Happy thoughts on a dreary Monday

Things have been a blur since I returned from the NJ Romance Writers conference a couple weeks ago, which was hands down, the best one to date! Of course, that may have to do with my getting involved with the conference and co-chairing the published authors contest. It’s also due to the many wonderful friends I’ve met. This year, not only did I get the pleasure of handing out several awards to fabulously talented published authors, but I also got to cheer on three of my blog partners who were finalists in the unpublished writers contest. These fabulous ladies, Michele Mannon, Joanna Shupe, and Jenna Blue are talented ladies. Remember their names, because I expect to see their names in print soon!

I returned from the conference to learn my second story, Love’s Second Chance, won first place in the Indiana Golden Opportunity Contest with a request to see the full manuscript by the judging editor! Needless to say I’m completely thrilled. This is LSC’s second win in a contest this year.

Over the next few months, I’ll be sharing some of my memories from the NJRW conference, but in the meantime, here are a few pictures.

The Violet Femmes: Jenna Blue, Maria K. Alexander, Joanna Shupe, Michele Mannon, Jaye Marie Rome

Michele Mannon & Maria K. Alexander

Maria K. Alexander & Joanna Shupe

Maria K. Alexander & Diana Quincy

For everyone on the east coast who’s dealing with Hurricane Sandy, please be safe!!!

Hugs,

Maria

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Fall Into A New Season…And Love

Although there are still several days  left of summer, it’s starting to feel like fall. The air is brisk in the evening and early morning. I find myself reaching for that extra blanket when I wake up in the morning, after having left my windows open. I love the change in seasons and Fall is one of my favorites. There’s something about the changing color of the leaves that makes me feel good. I look forward to picking apples and pumpkins with my kids and going to fall festivals. How about you?

With Fall comes NJ Romance Writer’s annual Put Your Heart In A Book Conference. It’s two days of workshops, pitching, networking, and good times. For a second year, I’ve co-chaired NJRW’s Golden Leaf contest for published authors. I’ll get the pleasure of sharing the stage with my co-chairs and category coordinators and announcing the finalists and winners. You have until 9/30 to register for the conference if you haven’t done so.

In other news, I’m thrilled to announce that Love’s Second Chance finaled in the Indiana Golden Opportunity Contest. I won’t  find out my results until the end of October, but keeping my fingers (and toes) crossed.

As you hopefully know, I blog monthly with The Violet Femmes. Our blog stemmed from a wine tasting held in my room at last year’s NJRW conference. The idea of a blog started and within a few weeks, we were up and running. As we near our one-year anniversary, we’ll have some exciting announcements, including a new contest. Stay tuned for more.

In the meantime, I’m blogging this week with the Femmes on preparing for a conference. Stop by http://thevioletfemmes.com and comment.

Maria

Winter has arrived (sort of) in NJ

New Jersey had its first snow of the new year this past weekend. Despite the snow, sleet, and rain, many of us braved the road conditions on the NJ Turnpike and Garden State Parkway to attend Saturday’s NJ Romance Writers meeting. We had the pleasure of hearing Angela James, Executive Editor of Carina Press, speak to us on Digital Publishing. After lunch, several of us volunteered to have the first few pages of our manuscript read aloud while Angela gave us constructive feedback. It was an interesting and informative afternoon!

By now, the snow has been replaced with rain, and it’s pretty much gone. But, it was pretty while it lasted.

Stop by The Violet Femmes site, where this week’s post is on Point of View. Leave a comment on the site for a chance to be entered in our monthly contest. This month’s prize is a box of handmade salted caramels.

New Jersey Romance Writers know how to write and celebrate!

I’m back from this year’s New Jersey Romance Writer’s Put Your Heart in a Book Conference exhausted but energized to write!!! We heard some inspiring stories from fabulous authors such as Victoria Alexander, Rachel Gibson, Suzanne Brockmann, Brenda Novak, and Kristan Higgins.

This year, I had the pleasure of co-chairing our Golden Leaf contest for published authors, along with fellow NJRW members Joanna Shupe and Michele Mannon (pictured).

After experiencing what is involved with putting together the conference, I’m in awe of all the wonderful woman who dedicate so much of their time. You are all an inspiration and I have enjoyed working with you.

Here are some of my favorite moments:

1. Stepping Stones workshop with Kathleen Long and Tessa Radley where I got to hear how to leverage feedback from contests, conferences, pitches, and critique partners to help my writing.

