Tag Archives: wrw

NaNo Midway Point

Okay, people. This will be short today because I can’t be wasting my word count on a blog post. Some of you are nodding because you understand. Some of you won’t read this post until December. I understand that too.

For those of you in the dark, I’m talking about NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month.


Like Veterans Day and Thanksgiving, it happens every November. You commit to writing a 50,000-word novel. That’s it. That’s all. It’s very simple. Right?! Can I get an AMEN?

This year I started off strong, mostly because my local chapter (WRW) had a first annual write-in on November 1st. My kids had soccer games and other activities previously scheduled. If I had followed the same pattern as every other November 1st, I probably wouldn’t have written a word that day. Instead, when Kathy Seidel opened her home to fifty chapter members, I jumped at the chance. I knew if I committed far enough in advance, I would follow through with my goal of starting the book. So I farmed out my kids for the day. I missed a soccer tournament and several of my other kids’ activities as well.

Did I feel guilty? Hell no! I wrote almost 3,000 words that first day, which kicked off a rather successful NaNo month for me.

Up until recently, that is. At 38,000 words, I’m starting to stumble. Starting to lose my way. Starting to think about all the plot points that don’t make sense. Starting to wonder how the hell I’m going to wrap this thing up.

It’s at this midway point where I start realizing all the things wrong with the plot. It’s usually at the midway point where I finally get a decent grasp of a character’s motivations, his or her personality, the setting, the tone. But the characters didn’t start out that way. So I have to gag my inner critic/editor who wants to rush back to the beginning and start fixing.

But I need to finish the damn book. I also have to obsess about word count. I have to keep refreshing that stats page on the NaNo website so I can watch the graph rise. (Admit it! You do it too!) I have to check out my writing buddies and see how they’re doing.
That inner editor itches to go back and start fixing the beginning. But if I do, I could potentially lose word count.

So I’m pressing ahead. I. Will. Finish. This. Book.

Normally, I wouldn’t be stressed about the potential awfulness of this first draft, but I have another problem. Her name is Margie Lawson.  I signed up for an Immersion class beginning next week, hosted by Denny Mermaid, where we deep edit our story, and I plan to work on this NaNo book.

Now, I’m sure I can sift through the 50,000 words of the new book and come out with a few that are keepers, but usually large chunks hit the virtual trash can.

I set a goal for myself to finish this book before next Wednesday, which is a far cry from the other years, where I have generally slid under the finish line—dusty and tired—at the last minute. But what a ride!

Who’s doing NaNo this year? If so, how are you doing? Here’s your place to brag or seek commiseration. Here’s the place to admit you feel some word-count envy when you see your writing buddy’s graph rising every day when you stumble into your own road block.

When you do hit that writer’s block, reach out to your writing friends. Ask for help. A fifteen-minute brainstorming session could easily get you back on the right road. That’s what writing friends are for.

GH 2014 photo

It’s Retreat Time!

Dana MermaidIt’s Thursday. How did it get to be Thursday already!?! Tomorrow morning I leave for Washington Romance Writers Retreat and I haven’t even begun to pack. My CDO (my OCD is alphabetized) is kicking in. I must make a list!

Let’s see, what’s important?
1. Clothes (Yep, I’m betting that it’ll be too cold to be naked, so clothes would be good. Plus, probably no one needs to see that. ☺ )
2. Make Up and Toiletries (Definitely important! And might even hide the under-eye luggage after a wild night singing karaoke or playing romance jeopardy with this rowdy crew.)
3. WINE (Which will make me brave enough to sing karaoke and hang out with all of these crazy women… and Tim. ☺ )
4. Chocolate (Because one must eat.)
5. Costume Stuff for Karaoke and Romance Jeopardy (Like anyone needs a reason for fun.)
6. Notebook and Pens (To write down those pearls of wisdom from all of those fabulous workshops!)
7. Gift Basket Donations (Hmm… must go shopping. I’m thinking more wine and chocolate, maybe some yummy smelling lotion.)
8. Book Donations (One must give back, after all… Especially when ones bookshelves are overflowing into multiple boxes and bags.)
9. Money and return address labels for Raffle Tickets (I don’t know how I’m going to win without Carlene—our luckiest mermaid and perhaps the luckiest person on the planet based on how much that girl wins—to rub my raffle tickets on before tossing them into each bag. (You will be missed this year, sweetie!)
10. And Friends! (Because what would retreat be without catching up with old friends and making new ones?)

It’s been a busy week full of that darn day job, cello rehearsals, lacrosse games and a crew dry walling my basement. I feel like I’ve run a marathon and its not even 8:00am, but now that I have my list—all is right with the world. I can hardly wait to pack and get on the road. WRW Retreat here I come!

