Thursday, November 22, 2012

2012 Fiction Writers' Bootcamp on the Beach - Part 2

Photo by member Karen Hudgins.
Having been the conference chair, for me to say  this year’s conference was fantastic kind of screams bias. (But it was.) So instead I’ll talk a bit about what we are trying to do with our conferences and what is making them a new and unique experience every year.

This year, our theme was Mardi Gras. Aside from the fabulous workshops by Deb Dixon and the wonderful keynote by Deb Smith, we had a king cake with a surprise prize for the person who found the coin hidden in the cake. We had so many critique donations from published authors, editors and agents that everyone was able to leave with a critique. We also took a tour of the Whetstone Chocolate factory with free samples for everyone. Those are just a few of the unique things we offered our attendees this year. Next year, our theme is going to be (oops, can't tell you yet), so who knows what we’ll find in our (oops, can't tell you this either!) for our attendees.

First time I’d had a really good laugh in weeks was the Keynote address by Deb Smith. 

Another impression was the warm, caring ladies from Belle Books on a one to one basis:

I had an appointment with Deb Smith that I’d been so looking forward to, but hadn’t yet prepared for when Philip was killed. I had my laptop with me in NY and every once in awhile the thought passed through my mind that I needed to get it out and at least LOOK at the series proposal and the completed synopsis that I wanted to pitch, but it never got beyond the thinking. So, when the conference started, I told Elizabeth that if there was a waiting list for pitch appointments, to give mine to someone more prepared. But one of my tasks was to keep track of those appointments, and in a quiet moment between appointments, Deb asked me what I was working on. I’ve no real recollection of what I came up with off the cuff, but she said it sounded like something she’d be interested in seeing and to send it to her. Deb Dixon was just as sensitive to my current state of emotional exhaustion when I won a critique by her. She gave me an idea of what she was interested in and how to submit it, then told me there was NO EXPIRATION DATE, take my time.

And while the workshops remain just copious notes – thankfully the result of long years of habit, most of the conference is a blur of friends, both dear and new, smiles, hugs and support. I know that as a chapter and as familiar attendees of this particular conference, we are close and supportive of each other as writers, but this particular conference I felt supported well beyond my life as a writer. I tried not to bring my personal tragedy into the conference, but it was there in spite of me and everyone was generous in their love and caring and their willingness to listen. You’ve all seen cartoons of a broken heart with a Band-aid stuck across the hurt – well that’s what this conference was for me. Everyone who reached out to me, even with just a few words of acknowledgment or a hug, you’re all part of that Band-aid. I love you and thank God for putting you in my life.

For the Boot Camp this year, I summoned my courage to pitch my book to Guest Speaker, Deborah Smith, Editorial Director of Belle Books. She offered ten minute appointments. When the schedule was announced, I was first…So, I fretted on the drive to St. Augustine, shaking inside and worrying about my ten minute window of opportunity. I arrived a few minutes early for the appointment on the opening day of the conference.

When I was taken to meet her, inside I was chanting “You-can-do-this! You-can-do-this!” I have a terrible tendency to rattle on when I’m nervous. It was the first time I ever pitched anything in person. She was wonderful, so kind and funny. I relaxed into the chair and answered her questions. The ten minutes flew by and ended with Ms. Smith requesting my manuscript. Whew!

After that, the conference breezed by. I met some wonderful writers and participated in some great workshops. And won two wonderful gift baskets in the raffle held at the end, as well as two opportunities with agents.

It was a great conference, the best I’ve ever attended. Next year promises to be spectacular! Here’s a hint: ARRRRRRRRRRRGGGGHHHHH!!!!

I loved seeing the excitement of the authors as they came out of the editor appointments. You just knew the editor had requested a manuscript. Who could forget the oohs and aahs over the donated baskets or the critique evaluations by editors, agents and authors. It was an outstanding conference, and as one ACRA member said, it's the best little conference in North Florida.

What was the best thing I got out of the 2012 ACRA Boot Camp? Only choose one? Impossible. As always, you paid a little and got a lot.

I would say there were at least two important things that will help my writing. The first was that if you only have conflict at the end of your book, you don’t have enough. With romantic suspense it’s easy to have conflict between the hero and heroine. Throw in a villain, and you ramp it up. However, when you write a book of suspense, you don’t have that romantic element to aid you. You have to come up with something else that causes conflict in your character’s lives.

The second thing I brought back was that sometimes the little details throw us from the deep point-of-view we as writers try for. Your heroine isn’t thinking, “I turned on the shower, now I’m stepping in. The water is cold” etc. We, as humans don’t think like that. It’s an everyday occurrence to turn on the shower. We don’t think about it when we do it. Instead we just “step into the shower. The freezing water jolted me awake.”

There were so many more things. It just makes me look forward to next year.

