Struck by a Golden Rose

Author friend Jessa Slade was kind enough to take time out from her uber-busy schedule (I have my doubts she sleeps. . ..) to guest post for me this week, ’cause, you know, she’s really cool that way.  🙂

Thanks, Jessa!

– Melia

There is an element of luck to getting published. While talent, endurance, connections, and business savvy can also play a role, luck matters too. Writers talk about “the lightning strike”—an out-of-nowhere energy that boosts your story electrons to the next level.

Thinking you might have to rely on a random act of nature to get noticed is depressing, but you CAN increase your chances of getting struck by lightning. In real life, you might run around on a beach in the middle of a thunderstorm, clutching a lightning rod in both hands and belting out “Singing in the Rain.” (Cuz, really, who doesn’t want to throw lightning bolts at someone singing “Singing in the Rain” in the rain?) To court the lightning in storyworld, a writer might consider entering a writing contest.

Entering your story in a writing contest takes you out of the safe world of your writing desk and exposes you to the elements. Comfortable? Maybe not. Guaranteed success? Definitely not. But what is writing if not taking chances?

I always had bad luck with writing contests. I tended to split judges: For every judge that liked my story, another judged loathed me, virulently and vociferously. (Probably because I used words like virulent and vociferous waaaaaay too much.) GR2013 Banner for NORBeing loathed sucks, but still, I entered the Rose City Romance Writers’ Golden Rose writing contest because I found the feedback more useful than not. Also, I  knew if you want to get struck by lightning, you gotta be willing to run out into the wind and rain.

In 2007, lightning struck. I finaled in the Golden Rose! Me, who couldn’t get past first-round judges! (Full disclosure: Technically, I didn’t get past the first-round judges this time either. My entry had to go to a discrepancy judge because my low-end score was so low.) And then I won! Not only did I get a real-life shiny gold-dipped rose, the final-round judge asked for the complete.Jessa Slade GR

I’d been struck by lightning AND I was on fire! Oh sure, I had to do another seven or so rounds of revisions (urg) before SEDUCED BY SHADOWS hit the bookstores in 2009 and sometimes the fire burned low, but that initial jolt ignited my writing life. And it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t thrown myself out there.

The Golden Rose is one of my favorite contests, not just because I’m a member of Rose City Romance Writers, but because of the quality of the feedback and of the final-round judges. And the shiny golden rose is pretty fabulous too 😉 But just as important is learning to open yourself to the lightning.

So what are you waiting for? A sunny day? Here’s the link to the contest There’s an early-bird discount through the end of June. Submit an entry, take your chances, and maybe get struck!  cover_Mated-By-Moonlight

Jessa Slade writes urban fantasy romance (the Marked Souls series with NAL Signet Eclipse), paranormal romance (the Steel Born series with Harlequin Nocturne Cravings) and science fiction romance (the Sheerways novellas in the “Hotter on the Edge” anthologies). Her third Steel Born book—and her first werewolf book!—MATED BY MOONLIGHT, comes out in July. | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Pinterest

Wordless Wednesday: Waves

Okay, fellow writers, it’s Wordless Wednesday!  Let’s put our muses to work, shall we?

What story scene, or idea, or character, or setting, or mood would you associate with this photo?  Is this a romantic suspense?  A time travel story?  Or an urban fantasy?  Is world domination at stake, or the fate of someone’s soul?


Share your thoughts if you’d like, but more importantly, use it in your own work if you can!  🙂

Happy writing,


I Is A Writer

About the time a writer gets comfortable with the tools in her favorite handbag, she gets the brilliant idea to go to a writer’s workshop.  That’s when she discovers that those uber-special tools that had served her well aren’t the latest, the greatest, the bestest thing she could ever have.  Not that they hadn’t been at one point.  It’s just that, now they are just (*gasp*) the basics.  Kind of like an old, comfy tee shirt that’s too good to throw away, and definitely the kind you can layer underneath a sweater or three.  But not something you’d wear to a fancy-schmancy gala. . ..

Off to spend the day with my writing peeps!
Off to spend the day with my writing peeps!

Huh.  Well, now, there’s a challenge. . ..

But I digress.

Last weekend, I had the deliciously good fortune to attend a workshop presented by Donald Maass, agent extraordinaire.  As he spoke, the typical cloud-filled Pacific Northwest almost-Spring day protested.  Clouds parted, and the sun broke through as if they, too, understood the wisdom in his words.  Too bad we were holed up indoors without a window.