So now that I’ve told you what’s on my list, what do you pack for a writing conference?

I Heart Sherrilyn Kenyon & Super Fabulous Dark-Hunter Giveaway!

Happy Friday Fishy Friends!  I’m completely excited about today’s post because I’m giving away one very special Sherrilyn Kenyon Dark-Hunter novels collection set.  *Giveaway info at the end of this post*Mermaid Carlene

But first I’d like to share a fun story with you.  So, I firmly believe that if you love something, you should love it well.  Just always remember that love is respectful.

So, a few years ago, I was still relatively new to the DC area, settling into my home and continuing to quietly work on writing.  I was so new to it back then that I had no idea about writers groups, contests, or conferences.  But I was VERY familiar with Sherrilyn Kenyon’s books and had become a huge fan since being given “Seize the Night” at the 2008 San Diego Comic Con.   During a regular check of her upcoming appearances in my area, I saw that she was going to be doing a signing in some place called Leesburg, VA.  I could tell by the event details that this wasn’t just a regular bookstore signing because it talked about a retreat and organization that went by the initials WRW.  Well, I was a little skeptical, so I did some research. I fully intended on figuring out how to get to this signing.

That’s when my silly little brain started doing all this crazy-fantastic spinning.  I discovered several things in rapid succession:

1) WRW stood for Washington Romance Writers and they were a local writing chapter falling under the main organization which was RWA.  WRW was indeed hosting a local retreat in the spring where Sherrilyn Kenyon would be the keynote speaker and there would be a signing for the public in the area around the same time.  They also had a writing contest called the Marlene and the winner would be announced at this retreat where Sherrilyn would be in attendance as a special guest.

2) RWA stood for Romance Writers of America.  They had a wonderful website that taught me all about their Golden Heart writing contest and an annual national conference.  And, Sherrilyn Kenyon just so happened to be slated as their Keynote Speaker that year as well!

3) I had to see Sherrilyn Kenyon.  (Being around her is like chicken soup for the soul and I want lots of that.)

Sherrilyn and Carlene

BOOM, BAM, POW (that’s my brain on Sherrilyn Kenyon)

4) I could join these organizations, both RWA and WRW, submit my little (actually quite huge) love story manuscript I’d been working on to both groups.  I could win the contests, be presented my awards and Sherrilyn Kenyon would be in the room watching my acceptance speeches where I would profess my love for her and then everyone would live happily ever after.  And we might even have slumber parties and talk endlessly about Valerius Magnus and Acheron.

Fishy Kisses

Slightly crazy, I know.  But fun, right?  Long story short, I joined both organizations, entered both contests, didn’t win the awards but came away with a few hearts of gold who give great fishy kisses and had the time of my life listening to Sherrilyn speak.  At the WRW retreat, on May 1, 2011, I won the basket Sherrilyn had donated to the raffle! Inside that basket was the wrapped, five-book set that I’m giving away today.  I’ve never opened it.  It has sat beautifully amongst my Sherrilyn book collection.  I own each of the books individually and have read them several times each.

Sherrilyn Prize

I hope that whoever wins these treasures will read them and fall in love even harder than I did.

I would not be the reader I am nor the writer I’m becoming if it weren’t for Sherrilyn Kenyon.

Thank you—Xoxoxoxo

So friends, I’d be oh so happy to hear your stories of fervent love & admiration…pretty please?


*Giveaway details: This giveaway is open until 10:30pm Eastern Time on Sunday, January 27, 2013.  At that time, I will randomly choose one winner from the commenters to this post and announce the winning name in the comments section.  Please be prepared to share your snail mail address with me so I can send this one of a kind gift your way! *

Five book set includes: Night Embrace, Night Pleasures, Night Play, Kiss of the Night, & Dance with the Devil.

Mermaid for a Day – Willa Blair

In April of 2011, thirteen Mermaids met at the annual WRW Retreat and soon afterward formed the Waterworld Mermaids. One year later, those same crazy Mermaids gave a panel at the 2012 WRW Retreat on group blogging and declared one person Mermaid for a Day. It’s safe to say that we are all thrilled to introduce you to Willa Blair, Mermaid for a Day, soon-to-be published author of Highland Healer and all-around amazing person. Take it away, Willa…

First, I’d like to thank the Waterworld Mermaids for having me here today. Being an honorary Mermaid is so much fun. I love what you’ve done with the Mermaid Pool and I’m happy to be able to add my own little touches.

My debut book, HIGHLAND HEALER, is coming soon from The Wild Rose Press.

