featuring a cattle ranch and cowboys. Naturally, I turned to published books to see what's being done, and by who. There's a LOT of cowboy romance out there!

But two I've devoured in the past week are SECOND CHANCE RANCH by Cindi Madsen and THE COWBOY'S CHRISTMAS GIFT by Donna Alward.


About THE COWBOY'S CHRISTMAS GIFT: Returning to Crooked Valley is more terrifying than the battlefield to ex-soldier Duke Duggan. Still, Duke has an important reason to be back--to take control of his late grandfather's ranch. But being thrown headfirst into his old life makes Duke feel like a fish out of water. That is, until he sees Carrie Coulter again. Twenty years may have passed but the chemistry between them is stronger than ever.

When Duke threatens to sell the ranch, Carrie, the foreman, realizes she could lose her livelihood. But no decisions will be made until after the holidays. Until then, they have time to explore the feelings that draw them to each other. Together, can they come up with a way to keep the ranch...and the burning love between them?

Thoughts:
1. I really liked the spicy heroine in this one. She's actually the rancher! I really liked that. I liked that Duke needed to learn as much as I did about ranching.
2. The chemistry is hot in this one. I don't necessarily mind it, and Donna Alward always does a nice job of keeping the door somewhat closed.
3. This had a surprise twist I wasn't expecting -- I won't divulge it, but I liked it. Made me think about my romance plots, and how they take shape.

About SECOND CHANCE RANCH: Sadie Hart has a plan: return to her small town of Hope Springs so she can regain her confidence—and bank account—before giving one more shot to her country music dream. The dream that means more to her than anything. The dream she chose over her high school sweetheart, the brooding and sinfully handsome Royce Dixon.

Royce has moved on from his memories of the beautiful Sadie. Now he’s focused solely on running Second Chance Ranch, where he rehabilitates troubled teens through ranch work. But when he needs a new employee and Sadie’s the only one to volunteer, he has no choice but to offer his old flame a job.

Whether riding a horse with the wind in her hair or mucking out the stalls, Sadie can still get Royce’s heart beating like no one else. But Nashville is her dream, and Royce can’t settle for second best.

Thoughts:
1. I love the trope of second chances, as well as high school sweetheart reunions. I've written a couple of them myself. This fit that bill, and I liked it for that alone.
2. I liked the dialog in this one. It helped me remember that cowboys are people too, and they don't all talk with a twang or need to be dumbed down. (Not that I think cowboys are dumb! Just sometimes the dialog feels stilted. This didn't.)
3. This felt a little young to me. Like a YA novel, but with older characters. I realized that I wanted my cowboys to be older and feel that way too. It was a great read, so I'm not knocking that. It just helped me realize some things about my own book and what I'd like to do.

What cowboy romance have you read that you liked?

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Stakes

I don't think I've ever realized how hard it is to pin down the stakes in a romance novel. I mean, we all know how the thing is going to end, right? So we know the hero and heroine will get over whatever's in their way, and they'll be together. It's a romance.

But as I've been writing twitter pitches and revising my query letter (thanks to everyone who helped during the #SunvsSnow critique session!), I've realized that stakes are important. Even in romance.

And it's hard to put them into the pitch.

I think it's hard because they're usually not extrinsic. They're internal and if the people in my novel would just get out of their own way, everything would be fine. (Of course, this is why I love writing romance in the first place. I love reading and writing about people who realize their flaws and weaknesses and work to overcome them.)

But the internal, character flaws are hard to put into words. They're hard to make into something that sounds "high stakes" enough. But I've been reading a lot of successful queries, and then spending some time with back cover copy, and I think I'm slowly wrapping my head around how to do it.

Any advice on how to get the stakes into a short pitch?

Friday, February 13, 2015

#SunVsSnow Critique Day!

So I entered the #sunvssnow contest that took place a couple of weeks ago. It was interesting and fun, but as a new submitter, I was a little overwhelmed! My pitch wasn't chosen, and Michelle and Amy are hosting a critique session today. I decided to participate to get some feedback on my query letter and first 250 words, as I'm hoping to be ready to query the manuscript in the next couple of months.