RCRW Chapter mate Gina Fluharty rockin' the red shoes!
RCRW Chapter mate Gina Fluharty rockin’ the red shoes!

Not that it mattered.  Donald’s presentation was fabulous.  Stupendous.  Stellar.  And by the end of the day I was exhausted, but relieved with all the information spinning through my writer brain.  My WIP and I also came to a mutual understanding.  The poor thing needed work.  Still.  *Insert long-suffering sigh*

But the beauty of it all is that it should emerge better, stronger, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!  Ummm. . . sorry. . . kinda got carried away there.  Anywho, Donald suggested ways to really strengthen a manuscript, to make it unforgettable, and these were some of the nuggets I took away:

1.  For those books that spent multiple weeks (some for well over a year) on the New York Times bestseller list, the authors wrote them to their own rules, told their own stories, and told them beautifully.

2.  Commercial fiction writers need to understand that beautiful writing is finding what’s personal in our own lives and then bringing it onto the pages we produce.  This means baring our souls and writing what’s not always comfortable.  If you feel the angst when you write the scenes, so will the readers.

3.  From his observation over decades in this business, there’s not enough stuff happening in the middle of the manuscripts.  He contends most are starved.  They’re not nearly dramatic enough.  And, he says, writers can’t go too far over-the-top.

4.  Series writers should NEVER HOLD ANYTHING BACK.  Don’t wait until book 4 to include the scenes that should really be early in book 1.  Go for it, and trust that there will be even more story ideas with each book.

Me and The Donald!
Me and The Donald!

5.  I is a writer.  There will always be more for me to learn, more to do, to make my stories stronger, deeper, more emotionally satisfying. . .. Thank God.  (Because that means my skills are improving, peeps!)

So as I rip this manuscript apart – again – I’m hopeful that some of what Donald encouraged us to do will bleed onto the page.  I just hope I won’t need a transfusion when I’m done. . ..

Happy writing,


Partying With My Roses

Ah, the holidays.  Presents.  And decorations.  And parties – the best part! Recently, my RWA chapter, Rose City Romance Writers, got together to celebrate – minus the holiday champagne.  I was having such a great time sucking in writing brilliance from my chapter mates, I didn’t snap pics of EVERYTHING.  (Surprising, I know!)

With Kylie Wolfe, Tammie King, and Laurel Newberry
With Kylie Wolfe, Tammie King, and Laurel Newberry
Me and Therese Patrick
Me and Terri Patrick

Anywho, a couple of pics, great writing friends, and awesome conversation, and the party was over too quickly.  (Personally, I like Jessa Slade’s suggestion that we party once a quarter!)  Some snippets of conversational wisdom:

1.  Rejection is a good thing.  When rejections are announced, we all cheer, ’cause it means a writer is getting her precious work out into the world.

2.  In a world of rejections, writers need to remember to bask in the things that do go well — meeting deadlines, a positive comment from a critique partner, or even one from the editor / agent who rejected the submission.  It’s too easy to get pulled down in this business, and without looking at the positive things we do well, no matter how small, our writing could suffer.  We definitely don’t want that!

3.  Having a debut book is crazy exciting!  Ask any author.  🙂

4.  Lightning strikes create bestsellers.  Authors should be out there with a lightning rod AND an umbrella.  The book needs a certain “something something” that causes it to take off, besides good writing, ’cause, let’s face it, there are always books we all feel should be best sellers — like our own!  😉

5.  Roses are generous people.  Not only were writing and industry advice freely given, we also collected donations for a women’s shelter.  Whether we like it or not, there are those around us who are in far greater need than we could even imagine.

The holidays are busy.  I get that.  But it should also be a time to slow down enough to visit with family and friends, and to reflect on what makes this time of year special for each of us.  You know, you gotta stop and drink the champagne!

What are your holiday celebrations like?


For the Love of Kitties

The ever-talented, extremely big-hearted, fellow RWA Rose City Romance Writers Chapter mate, Harlequin Romance author Melissa McClone, is foster mom to a West Columbia Gorge Humane Society kitty who needs some serious surgery.  Unfortunately, we’re also talking some serious dough.  To help Miss Mousie, Melissa has recruited help from her fellow authors to help raise the money, and has set up a blog for this purpose.

