Those of Us Left Behind

This week Romance Writers of America holds its annual conference. This year they’re in Orlando at the Disney Swan and Dolphin Resort.

Over 2000 authors will descend on the conference with dozens of personal agendas to fulfill. Some are relative newbies, some have been writing and publishing for years. No matter what their level, everyone has at least a half-dozen good reasons to attend.

Literacy signingSome authors will attend workshops, others will hang out in the lobby bars with old and new friends. Publishers will hold parties for their authors. And, both the Golden Heart and RITA awards will be given out and tearfully accepted. All in all, it will be a great five days.

On Saturday, a couple of hundred authors will gather for the Readers for Life Literacy signing. Over a thousand fans of romance will filter their way through long lines of tables just for the chance to meet their favorite authors and get an autographed book (or two).

What about those of us left behind? Those that couldn’t go this year for various reasons, be it finances, health, family obligations. What are we doing to pass the time while all our friends are posting yet another round of pictures on Facebook?

23 Eye of the PharaohHopefully, we’re writing. At least that’s what I’m planning to do. In anticipation of taking part in next year’s conference, next year’s book signing, I’m working feverishly on two projects. The first is a holiday story scheduled for December release. The second is a new project for Soul Mate Publishing and a follow up to last year’s Egyptian-themed time travel, Eye of the Pharaoh.

I’ll likely take a break long enough to watch the live feed of the Golden Heart and RITA awards ceremonies. With friends to cheer on, it will almost seem like I’m there.

As someone who’s attended 20 of the 25 conferences since I joined RWA, it’s difficult to sit on the sidelines, even for one year every so often. However, while those friends, acquaintances, and publishers are baking in the hot Florida sun … I’ll be basking in the uninterrupted word count of my imagination.

For those readers out there … if you could go to the literacy signing whose autograph would you look for first?

For the authors reading this post rather than schmoozing in Orlando, what are you doing to pass the week?

Inquiring minds want to know.



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Are you ready?

Well, it’s that time of year again. When the weather’s hot, the lakes and pools are filled with laughing, splashing people, and the smell of grilled burgers and hotdogs fill the air. Awww, summertime…

I hate to interrupt such good feelings but….

In less than a month, most schools will be back in session.

And you know what that means…. Yep, time for back-to-school shopping.

There’s the school supplies (pretty spendy in itself-all of that paper, pencils, pens, crayons, glue….The list goes on and on).

And then there are the clothes. Everything from t-shirts, pants, shorts, shoes, socks. The list goes on and on. Not to mention the accessories. 

This can be a very stressful time for parents. Between juggling work and bills, now there is the added job of dragging your kid (or kids-3 in my case) to the store to try on endless items of clothing. 

At first it may be fun. “Yay! New clothes!” But after awhile they grow tired of the dressing rooms and the endless sorting through clothing. 

And most kids love to pick out their own school supplies. It’s an act which allows them choices and gives them the opportunity to express a little of their own personality. As parents we love to encourage our children to be themselves. I know I do. The difficult and frustrating part is trying to weave through the crowd with kid (or kids) in tow, digging through school supplies, getting great deals, and not lose your mind while doing it. 

In an attempt to make this going-back-to-school time a little easier, I searched around for numerous tips to help ease the stress even if it’s just a little bit. Take a look:

This of course, is not fool proof by any means but perhaps it can transform the whole going back to school shopping thing into something like this:

And maybe, just maybe by the time your kids are settled in with classmates and teachers, you won’t feel like this:

Good luck!

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A Prisoner and a Virgin Walk into a Bar…

It’s a new release. It’s the end of a series. It’s the story of a woman who’s job is to save the world, and a man who’s job is to destroy her. Good thing he’s a prisoner. Except she’s become friendly with him, which cannot possibly bode well, for, well, anybody…

Here’s a taste of PRISONER OF FATE, Book 3 in the Twisted Fate Series:


The First’s pet Rakshasa lounged in the wicker chair, one cotton-covered leg crooked over the armrest, the other perched on the floor. He hummed a tune Lily didn’t recognize, while he twirled what looked like a grilled jumbo shrimp on a stick.

