Saturday, September 30, 2006

2007 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence contest for pubbed authors

I received a biiiiiiiiig package in the mail last week. You know what THAT means. I'm the contest coordinator, and it's Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence season!

Some of the things people love about our contest are the Young Adult category, the Novella category, and the fact that romantic suspense is divided into two categories: Single Title Romantic Suspense and Series Romantic Suspense. I hope you'll enter! You can find details, past winners, and a downloadable entry form at

2007 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence

This contest was conceived in honor of Multi-RITA Winner Gayle Wilson to award excellence in published romance fiction. The contest is judged by avid readers of romance and booksellers. The winners of each category are awarded a gold bookmark engraved with the author’s name and the book’s title. Winners will also be included in a full-page RWR advertisement.

Eligibility: Participation is open to all published authors of novel length romance fiction published by an RWA-recognized publisher. Books must have a copyright of 2006; entries must be received by January 15, 2007. Electronic books may be entered provided they are presented in print book format, published through an RWA-recognized publisher and complete with copyright page produced by the publisher with print on both sides of the page.

Entry fee: RWA Members — $20 for first book; $10 for subsequent books.
Entry fee: Non-RWA Members — $30 for first book; $15 for subsequent books.

Author must provide three copies of the entered book, which will not be returned. Finalists will be notified approximately March 1, 2007. Winners will be announced on March 31, 2007, at the 2007 Romance in the Magic City Conference in Birmingham, AL. All finalists receive a certificate. Winners receive an engraved gold bookmark and inclusion in full page RWR ad. Authors may enter more than one novel; however, the same novel may not be entered in multiple categories.

Categories for entry:

Short Contemporary (Under 70,000 Words)
Long Contemporary (Over 70,000 Words)
Single Title Romantic Suspense
Series Romantic Suspense
Paranormal/Fantasy/ Futuristic/Time Travel
Contemporary Single Title
Young Adult
Novella (20,000 – 40,000 Words)

Judging: All entries are judged by avid readers of romance and booksellers. The top two scores are added to form the final score. Lowest score is dropped. In the event of a tie, ties are broken using the dropped low score.

Books are given to the judges as a “thank you” for judging. They are not returned. Scores and finalist placement are not revealed. Score sheets are not returned. The decision of the judges is final.

Send entries (three copies of book, entry form + entry fee) to:

Jennifer Echols
P.O. Box 190032
Birmingham, AL 35219


Friday, September 29, 2006

Too Many Ideas, Too Little Time

It's once again time for Cullman's Oktoberfest.
Cullman's roots are of German origin. Cullman is named after the colonel who founded it, though the name is Americanized. Just like they Americanized my great grandfather's name from Mueller to Miller.

You're probably wondering what this has to do with writing. The idea had always been there, deep inside me, to write a historical set in the Cullman's early days, but put off because it entailed so much research. Lately, the idea seems to be growing, demanding attention. I've even thought of a new scenario for the new Steeple Hill historical line. Like any good historical writer, I immediately ordered some reference books.

I have no real way of picking and choosing from my ideas. Which story I work on is quite haphazard. How do you choose between your ideas? Do you ever start one just to set it aside?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

So What Are You Afraid Of?

I have a secret. One I believe is shared with millions of writers, both published and unpublished. I'm afraid to write. Yes, you heard me. I'm afraid to put words down on a page. Writing consumes my thinking, but fear of writing often consumes it more.

Not ready to admit you're afraid? Don't be embarrassed, neither was I, until I read an excellent blog last week written by the wonderfully talented romantic suspense author, Allison Brennan. The things she talked about resonated with me and I could no longer deny that my biggest problem in my writing was the actual fear of it.

What am I afraid of? Oh my gosh, everything.

What if my writing is absolutely awful? What if I think it's wonderful but others think it stinks? What happens when I send my work out and rejections start piling up? How can I go on when I can't seem to find that one editor that loves my voice and 'gets' me? Should I just give up?

Then, what if the seemingly impossible happens, and I sell? How do I stand up to the reviews? It's hard enough to withstand well meaning comments of contests judges, critique partners and the few family members I allow to read my work. But this is bigger, much bigger. My work is finally out in the cold, cruel world and that world could care less about how hard I've worked and what I nice person I am. Yikes, I get shivers just thinking about it.

And, what if I sell and I'm a one book wonder? What if I can't sell my second book or third one, or fourth? Should I just give up and say, well, at least I got published?

I'm sure there are fears I've not even realized I have or others that will appear with time. But what are my choices? Do I just give up, because I'm too afraid to try? Do I let fear control my destiny? Can I live with myself, if I do?

My answer is a resounding NO! I have to write -- as Allison put it -- "write through the fear." I have stories inside me to tell, I have to write them down and I have to share them. I can't let my fears control my need to create. No, the fear won't go away, but hopefully my need to write will overpower any fears that attack me.