Once again ACRA's Boot Camp on the Beach for Fiction Writers impressed me. The atmosphere was upbeat, the speakers willingly shared their knowledge, the raffle gifts and goody bag items were plentiful, and the food tasty. Also, the table decorations rocked. I had a wonderful time meeting new people and spending two days with writer friends in a writerly environment. Creative people meeting together like this always juices me up for more writing. Eating out in St. Augustine Beach added to my adventure. We stumbled upon Saltwater Cowboys, a rustic restaurant by the expansive, lush green salt marsh along the Intracoastal Waterway, makes seafood, etc. that floats into your mouth. 

Speaking of food, much goes into making fine chocolate. (Very fine, indeed). Being tour guests of the Whetstone Chocolate Factory, we each donned a little white "hairnet" cap and observed the process up close and personal...with yummy samples. The conference was small, but mighty and powered by attendees who came from afar and close and with shared goals like better writing and learning more about the industry. Am already looking forward to next year for another chance to: Dare and share. Dare--to push myself again to new writing levels. Share--to give and receive ideas, techniques, and industry tips for keeping a writer's journey alive and fresh. Thanks for reading, and now back to my pages....

This was my third ACRA Bootcamp. As the rookie in the group, I can honestly say they just get bigger and better. It was much more relaxing for me this year because my pitch was early on Friday morning and well received. I floated through the rest of the day but did come down long enough to enjoy Elizabeth Sinclair’s workshop on Character. I will never look at cardboard people again without trying to flesh out their story.

The theme this year was Mardi Gras which should have been festive and full of Yuks. Instead, I believe our hearts collectively were so full of love and empathy for our Skye that we may have missed the mark on raucous merriment, the underlying theme turned into one of encouragement and hugs. Skye was the second ACRA member to befriend me. She has a special place in my heart for sharing lunch at the 2011 Bootcamp with the rookie. So while we may have missed the mark on merriment we scored big on warmth and encouraging.

The very best part of Bootcamp is getting to know each other, I missed out on some quality bonding time by missing the chocolate factory outing. (My bad)

It was very cool having a male author in our ranks and hearing his story at lunch. Maybe we can schedule in some intro time? (Or did I miss that giving the early pitch?)

The "Debs" from BelleBooks were the best. Class wrapped in humor and topped with professionalism. I loved it all!

All of Saturday and the KEYNOTE were super! The only thing I would like to see changed and again maybe I missed it (early pitch remember) is that we should announce and explain that the bags hold chances for author critiques and publisher reviews for newbies like me. Had no clue the first year until someone told me and didn’t even notice them this year until the end but . . . spoken in Uncle Si’s voice. . . HEY! I had the early pitch ya know!

When I first reached out to a writing group, I emailed three different groups. EMCBREEM (Ellen) at ACRA was the only one that responded. She took me under her wing at the Wilson’s that first year. Dolores and Marge had me join their table at the first boot camp I attended seems like someone in the ACRA group always looks out for the newbies to encourage them. Kellie has taken pity on me and explained her “e” speak more than once. Kathy, Sharon, Karen, Vickie, Kat, and so many others have reached out to make me feel welcome. They will welcome YOU as well. If you are new to this profession and plan to attend in 2013 look for me I will be there to welcome and encourage you, and I’ll bring all these wonderful ladies along beside me. 

2012 Fiction Writers' Bootcamp on the Beach - Part 1

Photo by ACRA member Karen Hudgins.

Autumn brings the promise of a magical season of harvest, thankfulness, and giving, showcased in colors so brilliant they sometimes don't even look real. Well, unless you live in Florida, in which case you get the harvest, thankfulness, and giving, but you have to settle for white beaches, blue ocean, and green palm trees. Yeah, it's rough, but someone has to do it.

If you are a member of Ancient City Romance Authors, autumn also brings our annual Fiction Writers' Bootcamp on the Beach. ACRA plans for this event at least a year in advance of the actual year it is to be held, wisely choosing one member to turn possibilities into unforgettable reality.

Qualifications for this position are simple. Our Bootcamp Chair must have:

- extraordinary enthusiasm for the craft of writing,
- nerves of steel,
- a willingness to give up those hours she wastes sleeping every night.
- (A lifetime Prozac prescription is not a necessity, but it helps.)

The ACRA member who possessed all the necessary qualifications for 2012 was bestselling author Elizabeth Sinclair. Having written and published over twenty books in her career (one of which was released about five minutes before the conference started), Elizabeth is accustomed to mapping out a project, organizing everything she needs to pull it off, and making it happen.

Elizabeth chose Mardi Gras as the 2012 theme and decorated the conference room accordingly, in green, purple, and gold. Spirits were high, and writers from near and far arrived in St Augustine on October 5 for a weekend of education, preparation, and excitement. Attendees were totally absorbed in every workshop, the only sound other than the speaker's voice being the scratching of notes from pen to paper.

