Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Benefits Of Attending RT Conventions

It’s my pleasure to have bestselling author, Brenda Jackson, as my guest Over Coffee. Brenda has written for St. Martins Press, BET, Kensington, NAL, Harlequin/Silhouette and Harlequin Kimani Romance. She recently signed a five-year exclusive contract with Harlequin and will be able to bring all her books to one publishing home.

Long before I met Brenda, I was impressed with her warmth and genuine care for her fans and fellow authors. When I met her this past week I saw another side of her. Yes, she is very personable and friendly, but she is also a savvy businesswoman, with sharp insight regarding writing and the current market. I was able to attend some of the workshops where she was a panelist and I was impressed with her practical knowledge.

Brenda shares some thoughts with us about attending and preparing for writing conferences, and in particular, Romance Times Convention.

Going to the Romantic Times Conventions always energize me, although I returned this time with a little cold because this Florida girl didn’t properly prepare for the Ohio weather. But while I was there I could not get enough of meeting with everyone, seeing my readers and meeting with fellow authors.

I’m often asked from readers what should they get out of attending a writer/reader conference? First, always remember you can only get something out of it if you put something into it. When going to any convention you should prepare yourself before hand with what will be going on at that conference.

Anyone attending a RT conference should get plenty of rest beforehand. Why? Because you need to be prepared for non-stop fun. One thing I enjoy about this particular conference is that it is so reader friendly and there are so many activities for both the reader and the writer, no matter where you are in your growth as an author.

As a reader it can introduce you to other type of writings than what you are presently reading such as mystery, paranormal, suspense etc, and as a writer it holds workshops to help you perfect your craft.

And then after a full day of various workshops, there are the parties every night to help you unwind. And they aren’t just your typical parties, these are the kinds that get everyone involved.

I enjoy going to RT conference to meet my readers, to discuss with them what they like about my books, what they don’t like, and things they would like seeing more of. And if you’re a reader it’s a place to mix and mingle with other readers and meet your favorite authors.

For authors it’s a place to determine what’s hot and what’s not, and to find out the changing trends. Over the years the expectation in romance stories for both the reader and the writer have changed, and as a writer I need to know that. I shouldn’t assume the way I was writing my romance stories years ago is the same way readers want to read them today. As an author I should be open enough to respect my readers and to believe they know what they want to read, and not particularly what I want them to read just because I might refuse to change my writing style.

For instance for today’s romance stories, hot is in. I’ve always wrote spicy and steamy romantic stories, but once in a while you have to turn the heat up a little more. Does that mean the story will no longer be romantic? Not true. The romance is in the individuals, not in what they do in the bedroom. Boy meets girl and boy and girl get together in the end in a happy ending. How they get from A to Z and how they take care their business in the bedroom and how often, is not what determines whether or not it’s a romantic story.

No one author can define what romance is or assume that they can. I think as authors it is important that we don’t decide that we are all knowing in what readers should be reading. Who are we to make this decision for them? We should make sure we’re flexible enough to change our writing to what people are reading while keeping true to what we’re comfortable in writing. The key to remember is the word change. The only thing constant in this world is change. Be ready for it.

There is a place for all kinds of romantic stories, the sweet to the steamy to the blazing hot. But just because you write the sweet isn’t a reason for you to assume everyone should be writing sweet as well. Or just because your hero and heroine prefer making love strictly in the bedroom is no reason for you to expect others to follow suit.

The same thing for readers. There are so many types of romantic stories out there, and you know what you enjoy reading. Don’t assume everyone should be reading the level of sensuality that you’re reading.

I suggest to readers to know those authors who continue to deliver the type of stories they enjoy reading. And to authors, to make sure you know your readers and write the type of story you’re comfortable in writing, but one that will be embrace by the wants and needs of your readers. It’s not my place to dictate what readers should be reading or dictate to those authors what they should be writing. There is a market for every type or story. Sky is the limit. Know your audience and write a good story for them.

So what do you think about the changing trend of romance going from sweet to hot? Do you think the level of sensuality in a book determines if it’s romantic or not?

Do you think a love scene that’s placed in the first chapter will automatically make the story not romantic?

Who should define what’s romantic and what is not romantic? Author or reader?

What are your thoughts?

Spontaneous Back Cover:

She never saw him coming...

Kimani Cannon knows she's in trouble the second she lays eyes on 6'4" of luscious male. The best kind of trouble, too…mm-mmm! Duan Jeffries turns out to be the perfect man—charming, considerate…and the best lover she's ever had. Too bad Mr. Delicious is just a one-night stand….

Until Kim needs a date to her mother's (fifth) wedding! Duan's willing to act the part of her fiancĂ©…as long as it means full benefits. More amazing sex? No problem!

Then Kim finds out that Duan's got his own private agenda. Suddenly, she doesn't know what to believe. Her head and heart are telling her to be careful. But the sensual thrumming in her blood is turning out to be much more persuasive….