So what about you? Are you afraid to write? What's your biggest fear and how do you write past it?

Monday, September 25, 2006

How I cheated...

Yes, I cheated on my blog this week. Heh, heh. See the announcement below.

It's good being the Pres.



Romance in the Magic City keeps getting better!

Hey, Southern Magic had another editor to sign on for the Romance in the Magic City Conference. Hilary Rubin, Associate Editor, St. Martin's Press. How cool is that?

So we stand at:

Leslie Wainger, Executive Editor, Harlequin Books
Tracy Farrell, Executive Editor, HQN
John Scognamiglio, Editor-in-Chief, Kensington Books
Melanie Murray, Editor, Hachette Book Group (formerly Warner Books)
Hilary Rubin, Associate Editor, St. Martin’s Press

Christina Hogrebe, Agent, Jane Rotrosen Agency
Kimberly Whalen, Vice President, Literary Agent with Trident Media Group
Vivian Beck, Agent, Vivian Beck Agency

Keynote Speakes:
Beverly Barton
Gayle Wilson
Linda Howard

Workshop Presenters:
Sherrilyn Kenyon a.k.a. Kinley MacGregor
Beth Cornelison
Genie Davis a.k.a Nikki Alton
Barbara Ferrer a.k.a. Caridad Ferrer
Tina Gerow
Debby Giusti
Linda Winstead Jones
Cassondra Murray & Steve Allen Doyle
Annie Oortman
Rhonda Pollero a.k.a Kelsey Roberts
Kelley St. John
Dianna Love Snell
Lenora Nazworth a.k.a. Lenora Worth
Connie Rowe (Investigator with the Walker County D.A.'s Office)
Danny Agan (retired Atlanta Police detective, Homicide Squad)

So exciting? You bet.

So go to and download our brochure

Thursday, September 21, 2006

You can't pass this up!

Before Louisa Edwards was a paranormal romance writer, she was an editor at Berkley for Deidre Knight, Jennifer St. Giles, Shelley Bradley, and many other romance authors. You can send her your rejections from editors at Put "Decoding Disappointment" in the subject line. She will post to her blog, telling you what those letters actually mean (but not divulging any names). Is she building good karma or what?

Oops! I Was Supposed to Blog Yesterday

Perhaps it's better late than never. Life interrupted with the stress of a new job plus numerous doctors appointments and various tests.

Over on Miss Snark's blog there is a extensive debate going on about one vs. two spaces after a period. It always amazes me that writers can be so anal about something that doesn't make or break getting published. It's not as if using two spaces makes you unprofessional. I've had two books and one novella published by a large NY publisher and used two spaces after each and every period.

I wouldn't say I agonize, but I sometimes struggle to convey my character's emotions without telling.

Is there anything you agonize over?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

For the month of September, go check out these releases from Southern Magic members. Click here to purchase.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Just Can't Make Up My Mind

This past week was supposed to be a busy week for me. My dear friend Carla and I were going to do a BIAW (book in a week) -- you know, write as much as you can, don't worry about editing -- just throw it on the page and see what sticks. I've done it before and found it to be a great way to kick myself into action.

But it didn't quite work out that way this time.

I had two books I had about 40 pages each on. It wasn't until Sunday night before I started on Monday that I finally decided which one to work on -- I needed to work on the one that I just couldn't stop thinking about. The first day, it worked pretty well, the second day less so and then the third day was a bust.

So, I decided to go to the other one and see what I could do with it. So far, I've written maybe ten pages on it -- not near the amount that I wanted.

Now, I'm near the end of my week and next week, I need to buckle down, set a deadline and write like the wind. But how do I decide which one to work on? Do I work on the one that I'm writing by the seat of my pants or the one I have a complete outline on?

You already know what I'm going to ask, don't you? Can I do both? They're both contemporaries but have absolutely nothing in common with each other plot-wise, so I don't think I'll be getting my characters confused. But I don't know. I've never done that before. I'm usually a one book writer until the first draft is completely finished, then I'll go work on something else.

What's your best advice? Have you ever worked on more than one book at a time? If so, was it difficult? Were you successful? Did you finish both books at the same time or did you end up concentrating on one more than the other? Would you ever do it again?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

How Loud Do You Say NO?

This week I was talking with a sweetheart of an author about family, writing, and RWA. From our conversation, I could tell she was on the road to burn out. That is, if she’s not already there.

Women, and some men too, often try to do everything for everybody because we are such nurturers. We’re the ones that try to ply you with another buttered biscuit or glass of sweet tea. We’re the ones that say, “Sure, I’ll be glad to pick up your dry cleaning on the way to taking the dog to the vet before I have to be at work by 8 a.m.” We’re the ones that promise to exercise on the weekend, but find out that our daughter’s game starts at 1 pm on Saturday and the uniform isn’t washed. And we’re the ones that tell ourselves we’ll find more time to write and then offer to critique three friends’ manuscripts.