Deborah Smith, from Belle and Bell Bridge Books in Memphis, TN, brought our keynote address. Thirty seconds into her presentation, attendees were howling with laughter. If you've ever passed up a chance to hear this woman speak, you have done yourself a great disservice. Debra Dixon, also from Belle and Bell Bridge Books, offered workshops that many agreed changed the way they approached their work. Elizabeth Sinclair offered workshops as well, with a workshop on Characterization that made everyone see their characters in a whole new way.

Deb Smith also met with authors to hear all about what they were working on, and to see if it might be a fit for Belle and Bell Bridge. Having never pitched a manuscript before, some of our writers were uneasy and fearful of suddenly forgetting important details like their own names and addresses. Deb made everyone feel as though they were simply sitting down for a chat with a good friend who shared their love of writing.

ACRA's hero, Cheryl Brooks, made the trip from Edgewater, FL, to handle our conference bookstore again. Her bookstore, The Book Rack, is ACRA's "home" bookstore, and we are so grateful to her for her support and her willingness to help us out like she does. We love her attitude, her sense of humor, and her attachment to books.

ACRA is more than a chapter of Romance Writers of America. ACRA is a family, and when one of us hurts, we all hurt. Our conference this year was not only a source of creative renewal and fellowship, it was also a gathering in which we held one of our own in our arms and shared her sorrow. Our Treasurer (and former Conference Chair) Skye Taylor, lost her young grandson in late September in an unfortunate accident that took his life. Skye's conference experience was, of course, somewhat different from those in the past, but the timing was helpful. It was good for us to all be together for her at a time when she needed us most.

Our raffle baskets, Kindle Fire giveaway, Kindle Touch giveaway, food, and special Mardi Gras cake made for us by Carrie's Cake Delights of Statesboro, GA, added to the excitement of the weekend, as did the tour of St Augustine's Whetstone Chocolate Factory. Yes, we did tour a real chocolate factory, and yes, there were samples, and yes, there was a factory shop, and yes, we did spend a collective fortune on chocolate. Wish you'd been there now, don't you?

Our deepest appreciation goes to Elizabeth Sinclair on her excellent organization and management of the 2012 ACRA Fiction Writers' Bootcamp on the Beach, to those who assisted her, and to each member of ACRA who contributed a basket, a critique, or a gift of their time to help make this event happen.

So what does Elizabeth have up her sleeve for next year? Oh, trust us . . . it's going to be the best ever. Seriously, you do not want to miss this. Elizabeth and her staff are already deep into preparations for it. Plans are still in the "secret" stage, so we can't reveal it yet. But if you plan to attend, a parrot on your shoulder would be a nice touch . . . .

RELATED POST: 2012 ACRA Fiction Writers' Bootcamp on the Beach - Part 2

Monday, August 20, 2012

August Workshop & Meeting: Q & A With Keith Nazworth, Deputy, JSO

Join us for our August 25 meeting. This month's workshop will be a Q&A with JSO Deputy Keith Nazworth. Jot down the questions you've always wanted to ask a law enforcement officer, and come be a part of what is sure to be a fantastic meeting.

The Ancient City Romance Authors meet at the Southeast Regional Library, 10599 Deerwood Park Blvd, in  Jacksonville. Meetings are held each fourth Saturday of the month, January through October. Bring your lunch and socialize from 12:30pm - 1, then workshops begin.

Keith Nazworth
Graduate of Andrew Jackson High School C/O 1983.
Attended college at FCCCJ.
Worked in the private sector prior to being hired by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office in 1990.
Married for 20 years ( Teresa ) and have one daughter ( Shelby ).
Worked 2 years in Patrol, 10 years of Canine, 7 years in Marine Unit and currently assigned to Traffic Division ( Motor Unit ).
I attended 840 hours of training to obtain my basic law enforcement certification .
Canine Certification was 640 hours of training ( dual purpose K9 – patrol/narcotics ).
I obtained my OUPV ( Merchant Capt License with a towing Endorsement ).
I completed the JSO Solo motorcycle program in July 2010 ( 120 hours ).

I am currently assigned to Zone 5 in the traffic unit ( Northwest Jacksonville area ), my primary function is handling vehicle crashes and traffic complaints.

I look forward to seeing you this weekend and will do my best to answer all questions or concerns.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

An Actor Prepares – Become Your Characters

Join ACRA on July 28 for a very special workshop on creating unforgettable characters by becoming your characters, offered by member Sharon Drane.

An award winning actor and director, Sharon Drane has appeared onstage for over fifty years.  Her credits as an actor include everything from Shakespeare to contemporary comedy, intricate drama, melodrama, mysteries, and musical theater.
As an actor her favorite roles are Marilla Cuthbert in “Anne of Green Gables,” Bloody Mary in “South Pacific,” and Juliet’s nurse in “Romeo and Juliet.”  As a director, her favorite productions are “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Bus Stop,” and “Inherit the Wind.”

