Photo by Jamie Moncrief/Copyright

Sunday, January 09, 2011

all we have to fear ...

Today is Day One of the shift to my alter ego, McKenna Darby, and her new blog, which is the new incarnation of my blog. (Confused yet? I know I am!)  Today, she (and I) are blogging about the numbing effect Fear can have on our dreams as authors. To read the post, please visit McKenna Darby Romance. And while you're there, please sign up as a follower. It's quick and easy, and allows you to post to the discussion that I hope the post will prompt. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

when 2nd feels like 1st

They've finally posted the news on The Golden Network website, so I feel free to announce here at last that my manuscript Traitor to Love placed second in the 2010 Golden Pen contest in the "Novel with Strong Romantic Elements" category.

Placing in a contest is always a great feeling, but I'm at least as excited about this second-place finish as I am about some of the first-place wins the manuscript has racked up. The reason is the nature of the contest.

The Golden Network comprises past winners and finalists in the Romance Writers of America's prestigious Golden Heart contest. The Golden Heart draws 1,200 entries every year and taps just a handful of them as the most promising, yet-to-be-published voices in romance writing. The Golden Network, therefore, is a group of talented, proven writers who know what makes a romance manuscript work because they've passed a test that is, in many ways, as selective as being signed to a publishing contract.

Every contest has volunteers who judge the preliminary round and decide which manuscripts to send on to the professional editors and/or agents who decide the final placements. In many contests, the preliminary judges are anyone willing to spend hours of their time evaluating newbie manuscripts. Many of the judges are, themselves, unpublished. Which is not to denigrate their contribution. I'm unpublished, I've judged contests, and I hope that I've been able to give each and every writer some nugget of insight about their entry that will help them improve their work. Bottom line, though, the judging can be a bit uneven because the judges represent a wide spectrum of experience, and that can skew the results.

The Golden Network's Golden Pen, on the other hand, ensures entrants that at least one published author and one Golden Heart finalist will be on every three-member preliminary judging panel. This makes the Golden Pen the only RWA contest I know of where you can have near-perfect confidence that the first round judges know their stuff. That distinction draws an unusually high number of entries. So placing in the Golden Pen contest is a good indication that your work actually does have merit -- and a high chance of eventual publication. That's a pretty amazing shield for an aspiring writer to carry into daily battle against the ego killers of the publishing game.

So I'd like to say thank you to The Golden Network, the preliminary judges, and Valerie Gray, Executive Editor of MIRA, for the honor of placing second. I've never been more proud to be Number 2! (And mega congrats to all who won and placed; we're on our way!)

Saturday, November 06, 2010

help stop the pirates of creativity

Can you believe that 31% of the people voting on SB 3804 as of this moment think it is OK to steal someone else's intellectual property, to post it without attribution as if it is their own, even to edit and distort it? As a writer and a creative person, I'd like to encourage Congress to shut down such people.

What about you? If you oppose the theft of artists' creative property - their livelihoods, in many cases - please go to, scroll down to SB 3804, and vote, share, and contact your Senator.

Thank you!

Monday, September 27, 2010

a chance for the romance genre

The first round of results is in, and the editors at Mills & Boon have whittled the 824(!) entries in their New Voices competition for unpublished writers down to 10 finalists. Even though they didn't pick my entry (I know, go figure), I'm pleased to see that the writing is, for the most part, pretty good.

Sure, a few of the finalists would never have made my short list. But that's understandable. No two people will agree with every choice. In fact, the post announcing the finalists gives the impression that even the editors had some throw-downs over what to choose (here's hoping at least one of them is sporting some bruises earned in support of "Deadline," entered under my pen name, McKenna Darby).

What I find truly exciting, though, is one of the entries that did make the list. It's well-written, poignant, and completely different from your run-of-the-mill category romance. It is set somewhere in what I guess to be the Middle East, and it focuses on a married couple struggling to save their relationship. He's the country's leader, she's the wife trying to reconcile herself to the demands of his job and the conventions of his culture. Each is desperately in love with the other, but through miscommunication, competing priorities, and their failure to conceive a child they're each terrified the relationship is crumbling and that it's their fault. Acknowledging that is the one admission neither dares to make.

I don't know how long the author can sustain the tension of the first chapter, but I'm rooting big time for these two characters and for their creator, Kara Jacobe. I hope she wins the whole thing. Why? Because she took a chance. She didn't write to a formula. She dared to tell a touching story, not about a couple falling in love but about one that is already married. And she did it well enough to make it through the first and toughest test against a collection of stories that I have mostly seen before. In a world of too many cookie-cutter Regency romances, that strikes me as cause for celebration.

In the next round, readers who vote have some influence on the outcome; not much, but some. If Chapter 2 proves to be as compelling as Chapter 1, I'll be throwing my support behind "The Royal Marriage Rescue." Not because it's perfect, but because it surprised and touched me. And that's an accomplishment I definitely want to encourage more editors and agents to support.

Having difficulty posting comments? Just choose the Name/URL option, enter your name (first name is sufficient), hit "continue" and then hit "post comment" and your comment will appear. Or make posting even easier by joining the blog as a follower (in the column to the right of this post). I'm glad you're here. Please stand up and be counted!