So without further adieu:

Title: Summer's Almost Over
Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance
Word Count: 60,000

Query Letter:

Organized, list-making Sophie Newton has thrown herself into her beachside taco stand after her father said she could never run a successful business. She’s so dedicated to proving him wrong, that her ex-fiancĂ©e broke up with her because she was already “married to The Sandy Tortilla.” They might be right. She doesn’t care—she’s going to prove them both wrong, one burrito at a time.

When her summer help breaks her leg, Sophie finds herself combing the beach for a warm body to take orders. She finds that body—and what a body!—in Montgomery Winters, a tourist who stopped in town because he loved the lighthouse. An actor trying to break into action films, Mont left LA for the summer as a way to clear his head.

Sophie—desperate for help—offers him ten times what she normally pays, and Mont figures he can write an order for fish tacos as easily as the next guy. The money’s dead useful, but it’s the curvy company that really lights his fire.

When his talent agent calls to say he’s landed Mont a big audition, he tries to cool the growing connection between him and Sophie so neither of them will get hurt. After all, this summer was never about anything permanent—until he can’t shake her out of his head.

As Mont prepares to leave town, Sophie realizes that it’s far more than her bottom line that will suffer without his wit, charm, and intelligence. For the first time in well, ever, she wonders if there’s more for her than making salsa seven days a week, if there’s a possibility of a future for her and Mont.

But what she really has to answer is this: Can she let go of her grudges in time to show Mont that she’s ready for true love?



First 250 words:

Sophie handed an order of carne asada quesadillas out the window of her taco stand—The Sandy Tortilla—and pasted on a fake smile when a woman who was obviously one half of a newlywed couple took them.

She’d been working the stand for enough summers to recognize the glow of the newly hitched, even without the enormous diamonds. The men couldn’t stand more than two inches away from their wives, like they might wander away if given the chance.

Yes, Sophie had seen enough newlyweds to overdose on sweetness without even getting a taste of sugar. Her stomach lurched as she returned to the orders hanging above her grill. She focused on tossing the chicken onto the flattop, slathering the cilantro spread on the tortilla, and crisping up the chips.

With her utmost concentration on her cooking, she didn’t have room to obsess over Mark.

“Chicken verde,” she called out the window, and a teenage girl stepped forward. At least she wasn’t in her mid-twenties with a huge rock on her finger.

Sophie glanced down at her left hand, where, until recently, she'd worn a gold band with a single diamond on it. With a little imagination, she could see a tan line where the ring had sat.

Mark hadn’t wanted to set a date, something that frustrated Sophie. She liked deadlines, and making lists, and meeting goals. Without a date for the wedding, she couldn’t plan the event.

----

What do you think?

Thanks for reading and critiquing! I'll be heading around to get my critiques done this weekend too. (I think Michelle will have a link list on her blog.)

Monday, February 9, 2015

A Hero's Profession

I've been reading a ton of romance recently. I've been taking notes about when certain plot points happen, and the types of heroines and heroes in the novels I love -- and the ones I don't. 

I've noticed that the hero's profession is something that draws female readers in. I've seen carpenters and contractors. Very tall, handsome, and strong, with all that lifting and stuff. And they're very handy, if you catch my drift.

I like the construction type, mostly because I can't even pound a nail into the wall! :) 

I've seen professional athletes, in football and bull riding. Again, tall, handsome, and strong. Really know how to play the game. I've liked those too.

I've read helicopter pilots, musicians, police officers, firemen, ranchers, cowboys, and actors. 

I'm starting to wonder how important the hero's profession is. I haven't quite put my finger on it yet. I want my heroes to be familiar, but also unique. Sometimes that's really hard to do, because if you stray too far out of the lines, readers will be turned off.

So for now, I haven't tried coloring outside the lines. My heroes have fallen into the "acceptable" romance tropes for now. 

What do you think about a hero's profession?