He abruptly stopped humming and lifted his face and sniffed the air. Lily scuttled behind a nearby pillar. She waited until her heart wasn’t beating quite so erratically, then she peeked out from behind the column.

The shifter stared directly at her with unblinking black eyes.

“Oh,” she squeaked, unnerved by the solid, steady stare.

“Chala.” His voice was deep, like that actor from the insurance commercials she saw on television.

Lily felt that intense sense of awareness sweep through her again, licking at her insides, making her feel both hot and cold at the same time. She dropped her head back and leaned against the cool pillar and gave in to the racking shiver.

“No need to hide, Chala. I cannot harm you so long as you remain outside the reach of my lovely necklace.” He chuckled at his own joke.

Lily risked another look. He still lounged on the wicker chair, although the shrimp on the end of the stick was gone. And he still watched her with that breathtaking intensity.

“I–I didn’t think you would be awake,” she stuttered.

“I wouldn’t think you would be awake,” he countered. “It is terribly late. Is it not past your bedtime, Chala?”

Lily slowly stepped out from behind the pillar and stood next to it, feeling oddly exposed. Not returning to her room to change suddenly seemed like a poor decision.

“It’s Lily,” she said. “Lily Gallow. I hate it when people call me Chala,” she said, hoping he would appreciate the show of solidarity. She had to believe he hated to be referred to as “Pet.”

“Why? Are you not a Chala? Have my senses finally gone askew, after all this time?”

“Yes, I am. But I have a name, and I prefer people use it. Just as I imagine you do.”

“Are you asking for my name, Chala?”

“Yes,” she said boldly. “You must have one. Everyone has a name.”

“The First does not,” he pointed out.

“She does,” Lily countered. “She just chooses not to use it. You, I assume, didn’t have a choice in the matter.”

He paused, watching her for several heartbeats worth of time. “No,” he said finally. “I was not given a choice.”

Lily rolled her eyes. “I take it you aren’t going to tell me.”

The shifter chuckled. “Maybe I do not remember. I have been called Pet for a thousand years, you know.”

Lily shook her head. “You remember. I’m sure of it.” She paused, and when he still did not offer his name, she asked, “What do you miss most about your freedom?”

The shifter stared at her, blinking far less frequently than most other people she’d encountered. Finally, he sighed and kicked his foot into the air.

“I haven’t had a good kill, a good steak, or a good fuck in a thousand years. I miss everything, Lily Gallow. Everything.”

Fall in love with the entire Twisted Fate series…

ofloveanddarkness-large  PrimAndProperFate  PrisonerOfFate_200x300

Of Love and Darkness – Meet Gavin, a cursed Rakshasa, and Sydney, the last remaining Chala on earth. It’s up to her to save her species. A species, by the way, that Gavin’s kind wants to destroy. Except he’s cursed and believes he’s like her. Oh, and he happens to think they’re mates. This is definitely not a match made in heaven.

Amazon US        Amazon UK        Amazon AU       Amazon CA     Free in KU

Prim and Proper Fate – After double-crossing Gavin and nearly getting him killed, Brandon now finds himself in the precarious position of actually trying to save the cursed Rakshasa, because, well, some dumbass Fate un-cursed him. Brandon reaches out to the one person he knows can help—a prissy, too-good-for-her-own britches Fate named Prim, whose body makes him think anything but proper thoughts. Prim also happens to have a secret. One that could save their kind.

Amazon US               Amazon UK       Amazon AU      Amazon CA      Free in KU

Prisoner of Fate – Lily is a 170-year-old virgin shifter who has been hiding out on a desert island for her entire life. Now that she’s joined the real world she resents her responsibilities to her species: To choose the right mate and get to work repopulating the world with Light Ones who will protect the humans. Which is the very last thing she wants to do.

And then she meets Matteo, a Rakshasa—those shifters who like to eat humans as snacks. He’s been a prisoner of the Fates for a thousand years, and she has no business befriending him.

Lily never knew she had a thing for bad boys…

Amazon US           Amazon CA         Amazon AU        Amazon UK           Free in KU


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Love Without “Love” – Elle Hill


A friend of mine recently posted a challenge on Facebook:

Say “I LOVE YOU” without using any of those three words.