I moved from Maryland to Texas early last summer. I know, I know, it was hot. And I had to leave behind the best critique group in the world, run by Ruth Glick/Rebecca York. Though we’ve arranged it so I can Skype in when they meet (so they haven’t gotten rid of me yet) I wanted to have the same experience with writers here in Texas.

My local RWA chapter, the San Antonio Romance Authors group, was doing online critique twice a month. It’s a terrific vehicle and I highly recommend it, but I missed the face-to-face experience, so I volunteered to host a session at my house. In addition to meeting in-person, I wanted us to do what the Maryland group does — read aloud.

Ruth warned me that not everyone can do that – it’s uncomfortable at first for the reader, and not everyone is an “auditory learner” who can hear and make note of things they want to comment on. But reading aloud is the best way I’ve found to discover mistakes in your own writing. And it develops a useful listening skill – I can feel my brain stretching every time I sit in on one of these sessions. I have to pay attention to what is being said and that allows me to catch the flow and rhythm of the story, not just the mechanics of the punctuation, grammar and so forth.

The real benefit, though, is in the discussions, sometimes passionate, that these sessions provoke. The topic may be something within the story or the history or culture related to it, but inevitably that leads to the craft of writing or something about the writing business. We’ve celebrated each others’ successes, comforted each other through our disappointments, and taught each other a lot about writing. Even the most experienced, multi-published authors among us learn as well as teach. Oh, and yes, sometimes we just talk about men. We do like to talk about men, don’t we?

Here are some tips for establishing and running critique groups that I’ve learned at the feet of my mentors:

State a goal: The purpose of the group is to improve its members’ writing and help them get published. Always. No exception.

Establish ground rules to establish trust: The way to establish trust is to mandate that criticism is being given for the goal purpose and is always and utterly well-intended. That means that you have to be honest in telling someone what you think needs improvement, but you have to be able to do it in a way that protects their confidence in their abilities. You don’t necessarily go into the finer points of technique with a brand new writer; you comment in ways that they can use and learn and grow. And you can’t like everything. It’s not helpful. I belonged to a critique group early on in my writing career where everybody loved everything. And frankly, no one learned anything. That group was a good example of how not to do it.

Establish a process: Each person doesn’t read each time, but each person offers comments and critique. If someone is up against a deadline, they jump to the head of the line. If someone hasn’t read for a long time but has been an active participant, they jump to the head of the line when they have something to read. Otherwise, it’s up to the group – if there’s time for everyone to read, great. If not, some people volunteer to wait for the next meeting.

Try out different methods: In our SARA group, we’ve had people read their own writing and we’ve had each person read someone else’s writing. Some people need to see the words on paper and bring multiple copies of what will be read so that each person can mark up their pages. Personally, I prefer to read my own writing, but others are more comfortable taking notes if someone else reads their selection.

Be sensitive to each others’ moods: There are times when you can accept and even relish strong critiques, dissension of opinion over what you’ve written, even suggestions that mean you’ll have to tear your story apart and rework it. Remember that those comments are made to help you improve. But sometimes, for whatever reason, comments hit too close to home and the group needs to moderate its enthusiasm for helping you. Because of my years of experience in Ruth’s critique group, I’ve become much better at accepting criticism, and I’m a Leo — we don’t typically do that well. I’ve learned to use the critique – or to reject it if it doesn’t suit my purposes. It’s taken time to grow that extra layer of skin and to accept well-intentioned assistance, but it’s been worth it.

I know authors who say they can’t imagine being part of a critique group. They write too fast, or they get confused by the variety of opinions their work engenders, or they just want to go it on their own. That’s fine, but for me, a good critique group is a necessity of my writing life.

Thanks again, Mermaids. It’s been fun! I’ll see you around the Pool.  

Willa Blair won the 2011 WRW Marlene contest in the Paranormal category for Warrior (now Highland Healer) and she was also the 2012 Merritt Winner in the Paranormal category for Empath

Highland Healer is being released soon from The Wild Rose Press. You can find out more about Willa at her website, Facebook or follow her on Twitter – @willablair
 (we do!).

Snakes & Snails

I began writing this bog post on April 29th, in the main lobby of the Best Western Westminster, less than an hour after the WRW Retreat officially ended. A few of the Mermaids convinced me to stay on a few extra days with them, to work on my massive pre-book-tour to-do list in solitude and sisterhood.


I have my spoon, and I’m all set to dig my way out of Shawshank. The adventure I’m about to embark upon is a massive undertaking of my own creation, but I am equal to the task because I AM AMAZING.

I am also a mess.