Thursday, February 5, 2015

MEANT TO BE MINE by Becky Wade

So I've been on a quest to read more romance, in all genres. I have a great friend who recommended MEANT TO BE MINE by Becky Wade. Even better, it was published recently! (Another goal of mine was to read what was being published now, not what was popular several years ago.)

I loved this book. I mean, I really loved it. It is inspirational romance, which means it's very clean--which is just my cup of tea! Don't get me wrong, I love strong sexual tension and a handsome hero. And MEANT TO BE MINE delivers both.

About MEANT TO BE MINE: Ty Porter has always been irresistible to Celia Park. All through high school--irresistible. When their paths cross again after college--"still" irresistible. This time, though, Ty feels exactly the same way about Celia. Their whirlwind romance deposits them at a street-corner Las Vegas wedding chapel.

The next morning they wake to a marriage certificate and a dose of cold reality. Celia's ready to be Ty's wife, but Ty's not ready to be anybody's husband. As a professional bull rider, he lives on the road and can't bring himself to settle down.

Five and a half years pass. Celia's buried her dreams so that she can afford to raise her daughter. Ty's achieved all of his goals. Or thought he had, until he looks again into the face of the one woman he couldn't forget and into the face of the child he never knew he had.
How much will Ty sacrifice to make Celia's dreams come true, to win her trust, and to prove to her that their spontaneous marriage can still become the love of a lifetime?

There's so much to like about this book. Ty and Celia are obviously drawn to each other, but there are issues that need to be overcome. Since I already know the ending of the book, the getting there is the most important part.

And Becky Wade does a great job of making sure that readers want to salivate over how Ty and Celia will end up together. 

I love that the reasons he's not with her are legitimate, and the ones she has are too. I really liked the Christianity aspect of the book as well. Both parties have to come to terms with what they've done wrong, as well as working on forgiving the other.

It's a romance, so we know Ty and Celia will end up together -- the title is MEANT TO BE MINE -- after all. But this is one of the best stories I've read in a while that has believable, meaningful content on how the hero and heroine come together.

I highly recommend it!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Starting With Chapter One

I've been writing for a while. I've started and finished four books now. No, I don't think they're all fantastic, but I do like two of them. I think they're worth cleaning up, polishing, and sending out to beta readers. 

Since I just decided this year to submit my work, that's exactly what I've been doing. I just sent my manuscript, SUMMER'S ALMOST OVER, to a friend and critique partner for her feedback. And the waiting can be difficult. 

So I decided to start another book. I have a romance planning sheet, and I spent a few days thinking of the characters, the setting, and the problems. Then I started writing.

And there's so much more to writing that first chapter than just going for it. I think writing chapter one is the hardest thing ever!

First, I don't know my characters all that well. I do a little planning, but I don't do detailed character sheets. I know some authors who do. I don't need to do that before I start. I can usually go back in the revision process and "fix" my characters.

Second, I don't know the setting that well. There's only so much Google maps can help me with. So I find myself doing a lot of online research before I can actually write the first chapter. I'd scheduled to write most of the day on Saturday, but I really spent most of the day looking up information about Maine, and deep-sea fishing, and what a fishmonger does.

So while I did get quite a few words down on paper, I think some details will still need to be fleshed out. I'm okay with that. When I'm drafting, I like to simply go. I like to get the book down in a couple of weeks, tops. 

But man. Starting with that first chapter... that seems to take forever!

What's your writing process? Do you fill out an outline, planning sheet, character profiles? Or do you just go for it?

Monday, January 26, 2015

Getting the Writing Done

So as someone who has a full-time job outside the home, finding time to write has been a challenge. I find myself not wanting to get started unless I have a large chunk of time to devote, but that almost never happens.

I also find myself doing "mindless" things as I gear up to write. Things like researching literary agents or publishers, reading Facebook, visiting blogs, or watching those funny YouTube videos my daughter shows me. You know the ones I'm talking about. :)

Anyway, I can waste a good 30 minutes doing all that, and then the hour I had for writing is halved. I need to be better about that, but sometimes I need that half hour to decompress before I can think about my book.