Authors have posted about their kitties, and since I’m yet-to-be-pubbed, my three fur babies are posting here.  🙂

Hello.  I’m Alexander James.  I like cat nip.  A lot.  And I like that my mommy and daddy adore me.   *Yawn*  And why wouldn’t they?  I’m their Prince.  They tell me so every day.  I like living with them, especially when they give me cat nip.  And dinner.  I LOVE dinner.  They even got me a little brother back when they both worked horrendous hours and knew I was alone most of the day.  When I’m not beating up on him showing him who’s boss the ropes around here, we play and eat and play some more.  Did I mention cat nip is my favorite part of the day?

I’m Bennett Charles.  I love my mommy and daddy.  Except the time they brought home Chloe.  A girl.  And she doesn’t pay any attention to the fact I’m older.  Why couldn’t they have brought home a dog instead?  Mommy tells me I’m the real reason she wakes up super early to write since I’m more than ready to channel her Muse.  I’m not sure what a Muse is, but it must be good.  All I know is I get to lay down on her keyboard or her notes while she works.  Sometimes not for very long, but then she’ll put me on her lap and let me sleep there.  Do you want a kitty?  To help Miss Mousie, I’m holding a raffle.  A $5 donation gets your name into the hat for my sister!  Her name is Chloe Marie and she’s a pest, but some people think she’s really cute.  Thank you!

Knock it off, Bennett, or I’ll beat you up.  Ahem.  Hi there.   My name is Princess Chloe Marie.  At least, that’s what my daddy calls me.  I hate the V-E-T.  (Mommy and Daddy don’t think I can spell, but I can.)  Anyway, whenever we go to the vet, Daddy tells me it’s because I left my tail there.  I always protest and demand to have it back, but the vet just doesn’t listen.  So, I now make sure my parents know I don’t want to go there at all.  Whenever it sounds like the cat carrier is coming down, I make a beeline for the closest hiding spot – usually the back of Daddy’s part of the closet, mainly because Mommy’s has too much stuff in it.  (That’s what Daddy says.)  Still, Bennett rats me out.  And he wonders why I clobber him every chance I get. . ..

All three of us think every kitty should have a happy, healthy life so we can take care of our peeps.  Please help Miss Mousie if you can.  And please spread the word!

-Melia (Alex, Bennett, and Chloe’s mom)

From Writers . . . With Love

Left to right: Melia, Paty, Ella, Diana, Marie, and Karen

I made a special trip to visit my writer-friends in Central Oregon over the weekend.  Aside from the total confusion whenever I drive there — I swear, even a navigation system doesn’t help! — I always have a great time with my fellow chapter mates (RWA’s Rose City Romance Writers).

Sure, the drinks flowed.  Sure, there were a ton of laughs.  And, yeah, there was some conversation about the, umm. . . attributes of the perfect, mouth-watering hero.  (Well, duh.  We are romance writers, after all!)  But through the three or so hours we were together, our conversation was dotted with serious discussions about the business end of writing.  Taxes, anyone?  To incorporate or not?  And what about marketing for authors who write in multiple subgenres?  Is this any more of a challenge?  (Think Paty Jager who writes Western historical, Western contemporary, and Native American romance.)

One of the last questions we tossed around: When we hit the bestseller lists 🙂 what advice would we offer fellow writers?

Ella Zane:  You’re writing to entertain.  Go ahead and be excited about your character, but know your plot!

Paty Jager:  Learn craft, and read the genre that you write.

Karen Duvall:  Always ask “why” as you’re writing.  Why is the character doing this?  Why are they saying that?  Why do they want this?  Everything a character does has to be motivated, tied together, and the reader has to be clued in.

Marie Harte:  Entertain yourself, and you’ll entertain your readers.

Diana McCollum:  One word – perseverance.

Melia Alexander:  Write with passion.  Live your characters as you write their stories.  Allow them to shine through the words you put on the page so that they  invoke emotion in the reader and she lives the story, too.

All in all, re-connecting with my Central Oregon Roses was a fabulously, fantastical, stupendously awesome evening!  (Beat that Marie Harte!  🙂 )

And it turns out even sassy, sexy, fun writers can be serious, too.


But not too often —  heaven knows life’s too short to be taken seriously most of the time. . ..


RCRW 2012 Spring Intensive

Contemporary romance author Jenna Bayley-Burke sans camera (for once!).
Breakfast with the girls – fave topics: zip lines and alpha males. . .. there’s a story in there somewhere!
With historical romance author (and fabulous mentor) Delilah Marvelle!