I feel like I’m completely coming apart at the seams. I managed to hold the AWESOME together until last night at dinner, when Robyn Carr told us that everything was going to be all right.

I’ve always said that if I could go back in time to tell my teenage self anything (apart from “Boys are stupid, avoid them at all costs”), it would be just what Robyn said: I know it’s hard right now. This is the hardest part. But everything’s going to be all right.

With that in mind, I present to you:

Princess Alethea’s Fairly Short List of Things No One Tells You When Your First Book is Published

This list always changes. With advances in both technology & social networking, the expectations of authors ten years form now will be vastly different than it is today. As always, your mileage may vary. But as this is what I’ve learned, this is what I mean to pass on to you right now.

1.) DON’T PANIC. Douglas Adams wasn’t joking. In the month leading up to your publication date, you will be overwhelmed. Even if your publisher prints all your promotional material and schedules your entire book tour (for which I will forever be jealous), there will suddenly be a mountain of teeny little tasks that bury you under your to-do list and drive you mad as a hatter.  Any plan you have will be discarded the moment your publicist tell you that you have 48 hours in which to drop everything and write an article for the New York Times or Huffington Post…regardless of whether or not that article ever sees the light of day.

You must also remember Rule Number One when…say…the publisher of your novel declares bankruptcy three days after your book is released…but I digress.

2.) Expect the unexpected. And vice versa. Prepare yourself and at all times have on your person:

Granola bar
Promotional material (bookmarks/postcards/etc)
Business Cards
medicine (Advil, Excedrin, etc)

It is possible that the bookstores will provide all of these things, but it’s more probable that they will have none. If you have it all, that’s a boatload of stress off of you. I suggest making a special “booksigning kit”. Keep it stocked, and keep it with you.

Conversely, don’t expect the expected. All of your friends will offer to help you out in various ways. If 10% of these people come through for you in the way that you expect, count yourself lucky. (My 10% know who they are, and yes, the Mermaids are among them.)

Most of these disappointments will be caused by events beyond your control–funny how those events seem to come from every corner of the universe and conspire against you all at the same time. A very similar thing happens when friends promise to help you move.

You will be disappointed. It’s inevitable. You simply have too many irons in the fire. But with so many irons, it’s okay if a few fall out. And if you leave yourself open to the whims of the universe, you will be pleasantly surprised at the gifts Fate leaves on your doorstep right when you need them. (Mary Rodgers, I’m looking at you, fairy godmother.)

3.) Your publisher will screw something up. These things are so far beyond anyone’s control it’s ridiculous. A bookstore will suddenly put a price cap on all their acquisitions. Your e-book will not be ready by release date. Your name will suddenly disappear of Amazon as the author of the book, and the cover will go with it.

All of these things have happened to me at one time or another. When they do I vent in the manner appropriate (scream, cry, call a Mermaid), and then I straighten my tiara and Tweet to everyone how the world is an amazing place. I do this because FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION.

Shit happens. It just does. If you throw a fit & draw attention to it, that’s what people will remember about you. Chances are, your fans will never notice a thing, and your publisher will applaud the fact that you’re not one of those authors.

I could go on, but this is a pretty good start. If you prepare as much as you can up front, you’ll have more time to spare putting out fires o the back end. Three people on your blog tour jumped the gun and posted on the same day while you’re out of town at a funeral? No problem. You planned for this.  If you don’t link to them today, you’ll do it tomorrow. The world will not end. Bookstore signing cancelled because they only received in one copy of book? Smile and reschedule. They will be more embarrassed about it than you.

Whatever happens to you, keep your head held high. The Earth will not stop turning and the sun will come up in the East, just like it always has…and always will.

This is the hard part. We do it because it needs to be done in order for us to keep doing the one thing we love most in the world: Writing.

Launching a book is sweaty and stressful and unromantic. It’s also wonderful and magical all at the same time. You take the good with the bad. We writers are married to this life, for better or worse. Sugar and spice and snakes and snails and all.

Above all, keep your faith.

Because everything is going to be all right.

Thanks for the Lift!

After having five kids, many of you might think I’m talking about a lift of a different nature, but, no. I’m talking today about the wonderful chapter of WRW and the fantastic retreat this past weekend.

I thought after my first retreat last year when I met all the fabulous mermaids that any retreat would pale in comparison. I’m so happy to have been proved wrong. It doesn’t happen all that often (when I’m wrong), but once in a sparkly purple moon, I am.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank some select people from this weekend who gave me a lift when I truly, truly needed one. Although the speakers and guests encouraged me to keep writing and fighting the good fight, I’m talking about those who through small measures made a personal difference to me.