2. Special Presentation with Victoria Alexander where I learned about her fabulous collection of napkin rings and got some wonderful chocolate (yum).

3. Creating Memorable Characters workshop with Kristan Higgins where I learned things like how to showcase your character’s weaknesses. Our own lives are faced with challenges and so should our characters. We need to put them in impossible situations, show them failing, before they can take action and make a final grand gesture of love.

4. Subtext workshop with Renee Ryan where I learned how to more effectively use things like the four elements, body language, setting, symbols, and motifs to convey to the read what lies beneath the scene. In Renee’s words “The scene is never about what the scene is about.”

5. Put Your Heart in a Book and Golden Leaf Award ceremony – although my second conference in NJ, it was my first time attending and co-chairing a contest and the award ceremony. A HUGE thanks to Roni Denholtz, Marlo Berliner, Joanna Shupe, and Michele Mannon for all their help in making the event a fantastic evening. A special thanks to the Golden Leaf category coordinators, Roni Denholtz, Karen Bryan, Jen Sampson, and Val Luna.

6. It wouldn’t be a conference without some funny/crazy moments. So, what do you get when you take 2 romance writers and send them on a qwest for flowers for our conference chair? And believe me when I say it definitely was a qwest! For me and Janet Pepsin, we got wrong directions, a closed florist, stopped behind a parked landscape truck, a lesson in flowers (for me), and some on-our-feet thinking to get a beautiful pumpkin-themed arrangement for our conference chair, Marlo Berliner.

7. A great opportunity to have lunch at the same table as Kristan Higgins, who is very down-to-earth and not all boring, even though she thinks she is. This is my second time meeting Kristan, and hope to see her at a future NJ Romance Writers conference. And maybe I’ll actually think to take a picture with her!

But the truly best part of the conference was being around wonderful writers, published and unpublished and making new friends. Although I’m relieved it’s over, I can’t wait for next year! In the meantime, I’m off to send out my partial manuscript and get back to writing!

Reflections from a First Timer at RWA Nationals

I’m back from RWA Nationals in NYC, and happy to be home with my family, although I’m not sure whether they’re happier to see me or the gifts I brought back home. Okay, my daughter’s tears were enough to know I was missed. But seriously, I met a lot of wonderful people and had a fantastic time. Plus, I came home with enough books to stretch the length of the NJ Turnpike. If only I had that library in my home I’ve always wanted.

Here are some of my First Timer highlights.

  • The Author Literary signing – it was great to see so many people embracing their love of books and supporting a great cause
  • Kristan Higgans was a surprise attendee and did a fantastic British accent in the Dialogue Workshop
  • Susan Elizabeth Phillip’s Six Magic Words. Plus, she gave us permission to initially put garbage on the screen. Whew!
  • From the Contemporary Challenge: give your alpha guy a quirk or vulnerability
  • Fantastic workshop and examples of mending a broken scene with Roxanne St. Claire
  • Advice from Cherry Adair, PRO Mentor of the Year- “Just Write the damn story!”
  • Contemporary Romance Market –
    • the setting almost becomes a character
    • Kristan Higgins: know what your book represents: “Real life, true love & lots of laughs”
    • Robyn Carr: your brand emerges from your writing & the characters
    • Build characters you would like to meet
    • NEW ADULT: protagonists between 18-25 years
  • Agent Search – treat personal feedback as gold
  • Creating an unbreakable connection between characters & readers
  • There are an enormous number of authors who have struggled through many a personal challenge to get to where they are today. Hearing the stories of Sherrilyn Kenyon and Sharon Sala were extremely touching and brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for helping me keep things in perspective and remember to always believe in ourselves.

Nationals here I come!

Well, I’m sort of packed and almost ready to head off to RWA Nationals tomorrow. It will be my first National conference and I’m equal parts excited and nervous. Although I’m a Jersey girl, NYC is somewhat intimidating to me. So are the 2,000 plus people who will be at the conference. I’m busily trying to polish my pitch in preparation for the agent appointment I have on Friday. Good luck to everyone pitching!

In other news, I’ve hit the 50k word count  that was part of a PRO writing challenge I participated in. The goal was to write 50k words between the end of February, when the challenge started, and complete prior to Nationals. Thanks to this challenge, I’ve been able to finish the first draft of my second novel, A Second Chance for Love. Once I return from Nationals, I’ll start my edits and maybe get this one ready to pitch for the NJRW conference in October.

I hope everyone who’s going has a great time at Nationals. See you in NYC!