I've learned that I get the most done at the very end of the day, after everyone else has gone to bed and all the dishes are done. I feel decompressed enough from work, and I'm finally ready to work. It's hard to stay up too late, though, but I'm committed to writing as often as possible.

I know I won't be able to write every day, but I'm okay with that. I've been writing for long enough to know that there are seasons to it.

So there you have it. I'm trying to get the writing done, along with everything else. It's a work-in-progress, but I'm okay with that.

How do you get the writing done?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

What Should I Be Reading?

I just got Julie Coulter Bellon's ALL FALL DOWN, and I'm looking forward to reading it. However, I feel like most of the romance I've read is now "old." I want to read something that's being published right now.

Since I'll be gearing up to submit and/or query my romance soon (hopefully by the summer!), I want to know what's getting published right now. Not what was hot in 2013 or 2014.

I'm a clean romance reader. I like there to be romantic tension and kissing, but I'm not really into fully realized sex scenes.

Got any recommendations of new titles that fit this bill? Let me know!

Monday, January 19, 2015

One of my Favorite Tropes: Enemies to Lovers

One of my favorite tropes in romance is enemies to lovers. I think it might be the number one trope for a lot of readers too. (Note to self: write a romance with this trope! I haven't actually tried it yet.)

There's just something hilarious and romantic about the rivals falling for each other. I think my favorite part of this trope though, is the sacrifices the hero and heroine make in order to be together. The things they give up to be with the other one. 

Because if they're both going after the same account at work, or looking to buy the same house, or trying to both win the same competition, one of them is always going to lose. How they lose -- and why they choose to do so -- is terribly romantic. 


If it's done right.

Maybe that's why I haven't tried this trope yet. I think it is tricky to get just right, and I think it takes a certain kind of character. Ones I just haven't written yet. 


What's your favorite romance trope? Do you like enemies to lovers as much as I do? 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Falling For Her Fiance by Cindi Madsen

I love a good contemporary romance--obviously! It's what I write--and one of my favorite novels is FALLING FOR HER FIANCE by Cindi Madsen. This book's been out for a while, but I find myself going back to it all the time.

About FALLING FOR HER FIANCE: Danielle and Wes have been best friends since college, so when Wes needs a date for his sister’s wedding and Dani needs a partner for her company’s retreat, they devise the perfect plan: a fake engagement to get through both events unscathed. Adrenaline-junkie Wes can prove to both his ex and his family that he’s well and truly moved on, and serious-minded Dani can prove to her boss that she’s worthy of the promotion he seems to only want to give to a family-oriented employee. But amid the fake swoons, fake kisses, and forced proximity, neither expects the very real feelings that develop. There’s nothing more dangerous than falling for your best friend…but what if the landing isn't worth the fall?

First, this is a clean romance, and that automatically makes it valuable to me. Second, I really liked Dani's plight. I think I always sympathize with a character who is working hard to get what they want. And that's Dani. She's concerned about doing a good job and being reliable.

Wes is also likeable, and I hadn't read a book with a helicopter pilot before. So this felt fresh, with a different kind of hero than the same old billionaire's and rock stars.

The romance develops smoothly, and by the end, I really wanted them to be together! And that's the mark of a well-done romance novel. I hope you'll give it a try if you haven't yet!

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Organization of Writing Romance

I wasn't always a romance writer. I've dabbled in a few other genres before I finally settled into straight romance. My speculative fiction always had elements of romance, but when I made the switch to pure romance, I realized I had a lot to learn.

A lot!

First, romance readers have specific requirements for the stories they love. A certain type of hero. A plot that is focused on the romance. This was something that was so far from what I'd been doing previously. In a fantasy novel, the focus is on the plot--the good prince overcoming the evil queen. There might be a princess that catches the prince's eye. There might even be some kissing. But the romance is NOT the core of the novel.

To make the romance the focus took some practice for me. I kept trying to introduce other plot elements, and each time, I failed on creating a romance novel that a romance reader would actually like.

Back to the drawing board.