1. Deborah Barnhardt: I bought one raffle ticket for a Tarot card reading. One. After I rubbed the ticket on Carlene for good luck, I put my ONE ticket in the purple bag. And I’m sooo glad I did. I don’t know whether it’s truly my energy that she read because I haven’t felt like I’ve had much of that lately, but she told me what I needed to hear. I thank her for that reading because clearly I needed someone unbiased to talk to about myself, and when I receive my first of several RITAs someday, I will thank her on a much larger platform.

2. Kerri Carpenter: She wanted a single room. God love her, she didn’t get it. I waited until the last days of registering, and by that time the single rooms were gone. I begged her to let me share her room, and she did. Thanks, Kerri for not making me room with some neat freak with a Type-A personality. I happen to like sleeping with books all over my bed. So what.

3. Mary Lenaburg: I don’t even know how to explain my thanks. Organizing such a wonderful retreat doesn’t even enter why I’m thanking her. Her happiness is so contagious. It was such a joy talking to her, watching her dance Flashdance to Fame and listening to her funny stories. What happens at Retreat stays at Retreat. Even stories about mirrors on ceilings…No, no, no. Don’t ask. I can’t tell.

4. Carlene Love Flores: She was gracious as gracious could be as we all rubbed our raffle tickets on her for good luck. She won so many of the baskets last year that we kinda figured she’d be good luck. Most of the mermaids won several baskets because of her. I happen to think that the raffle tickets really enjoyed being rubbed against someone so sweet and kind and absolutely wonderful. She completely deserved her free retreat next year!

5. Kimberly Kincaid: Holy cow, girl! Your yoga class was the bomb! As are you! I enjoyed that class so much, even after only three hours of sleep. Thanks for christening my virgin yoga mat. Happy 40th Birthday again, and Congratulations on your Marlene win. You rocked that retreat!

6. Angelina Lopez and Suzanne Kalb: I’m lumping them together since they appeared to be attached at the hip. Thanks to Angelina for introducing me to Suzanne, who was such a joy to meet. Thanks to Suzanne for being patient as she had to answer my questions three times before I remembered her answers. Thank you both for keeping me company at the bar and sharing your stories with me.

7. Linda Williams and Pollyanne Power: Our honorary mermaids. Linda w/a Willa Blair won our Mermaid for a Day, and we love her! Pollyanne Power let us scoop her up as our Newbie for Romance Jeopardy, where we won with the most points. Granted we had approximately seventeen people on our team, but, who cares??? That game is not fair anyway!

8. Waterworld Mermaids: This one’s a given! I’m so glad we all met last year, and it goes without saying (although apparently I’m saying it anyway) that you all mean the world to me. Who knew when we were all sitting around that table at the newcomer’s meeting feeling like fish out of water that we would feel such a sense of belonging one year later? Get it? Fish out of water??? God, I’m witty.

So, thank you, thank you WRW for giving my spirits a lift. For allowing me into your midst of awesomeness.

In the middle of all this sappy gratitude, it reminds me of a special post today on the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood blog. Our very own Amanda Brice is hosting Shelley Coriell for her official launch of her debut YA—WELCOME, CALLER, THIS IS CHLOE. So, join them and tell the writing world who has supported you in your writing career. At the end of the day, they will draw two names to win a $50 gift certificate to a bookstore of their choice. Not for the person posting but for the person that has been in their corner. How awesome is that? So, hop on over to http://www.rubyslipperedsisterhood.com/ and give a public shout out for your critique partner, family member or just a friend who has supported you.

Good luck! A little gratitude goes a long way! Maybe even to a bookstore near you.

Who has made a difference in your life lately? It doesn’t have to be a retreat guest—although it really should be! ☺

2012 Marlene Contest Finalists Announced!

The Washington Romance Writers have just announced the finalists for the 2012 Marlene Contest. The Waterworld Mermaids would like to congratulate all the finalists. Well done!
(With special hugs to Mermaid Denny S. Bryce — we’re all proud of you, fishy-girl!)

Series Contemporary
Nancy S. Evertz (Nan Dixon), SOUTHERN COMFORT

Single Title
Kimberly Kincaid, IT‚S NOT YOU (WRW Member)

Romantic Elements
Susan Bickford, SYNCHRONY’S CALL
Lisa Chaplin, BUTTERFLY ON THE TIDE (WRW Member)
Kim Hernandez/Kimberley Troutte, EPICENTER

(There were two double ties: two 99s and two 98s.)

Denny S. Bryce, GIDEON (WRW member)
Traci Douglass, SEAL OF FATE

Young Adult