We’re well meaning and love to be helpful. Needed.

But we’re also the ones that whenever we forget something, we beat ourselves up over it. We are our own worst enemy.

If this is you, now is the time to start saying NO. To quit feeling guilty about saying NO.

NO, you are not being selfish. NO, you are not lazy. You are protecting what everybody wants. A part of you. This way in ten, twenty, thirty years or more you will still be with us and the funny thing is, you’ll realize all that other stuff wasn’t as important as just being there and being YOU.

Me? I’ve learned to say NO to cleaning my house every weekend from top to bottom. Some days it gets to me and I have to do it, but nothing like I use to. Funny thing. Only time my husband notices is when he sees dust on his TV set.

What have you said NO to lately? What isn’t so important to you anymore?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

You can't keep a good chick down

I had some disappointing news today. Initially my publisher was interested in having me write a sequel to MAJOR CRUSH, which is selling well. But they've decided they don't want me to do this until sales reach a certain level. In the meantime, they want the second book on my contract to use the basic plot of one alternative idea I sent them, combined with the setting of another.

I called my agent and whined. I called my critique partner and whined. I was depressed for about three seconds. And then I started writing.

Writing in general is a terrific activity for control freaks. But at least from my experience, I'd say being a control freak and having a happy publishing career do not mix. This is the bright side of banging my head against the wall for fifteen years before I finally got the call. If I'd been published in my early 20's, I'm not sure I would have had the ability to relinquish a little control and work with a publisher to fill their needs. As it is, I appreciate what I have, and I will NEVER take that call for granted.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Religion and Romance

Well, this wasn't my planned blog, but I had to go searching for another topic. Thanks, Paula!

It's Sunday. Let's talk about religion. Yeah, I know you're not supposed to talk about
religion, but I wanted to bring it up in relation to your writing. Has anyone had
problems/encounters with their church or religious leaders because of their books? I've heard of some. Some people seem to have missed the Biblical verses about "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

Since I've moved back to my hometown, I've been visiting different churches. My writing is not something I volunteer to everyone. Not because I'm ashamed or anything like that. I'm just a shy, modest woman. (Okay, Connie and Carla, quit laughing!) Let me say, I'm Southern Baptist. I even live in a dry county in the heart of the Bible Belt.

One church I visited a few Sundays ago seemed a bit different than others. Back at home when I mentioned to my husband I wasn't sure why Planned Parenthood was bad
(this was in the sermon), he said only half joking, Stay away from those people. They find out about your books, they'll burn you at the stake. (I've since figured out the reference to PP.) The funny thing was that when I was sitting by the Sunday School teacher during the sermon, it occurred to me that she would be horrified to know I write "sex". I've never really thought that about anyone I've met in a church, stranger or not. Not that I think it's tied to certain denominations. Within each, there are some practitioners more conservative than others.

My brother is a Southern Baptist minister, but he's never commented. I surmise it's because he hasn't read anything I've written.

Anyway, I was just curious about others' experiences. How have you handled someone who judges you based on what you write?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Oops...I think I was supposed to blog yesterday

You ever had one of those weeks, when you stayed a day behind the whole time? That's been my week. It may be because I didn't work Monday because of Labor Day. It may be because I heard from my editor last week with an offer on another book and an assignment to get a new proposal ready for the end of this month. Or maybe because we're having issues with our dog, who's just learned how to climb the fence and now we're having to figure out how to nip that in the bud. Or because I had a huge project come due at work last week with a ton of last minute alterations.

I promise, there's a writing point to all of this confusion. What do you do when life suddenly goes nuts on you at the worst possible time? The last week and a half have thrown me into a month's worth of confusion, and I have a mess of a synopsis staring at me accusingly from my computer screen, wondering when I'm ever going to get my act together and whip it into shape.

What are your secrets for untangling the threads of your crazy life and finding some sort of organization and structure to help you accomplish your goals? I'd love to be able to tell you my secrets, but I think they're hidden under the stacks of notes scattered across my workspace.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Are You A Real Woman?

Okay, so my new release is Real Women Don't Wear Size 2. Since the book hit the shelves, I've received loads of emails from women saying "Amen!" And then there's the few (less than 5) from women who say, "Oh, I'm a Size 2, but I'm real."

Now, I never EVER wore a 2. I can't say that I've known a ton of people who have, though my agent is in that number (the book is dedicated to her, even though she is obviously NOT a real woman). She is tiny. I mean liiiiiiiiittle. If you ever meet her (Caren Johnson with Firebrand Literary --, you'll see what I mean. But she's got enough energy for a small army (most tiny people do, don't they?).

