This past Saturday, I joined the fabulous Virginia Romance Writers for their June Awards Luncheon. We all got lei’d (fun tropical theme) and listened to guest speaker Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches give a humorous and thoughtful talk on reviews. Soon after I was honored to learn that my new baby, THE RAVINE, had taken first place in the light paranormal category of VRW’s Fool for Love Contest!
Okay, so super-cheesy awesomesauce to add to this day–my supportive hero husband came down with me for the ceremony, and afterward, we went to check out the botanical gardens in Richmond. It was supposed to rain that day but turned out to be gorgeous-hot. There was a butterfly exhibit in their conservatory that was breathtaking–insects of iridescent blue as big as my hand. I savored the moment. It’s easy to forget, when you’re working hard toward something, to stop and look around you. Here’s to hope and a long journey filled with bright little moments.
Every book I write is a book of my heart, but this story holds special significance for me since it took me to a much deeper place emotionally than the others have. I can’t thank my critique partners enough for helping me to get this project into shape: Kimberely Ash, Arell Rivers, Aryn Youngless, and Noella Phillips. Love you guys!!
Coming out of the writing cave for a quick post about my new project, The Ravine.
Both can see ghosts after dark. Both struggle with silence. They’ll need to work together if they hope to defeat his malicious poltergeists and stop her ex-boyfriend’s blackmail by the end of the summer.
This new adult paranormal romance is the sixth project I’ve completed in my adult life and has special significance for a few reasons. I aim to write atmospheric books, and the landscape in The Ravine moves between two of my favorite settings in New Jersey: The Delaware Water Gap and the shore. The setting rises as its own character, a metaphorical divide between the hero and heroine of the book who are also divided by class and whose houses face each other across a ravine. Silence about the past and overcoming that silence factors largely into this work. My hero is mute, but he is empowered in his ability to communicate through other means. It is the heroine who actually struggles the most with silence as she’s been taught that it is better move on and forget, burying your feelings rather than examining and validating them.
Ghosts factor largely into this project as both the hero and heroine are plagued by poltergeists. They will need to work together to bind friendly ghosts to them in order to keep the poltergeists at bay. It was too fun to write their ghost-hunting scenes, especially with such a dramatic landscape as a backdrop. Without getting too deeply into it, small-town drama and the hero’s fear that a particularly malicious poltergeist will bring harm to those around him threaten to put out the spark that glows between these two characters. They will need to overcome more than ghosts in order to find their happy ending.
Here’s a link to my Pinterest inspiration board for The Ravine:
Hey all! Just wanted to gab a bit about some of the best books I’ve read recently. I’m curious about what you’ve read as well. Recommendations are always welcome!
THIEF OF SHADOWS by Elizabeth Hoyt
This is the forth book in Hoyt’s Maiden Lane Series, and though you can read them out of order, I suggest reading them all because–yes–the are that good. Hoyt does a beautiful job of weaving her own invented fairy tales and legends through the chapters, enhancing the themes already present in her books. Winter Makepeace, the hero of this tale, is my new favorite book boyfriend. 🙂 He runs an orphan’s home by day and rescues children by night. He fights in a mask and is, in a sense, the Batman of this world. He’s also married to his work, rejecting the possibility of a traditional family life in order to protect St. Giles. Winter is sober and blunt in his role the orphanage’s caretaker, but allows himself to be more bold in his role as the Ghost of St. Giles. Needless to say, there are awesome sword-fighting scenes and love scenes.
SECRET SANTA by Kati Wilde
I have a soft spot for holdiay-themed romances and absolutely love how far Kati took the themeing of this one. This is a steamy novella with a down-on-her-luck heroine you can’t help but root for who gets absolutely everything she wants for Christmas. An orphan who was passed from one foster home to the next as a child, Emma now has a hard time trusting others. She’s also always worked hard in order to survive and never really made time for a boyfriend. She begins working for a small, family-owned company that produces hand-made furniture. Logan, a gifted carpenter and artisan who works in the shop, falls for Emma on first sight. He helps her with her clunker car, finds out she doesn’t have a Christmas tree, and well…things take off from there. 😉
TYCOON by Joanna Shupe
Shupe does a beautiful job of expressing complete, complex characters and a full plot in the short space of a novella. Her Guilded Age historicals are fabulous, and if you’d like an introduction to her world, this is a great place to start. After Clara Dawson, a perfume counter girl, witnesses a murder, she flees to the train station. She surprises a man on the platform with a kiss, pretending to be his wife so that she can evade the men chasing her. Surprised by her kiss but seeing she’s in need of help, railroad typcoon Ted Harper invites her onto his private car. He’s suspicious of her motives–thinking she’s out for his money, but as events unfold, he finds himself falling for her.