Easy-peasy, right? Not as much as you might think. Finding synonyms or metaphors for “love” isn’t a problem. Situating it within the dyad of me-ness and you-ness without using these words? A teensy bit more challenging.

Nonetheless, am I a romance author, or am I a romance author, amiright? I mean, if I can’t say “I love you” without actually saying it, what kind of romance am I writing? So. Rolling up my sleeves (it’s 95 degrees right now, so I actually just pushed my watch up a little bit), I committed to write down the first 20 “I ❤ U” alternatives that fluttered like wee turtledoves into my overheated noggin. You’ll notice I decided to use first-person throughout, and I didn’t use any form of “you,” such as “your” or “yours.” Okay, maybe I cheated a little bit (“Thine?” Really?), but being a romance author also means being a tiny god of the literary world I create. (In other words, I can both cheat and absolve myself. Score!)

Below are my two lists of ten, one more verbal and one more metaphorical. I’d love (Ahem. I mean “would super appreciate”) to hear yours.


  1. My personage cherishes thine.
  2. Treasured stands the person before me.
  3. We choose us/this every day.
  4. My being feels at home right here.
  5. Behold this part of my self that lives outside me.
  6. Adoration spills from my tongue into the space between us.
  7. My soul stumbles into the sunshine of us.
  8. Fierce and sticky like a web, my devotion trembles between us.
  9. My most fervent being encircles the wholeness of this, of us.
  10. Our souls dance.



  1. The ground rumbles in ecstasy beneath us.
  2. [Cheating again, but this is almost a verbatim quote from The Tithe]: “The air trembles around us. We walk through a room together, and atoms collide. Everyone here can feel the greatness of our reverence.”
  3. Lucky is the air that flows around those lips and across that tongue.
  4. Do souls exist? Will be float together through eternity like shadows of ourselves? How can we know? All we can know and feel is the painful beauty of now.
  5. Stars shine from those eyes and heat my face.
  6. Every exhalation into my mouth teaches me to breathe.*
  7. This moment dances between us, as heated and mortal as we.
  8. Warm and safe as a down comforter, we snuggle into the comfort of us.
  9. Arms like bars encircle me. Within lies freedom.
  10. [Cheating again, because I can. When Blue describes his love in The Tithe, he uses these words (more or less).]: “Happiness and pain, they’re just degrees of the same thing. It’s like being outside in the sun, and it warms. But having never known what the warmth feels like, it burns, too.”


* Truly, I’ve noticed I use a lot of breath-related metaphors when I write. I honestly think this is because I’m asthmatic, and breathing is something I never take for granted.

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Dress to Impress: A Guide to Conferencing in Style! By Rebecca Heflin

(With an Intro by Char Chaffin!)

Hi All:

With RWA National a whisper away (Okay, ten days away!), I wanted to repost an excellent blog by one of our most dedicated blogging regulars: Rebecca Heflin.

(Pictured: the ever-adorbs Rebecca)

Rebecca always looks put-together at conferences, and it’s because she plans ahead. Oh, and has fab taste in clothes.

In 2014 she posted the following blog, complete with pictures, offering great tips concerning packing for conference success. Her thoughts and advice proved invaluable for many who read the original blog.

So, with Rebecca’s permission, here is her original blog, as she prepared for 2014’s RWA National which took place in San Antonio.

Rebecca Sez:

It’s that time of year again! RWA time! Are you ready for the non-stop action, the workshops, the networking, the pitches? How about your wardrobe? Is it ready to impress? Is it also a comfortable multitasker?

I’ve already begun putting my RWA wardrobe plan together. I know, can you say anal? But it helps me see where I might need to fill in. It also prevents me from over-packing, and with the airlines’ weight restrictions on luggage, I try to pack light. So, what is the plan? Glad you asked!

For the flight out, I picked comfy but smart-looking jeans topped off with a patterned top and a solid cardigan in fuchsia with a pair of slip on ballets to make going through security a breeze. This outfit is comfortable, travel-friendly, and when I arrive, I’ll still look put together.

The weather in San Antonio is going to be hot, hot, hot. And because the workshops are in two different venues, we’ll be walking outdoors a lot. Layering is important. So are comfortable (there’s that word again) shoes.