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Brenda is a die-“heart” romantic who married her childhood sweetheart and still proudly wears the "going steady" ring he gave her when she was 15. Because she began believing very early in the power of love and romance, she can't help but write stories with happy endings. She is a New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of more than 70 romance novels and looks forward to increasing that number. She and her husband live in the city where they were born, Jacksonville, Florida, and have two sons. She has a B.S. in business administration and retired from a management position with a major insurance company.

She loves to weave love stories and it is the highlight of her day. She and her husband spend time together traveling and discovering romantic places she could use as settings in her books.

Brenda would love to hear from her readers and you can find her on her website and she's on FaceBook, MySpace, and on eHarlequin (which will give you a list of books available and soon to be released).


COMING NEXT MONTH (JUNE 2010): Brenda's 75th book, Hidden Pleasures.


Monday, May 3, 2010

Beyond Gender—Writing Romance

I enjoying reading romantic suspense and always have. However, I haven’t read many male authors who write it. Attending the Romance Times Convention this past week introduced me to several suspense and thriller (with elements of romance) authors who were men.

Today, my guest is, Keith Thomas Walker, who isn’t at all shy about admitting he writes romantic suspense (Fixin’ Tyrone) and suspense with strong romantic elements (How To Kill Your Husband). He shares with us how he came to be writing romance and how rejections effected him.

According to my website I’m the Master of Romantic Suspense and Urban Fiction. I know that’s a mouthful. It’s also a lot to live up to considering I’ve only been a published author since November of last year. But if I don’t believe in myself, I certainly can’t ask anyone else to.

I’ve always loved to write, and I sometimes long for the good old days; back when I was in the fifth grade and it was all about the craft. That was before the deadlines and the revisions – before I had to perform well for thousands of people rather than my one English teacher who loved anything I put on paper.

I still remember when I turned in a poem one day called “Man of the House.” It was about a boy who had to attend his father’s funeral. When he got home, he discovered that he finally caught a mouse in one of the traps he set that morning. Looking back on it now, it sounds kind of cheesy, but that experience, plus the funeral, helped the boy accept his new role of man of the house.

Mrs. Hymel (my grade school teacher back then) held me after class one day to console me for what had to be a very hard chapter of my life. She was surprised when I told her I hadn’t been to any funerals, caught any mice or lost my father for that matter, and she was the first professional to seriously encourage my writing. It’s been more than two decades since “Man of the House,” and I’m still writing avidly. I still like to hear from people like Mrs. Hymel who are surprised by my insight and eager for me to produce more fiction they can get lost in for a little while.

I suppose I always knew I would publish books one day, but as any writer can tell you rejection makes you doubt your craft, your abilities and maybe even your self worth if it lingers long enough. It’s hard to sit behind a keyboard everyday when every publisher in your genre has either rejected your manuscript or they won’t consider it because you don’t have an agent.

I had to learn to think outside of the box and reevaluate what my true purpose was. Growing up, I was constantly exposed to poverty and depression. A lot of people in my circle got into gangs or drugs (both using and selling), and a lot more of them decided it was a good idea to murder one another. I wanted to use my talent to speak against these evils. I wanted to educate and promote education, but it’s hard to do that if your book never makes it past your hard drive.

To be honest, I wasn’t too keen on the idea of writing romance – initially. I saw the books in the stores with bare-chested men posing in front of mountainous backdrops and decided I would never go that route. How could I talk about how drugs have ravished my community in a book like that? How could I talk about the high percentage of incarcerated black men? But then I wrote my first romance novel titled Fixin’ Tyrone, and I realized I could get my message across regardless of the genre.

Fixin’ Tyrone is about a single mother named Mia who made a good life for herself despite the two children she had in college. Mia vowed to never again date the thuggish men she was once attracted to, but when one of her children’s father gets out of prison, Mia has to make tough decisions about love, family and the possible rehabilitation of a former drug dealer named Tyrone. Fixin’ Tyrone received excellent reviews, and I’m hoping for similar success with my second novel, How to Kill Your Husband.

The average day for me includes working a full time job and trying to find a good balance in my “free time.” It’s important that I spend time with my family, so I have to put my writing on the back burner sometimes. And then there are days when I simply must finish a book or send in revisions for a different manuscript, and I have to sacrifice an afternoon my children would like for me to take them to the park. If you want to be a successful writer, you have to make tough decisions all the time. But if you don’t take time to smell the roses, none of your success will matter in the long run.

I encourage anyone reading this to visit my website ( and read excerpts from my novels as well as reviews I’ve collected from various sources. I don’t have all of the answers, but I will share what I know with anyone who would like advice on the trials and tribulations of getting published. Send an email to

Thank you for your time. Much love and God bless.

Blurb for How to Kill Your Husband:

Claire is a happily married mother of three. Her life seems picture perfect until she suspects her husband of sixteen years is having an affair. With the help of her quirky friends Becky and Melanie, Claire gets to the bottom of it, but they uncover much more than she bargained for. When she believes she has sufficient proof, Claire decides on the most obvious course of action: She must kill her husband.


Keith Thomas Walker is a graduate of Texas Wesleyan University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in English. He enjoys writing and reading, poetry, and music of all genres. Keith currently works in administration at one of the city’s largest hospitals. He lives in Fort Worth, Texas with his wife and two children.
You can find Keith: Website