I also want to give a quick shout out to my current reads. FIRE’S REVENGE by Jeni Burns is a fun and sexy new adult paranormal that takes place in my home state of Jersey. STRANGE THE DREAMER by Laini Taylor is an incredibly inventive and vivid young adult book I’m listening to on audio. What are your current reads?
This past Friday and Saturday, I was proud to be a part of the 2017 Put Your Heart in a Book Conference. From the time I first started planning with the conference committee last year–led by our incredible Conference Chair, Casey Hagen–I knew that this year was going to be special. We had a dynamite line-up of speakers including Kristin Higgins, Dameon Suede, Elizabeth Hoyt, Eileen Dreyer, and Nancy Herkness. The conference schedule was also revised so that the awards ceremony occurred at the very end of the conference as an excellent crescendo, and the kick-off party on Friday night was given a steampunk theme that was just too fun!
Eileen Dreyer’s pre-conference workshop, “The Basics are Still the Same,” addressed what she felt were the basics of good writing that have gotten lost in the sprint to self-publish (or publish more frequently with a house). It was an excellent review of what makes quality fiction and some pitfalls to avoid given through the lens of literary elements.
I attended Dameon Suede’s pro retreat as well as an incredible workshop on character. If you’ve ever been to one of his workshops, you know that he’s not only brilliant but a fiery teacher.
Kristin Higgins gave a heartfelt keynote at breakfast about her experiences as a soon-to-be published author, how there is no secret handshake, and how difficult a career as an author can be whether you are just starting out or have been lucky enough to achieve success.
Elizabeth Hoyt gave a special presentation on heros as well as a workshop on emotion I attended. I was able to fangirl with her for a couple of minutes. I’m currently reading her Maiden Lane series and absolutely adore her!
Nancy Herkness, an incredibly kind and welcoming person, was one of the first writers who got to know me when I joined RWA. Her lunch keynote featured many of the struggles she’d had as a writer including a going several years without being able to publish. One anecdote that really stuck out to me was how one of the members of her family who was always asking when she was going to write a “real book,” finally read one of Nancy’s books. He called her to tell her how much he enjoyed it and how he wished he’d known about books like that when he was a young man because he probably would have learned from them and done better in his relationships. She went back to a theme that I heard often at the conference–how romance is the genre of hope. Even a man in his 90s was able to learn from it. It’s never too late. 🙂
During the awards ceremony for The Golden Leaf (our published contest) and The Put Your Heart in a Book Contest (our unpublished contest), there was so much positive energy and support in the room. My young adult paranormal, BENEATH US, took third place in the young adult category, and my new adult paranormal, THE TWENTY-EIGHTH KISS, took second place in the paranormal category. It was an incredible honor to final and so cool to see my titles written large across the presentation screen!
I worked up a sweat in-between workshops and other events arranging our decorations, but it all came together beautifully! I’m already pumped for next year’s conference which includes another outstanding line-up of speakers, but for now, I’m happy to kick back with one of the tons of books I brought home from goody room. #amreading #amreflecting And tomorrow morning–I’ll be back to #amwriting. 🙂
I’m especially stoked about this contest for a few reasons. One is that NJRW is my home RWA chapter and it rocks! These writers have been incredibly supportive and I love them dearly. Several of my critique partners are from this group, and since we’ve shared a lot of the same professional development through workshops, conferences, books, the loop, and conversations, I feel we have a common language and a true professional community.
Another reason that makes this contest special is that the results will be announced during an awards ceremony that serves as the climax of NJRW’s October conference. We have an incredible line-up this year of speakers and presenters, and I just know that no matter the results of the contest, this year’s conference is going to be the best yet!