For workshops, I’ve selected neutral pants and paired them with patterned tops and solid cardigans, or solid tops with patterned cardigans. Mixing the patterns and the solids allows me to keep my accessories to a minimum (less to pack). Again, ballet flats are my go-to shoe. Super comfortable, but stylish.

For the evening, in case I want to kick it up a notch, I’ve added a black top with flowy sleeves and some bling which I can pair with dark wash jeans or the white pants. If I want to amp the look even more, I can add a pair of heels – the same pair I plan to wear to the awards ceremony on Saturday night.

Now, more about layering. I typically freeze in the conference rooms, so in addition to my ever-present cardigan, I pack a neutral-colored pashmina in my totebag. Nothing interferes with my concentration like frostbite. And about those totes. You’ll want one for your digital tablet, laptop, or notepad, and of course, your swag. Make it part of your overall look to maintain that polished image you’re going for.

For the big ceremony, well that’s a surprise! A girl’s gotta have some secrets, ::wink, wink::.

By the way, you don’t have to break the bank to look like you’ve got it going on. Everything you see came from Target, Old Navy, and Ann Taylor Loft. And the dress for the big night – Steinmart.

Looking your best is important. We all know the adage about first impressions, and writing is a profession, just like law or medicine. Dress the part and you’ll be ready when the agent or editor of your dreams asks you to pitch your latest manuscript.

What are your tips for RWA? Do share!

Char again:

This year RWA National’s weather challenges will be very similar to what we all experienced in San Antonio. Humidity, heat, sun. Lather, rinse, repeat. An added challenge: packing a bit extra for comfort-type fun, because HELLO: Disney! Many of us plan on taking advantage of our close proximity to The Happiest Place on Earth. If you plot to run amok through the Magic Kingdom and beyond, make sure you pack some extra stuff. Not to mention sunscreen.

I hope to see everyone next week. And looking very comfy as well as stylish, too.

Orlando, hope you’re ready for us!

Many thanks to Rebecca Heflin for allowing me to bogart her blog. ::smooch::


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RWA Survival Tips for Introverts by Rebecca Heflin

It’s that time again! Time for the annual pilgrimage to Romance Writers of America. I’m really excited because this year’s conference is practically in my backyard.

I love going to the conference. I’m recharged by hanging with my fellow author peeps, talking conflict and black moments, word count and plotting. I get jazzed just thinking about it. But. I also get overwhelmed, because you see, my name is Rebecca and I am an introvert.

My first time at an RWA conference (which was also in Orlando, by the way), I was a wallflower. I kept to myself, afraid to talk to anyone for fear they would recognize me for the wet-behind-the-ears newbie I was who had no idea what she was doing. I still got a lot out of the conference, but I think I also hurt myself in the long run.

You never know who you’re going to meet when you network. That person could be your next agent, editor, or writing buddy. So the next year, I pushed myself, sat next to people at the bar, or chatted them up in the conference rooms. Invited folks who were looking for a seat at the luncheons to sit next to me. Did I find my agent or editor? Well, no. But, I met some pretty awesome people.

Untitled design (3)

Photo courtesy of Canva

Even so, I still suffered from a severe case of Extrovert Impersonation Syndrome or EIS—that dreaded condition that often afflicts introverts who push their limits in a heroic attempt to break out of their shell. Symptoms include intense fatigue, cognitive meltdown, inability to string three or more words together in a coherent sentence, and, in extreme cases, an urge to shelter in their hotel room until the conference is over and the hoards have gone home.

The good news is, this affliction is preventable. Here are a few of my survival tips.