I wrote two or three romances before I started figuring out how to organize the series of events in my novel. I did quite a bit of research also, using tools like Blake Snyder's Save the Cat beat sheets and reading blogs.

I've been writing for a while. I know how to draft, create characters, edit and revise. But I didn't know how to make the romance the focus of the entire novel!

I've written several more romances now, and I think I'm finally getting a grip on the specific points that need to be hit in a romance. Here's what I've come up with, after reading on several prominent romance blogs, talking to my romance-writing friends, and cobbling together my own writing experience.

1. Hero/heroine meet -- this should happen in the first chapter. A "meet cute" is a popular way to get the characters on the page together.
2. Get to know you -- the characters get to know each other, and the reader learns about the hero and heroines pasts, their flaws, etc. The characters don't know about the other's flaws yet.
3. External forces that require the hero and heroine to be together. There's internal forces too.
4. External forces that are keeping the hero and heroine apart. There's internal forces at play here too. Everyone in romance wants to see both the hero and heroine overcome their internal weaknesses.
5. False high -- this usually happens at the midpoint. I like to put a kiss right in the middle of the book. It's my false high.
6. Flaws exposed. Through a series of events, both the hero and heroine are made away of the other's flaws. They further strengthen their internal forces that are keeping them apart.
7. Black moment -- This is also called the dark night of the soul, and it's when the break-up happens. There's always something that happens that forces both characters to admit that their relationship CAN'T work. But the reason it can't work? It's usually something internal they need to get over, change, and admit that the way they've been living/thinking/feeling is flawed.
8. Grand gesture -- the character with the biggest flaw, and the most to lose, has to make the grand gesture to get the other one back.
9. Happily Ever After -- I love the HEA moment! It's the fairy tale we all dream about, isn't it? Yes, it is!

How do you organize your romance novels? I'm still learning, so I'll take any tips and hints I can get.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Book Spotlight: Hope At Dawn by Stacy Henrie

I am a lover of all things romance, and historical romance has recently taken a hold of my heart. One of the first historical romances I read was HOPE AT DAWN by Stacy Henrie.

About HOPE AT DAWN:

IN A TIME OF WAR, LOVE IS THE INSPIRATION.

With her brothers away fighting the Great War overseas, Livy Campbell desperately wants to help her family. Her chance comes when she meets a handsome stranger who lands her a job as a teacher in a place far from her parents' farm. But the war casts a long shadow over the German-American town that Livy now calls home-and the darkness will test everything she thought she knew about family and love . . .

More than anything, Friedrick Wagner wants to be part of his adopted country's struggle for peace. But when the bitter animosity between Germans and Americans soon turns citizens against newcomers, friend against friend, he will do whatever it takes to protect Livy from the hysteria that grips their town. As tragedy-and dark secrets from the past-threaten their future, Friedrick and Livy have one chance to stand up for what's right . . . and one chance to fight for their love.

This is a tale of magic and romance that took place right here in our country. I found Livy's struggles to be realistic and delightful. She was a character that I could connect to, though hundreds of years separated us.

And Friedrick provides insight into what it was like for German-Americans during World War I. I enjoyed his family, and especially the tenderness he felt for Livy.

I'd highly recommend this book for anyone who loves a good romance. It's clean, and inspirational, both of which are important to me.

Five stars!


I can't wait to get the next book, Hope Rising.

What have you read that I need to put on my list?

Monday, January 5, 2015

A New Year, A New Blog

It's 2015, and this year I've decided to do something I haven't done before. Blog. I've been a writer for several years now, mostly dabbling in technical things and personal histories. A few years ago, I started writing romance novels. I haven't done much with them, other than enjoy the characters myself, attend a few writing conferences, and dream big.

But 2015 is the Year of the Dream!

I'm going to do more with my writing this year. I'm going to polish it, and submit it, and see if I can get it published.

I know a lot of you have already done this. I'm friends with writers who have as well. I'm still learning a lot of things about the publishing industry, and I hope that as I work with a new goal in mind, this year will bring awesome things!

What do you want to work toward in 2015?

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