I had a book signing last weekend, and a guy bought the book and, with a grin, he said, "My wife wears a 2. I like it." Yeah, well, what was I supposed to say to that? And then I could tell that he kind of backed up and "sized" me up. Hello. That's SO not politically correct, and I was very glad I had on a jacket.

Truth -- as a pre-teen, I went straight from a little girl's size 14 (isn't that it -- 14 is the biggest little girl size? -- I have teen boys now so I'm clueless) to a size 7. And then, naturally, I went up. Don't even think I'm going to tell you how many digits up I've gone. That's just none of your business.

So, here's the question -- are you a real woman? And if you aren't, i.e., you wear a 2 or a smaller size, what's the deal? Do you eat? And if you do, what? (just wait until my agent reads this -- the woman eats whatever she wants -- I've seen her in action. BLOWS MY MIND.)

Real Women Don't Wear Size 2 -- on sale now!
Visit My Site to Win a Florida Beach Vacation

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Odd Blog

I thought I'd do an odd blog today, since I don't have any real issues. Well, actually I have a lot of issues, but you definitely don't want me to blog about them. This week, at least so far, I have no real writing issues.

On a weekly basis, I read between 300 - 500 hundred emails, articles and blogs related to writing. That's a lot of opinions. Some I agree with, some I don't. Some just make me shake my head. I've read a lot of emails over the last few hours on prologues and whether they should be done. Seems there are a lot of people who don't care for them. In my opinion, if it adds to the story and it's not just a lazy way of giving back story, then most definitely, a prologue is useful. What do you think? And what about epilogues? Got to admit, I'm a big fan of epilogues. I not only want to know that the h/h got together, I want to see them happy. I've invested a lot of time with these people, I deserve to see their bliss. What do you think about epilogues?

I took a break this week from writing. I rarely do that, but I'm getting ready to hit a project really hard next week and I just finished up a manuscript, so I thought, what the heck, why not read a little. So far, I've only been able to read one book, but I have plans for at least three more. I'm afraid I won't read anything after this week until the holidays, so I need to get in as many as I can. What surprised me is that I read a book I'd read a couple of years ago that I didn't really care for. It's by one of my favorite authors but for some reason, it just didn't do it for me. Well, I read it again and LOVED IT! Why is that? I'm not really sure. The book hasn't changed so obviously it's me. I know I've done that with movies before. Not been in the right frame of mind and hated a movie and then I see it months later and loved it. Never considered how my mood would affect my reading, but I guess it does. Have you ever done that? Read a book, disliked it and then read it again and loved it? If so, why do you think that is?

Another article I read recently talked about creating your characters and having an idea of a real life person, maybe celebrity or actor, in mind as you create. I don't usually have a real person in mind, although, I seem to be able to see them clearly. They're real to me, they're just not real. What about you? Do you have someone in mind as you begin to develop your characters?

Monday, September 04, 2006

Laboring Over the Blog

For those that know me, did you really think I would pass up the chance to say something like that? LOL!

Let’s talk about this blog. It was created in March 2006 for the purpose of providing Southern Magic’s members an opportunity to blog without having the responsibility of keeping a daily log. Those that volunteer are included into a schedule and someone posts every other day. While others didn’t wish to be included on the schedule, they still can occasionally post on "off days."

Southern Magic has over 50 members and continues to grow each year. I hope to see more members take an active part in the chapter and our community blog.

On the blog, we enjoy talking about writing. BUT we can blog about anything that strikes our fancy. One thing we’ve learned over the years, each experience in life helps us become a better writer.

I’ve found blogging a good exercise for my brain. Not only do others learn something about me, but I learn something about others. So far I’ve found out that I’m no crazier than many other writers.

I enjoy reading other blogs, too. To keep up with what’s going on in the market, what agents and editors think and what other authors are hearing. A few of the blogs I read at least a couple times a week are:

Why do you blog? What do you expect out of the ones you read?

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Books on books

When she spoke to Southern Magic recently, Debra Dixon suggested a few writing resource books--all of which are now on my Amazon wish list! I wanted to share one of my favorite tools, The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes and Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes by Tami D. Cowden, Caro LaFever, and Sue Viders. It’s in the Hoover library, but after I renewed it the sixth time, I decided to buy a copy of my own.

The book lists sixteen common characters you’ll find in good novels--eight men and eight women--and explains what makes them tick. Fine. But THEN it goes on to match each of the men with each of the women, and to detail why those characters will be attracted to each other and why they won’t be able to stay in the same room. Wonderful for romance writing. And THEN it provides multiple examples of each of these interactions from popular movies. It’s a fabulous brainstorming tool for setting up your novels, much better than some other character resource books with vague lists.

What’s your favorite resource book? Rather than suggesting a lot, maybe you could talk about one book you love, why you love it, and what you use it for.