  1. Pace yourself. You don’t have to go to every workshop, luncheon, party, networking reception, or book signing on the RWA schedule. With the option of purchasing workshop recordings, you can pick and choose. And yes, the luncheons are wonderful, but the sheer numbers of people and the noise level can overwhelm even those on the more extroverted end of the introvert spectrum.
  2. Take time outs. This is especially important. If there’s a session you’re interested in, but it’s being recorded, head up to your room for a little peace and quiet (but don’t forget to rejoin the activities). Or sit by the pool for a bit. Better yet, take a walk. The activity clears your head, the fresh air revives your brain, and, if you’re like me, it defrosts my over-air-conditioned frozen extremities.
  3. Volunteer. This sounds counterintuitive, but, it’s a great way to put yourself out there for a defined period of time, under controlled circumstances, while not overtaxing your closet introvert. If you volunteer, you’re given a task for that set period of time, you can chat with other volunteers, but there’s no pressure, because you’re all busy. When the task is complete, you’ve helped out fellow authors, you’ve met a few folks, and you’re done. Now go take a break and reward yourself for your good deed.
  4. Set realistic goals. Determine what this year’s conference goals are. Is it to improve your craft? Then attend the craft sessions, and maybe you don’t need the marketing sessions yet. Is it to snag your dream agent? Then you can’t hide out in your room. You’ve got to mingle, or sign up for pitch appointments. Or, is it simply to rejuvenate the muse, recharge your writing batteries, and bask in the supportive network that is RWA? When you know what your goals are, you can plan your conference time to achieve those goals, while also avoiding conference burnout.
  5. Don’t beat yourself up. Let’s say you’ve set goals for yourself, you’ve selected the workshops and RWA opportunities to help you achieve those goals, but by the end of day one, you’ve already missed that all-important workshop on GMC, and your feet feel like you’ve been walking on hot coals, so the chapter party you’d planned to go to is a no-go, and as if that wasn’t bad enough, you’ve lost your voice from all the fabulous and witty small talk you’ve made all day. Whew! Take my advice, order room service, soak in a hot bath, and curl up in bed with one of the many free books you picked up that day. Because, to quote Scarlett O’Hara, “After all, tomorrow is another day.”

What survival tips work for you?

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Marisa Makes Memories

To pitch or not to pitch? That is the question. “Pitch,” I say. “What do you have to lose? Your dignity? Your sleep? Your lunch?”


For those who have not walked the pitch plank at the Annual Romance Writers of America Conference, the experience can be as frightening as swimming with sharks even in a steel cage. For others, it’s akin to taking a 10-story drop on an amusement park ride. Either way, it can be one of the most memorable and important moments of your writing career.

Thrill rideThe RWA Conference takes place late this month at Disney World in Orlando, Fla. In addition to attending industry workshops and networking, published and non-published writers have the opportunity to make brief story pitches, typically in ten minute sprints, to editors and agents. It’s both a perk and a privilege for attendees. It also can be a nail-biting and sweaty-palm rite of passage.

For me, taking the plunge and swimming in those shark-infested waters was exhilarating. Although I’m not a thrill-seeker (I rode my last rollercoaster in the 1990s), I took the giant leap toward landing my first publishing contract four years ago in Atlanta while attending my first RWA Conference.

My memory of the pitch process is as vivid for me today as it was then. I arrived at the large waiting area at my appointed time where more than 20 other anxious writers waited to take their turns. But I quickly discovered there were more openings than writers due to no-shows and scheduling changes. That meant if I hung around after my scheduled pitch, and there was an opening, I could fill it.

Of course, you may not want to stay in the pitch area all day and miss workshops, but first-timers quickly learn that if you have a finished manuscript you want to shop, there are more opportunities do so than just at the two promised appointments.keep-calm-and-tell-me-a-story-7

In fact, pitches can be made just about anywhere, even the elevator.

My life-changing pitch took place in the conference’s hotel bar. Well, it was more like a lounge. I had received a text message about 11 p.m. from a friend who had spoken on my behalf to Debby Gilbert, founder and senior editor of Soul Mate Publishing. I was on the phone with my husband and ready to go to bed when the message came through. Tired from a day of fresh knowledge and introductions, I almost forgot to check the message when the call ended.

When I did, the message read: “Be ready to pitch at the Pulse bar in 20 mins.”

“Yikes! That was 15 minutes ago,” I thought. “I’m already in my PJs!” But I quickly responded to the message and promised to be down to “Pulse” in a few minutes. With my pulse racing, I hoped Debby would wait.

She did. After patiently listening to me talk for what must have been at least 30 minutes, she said she loved my story and wanted to read the full manuscript.

“What? You do?” I said to myself. “That’s great.” I finally said out loud.

A week later, Debby offered me a contract to publish The Lady of the Garter. My dream had come true. It can happen to you, too. It just takes a little courage.


The Lady of the Garter PB2




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