Trained in the Stanislavski Method of character preparation, Sharon will present a workshop at the monthly meeting of Ancient City Romance Authors on Saturday, July 28th.  The workshop is entitled “An Actor Prepares – Become Your Characters.”  Use of the Method will help an actor or an author create emotionally realistic characters that catch and hold the interest of the audience.

As an author, Sharon’s Regency novel, Touch the Sky, was named a finalist in two recent Romance Writers of America sponsored contests, the Linda Howard Award for Excellence held by Southern Magic Romance Writers and the GOTCHA contest sponsored by Silicon Valley Romance Writers.  As a result of being named a finalist in the GOTCHA contest, Sharon’s manuscript was requested by a publisher.

ACRA meets on the 4th Saturday of each month at the Southeast Regional Library, 10599 Deerwood Park Blvd, Jacksonville, FL. Phone (904)-996-0325. Bring your lunch and socialize from 12:30-1pm, followed by a writer's workshop and then by the regular monthly ACRA chapter business meeting.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Making of a Young Adult Heroine

by Traci Hall
June 2012

From Merriam Webster online dictionary – HEROINE
a: a mythological or legendary woman having the qualities of a hero b: a woman admired and emulated for her achievements and qualities
a: the principal female character in a literary or dramatic work b: the central female figure in an event or period

I write young adult stories that are mostly female centered. I love it when girls get to be the ones with the power. Not that they should use such power unwisely…I just want them to have it. It’s fun. I grew up in a world that was riddled with Girls Wear Pink and Boys Wear Blue rules.  Boys are stronger, more capable, worth more money.  Though my father might have thought so, my mother, thankfully, did not. I was encouraged to wear whatever color I wanted. My daughter has chosen a career in the male dominated Navy Aviation Structural Mechanics department and I see an entire generation of girls kicking the rest of the Gender Doors down.  What great heroines there will be to choose from when it comes to writing fiction!

As a reader, I want excitement, drama, or romance, maybe throw in some fear. I want to be sucked into emotion, where the stakes are high, and my heroine has to work for that happy ending.  I have a confession to make: I did not care for Bella in Twilight. (ducking for cover) Let me explain! She fits the description of a heroine, being the principal character in a literary work, but for my personal tastes, I found  Bella to be overly melodramatic.  She waited. She sighed. She cried. I couldn’t identify with her.  However, the brilliant and talented Stephenie Meyer tapped into a market craving teenage angst, and she delivered – the hot, sparkling vampire boyfriend was a bonus!  And the gorgeous werewolf next door? Great drama. The fact that Bella sighed, lost sleep, wasn’t happy, ever, made me want to scream. But Ms. Meyer created the perfect angsty heroine.  I just saw Kristen Stewart in Snow White and the Huntsman. She did a lot of silent crying, waiting, etc. but the story was good. Typecast heroine?

Hunger Games is an example of the heroine I like best.  The character of Katniss Everdeen is clearly motivated from the beginning. She’s a hunter, she’s a rule breaker, and she loves her youngest sister enough that she volunteers for a death sentence so her sister can be safe. There’s a teasing hint of love unrequited, and a backbone of steel as she tells her mother to be strong. She needs all of these character traits if she is to survive the games.  The stories are amazing. If you haven’t seen the movie, I highly recommend it – especially if you’ve read the books. The producer/director people did a magnificent job of staying true to Suzanne Collins’s story.

In Zombyre, My Love, I’ve created a character, Lolita, who –unlike Katniss, lol – is no hunter. In fact, there are no living creatures around.  Her world consists of hot, hot days, comet showers, cold nights and curfews in a deserted town that rolls up the streets at sundown. Her parents are infected with the zombie virus, her best friends are infected with the zombie virus – she’s just waiting to get it and die, too. She lives with death shadowing her like a dark cloud.  Yet there is a light within her that shines bright enough to attract a monster. Lolita cries, like Bella, she feels angst, but she also pops the zombie trying to kill her over the head with a candlestick. She’s a survivor.

A heroine doesn’t have to wield a bow and arrow, or cry pretty, silent tears.  What makes a heroine strong is their willingness to take on the enemy, or evil, to protect someone they love, or an idea they believe in with all of their being. Katniss did this, volunteering to take her sister’s place. Lolita combines a sassy mouth with a huge heart, determined to love and live despite the bleak odds. Even angsty Bella shows strength as she struggles to find the good within the monster and justify her love.

There are many, many heroines in our lives, unsung champions. Moms, sisters, daughters, friends. Take a second and give ‘em a hug, a text, let them know you consider them a hero – talk about fun!


Award winning author Traci Hall writes paranormal romances for teens as well as historical romances for adults. She’s co authored a non-fiction book about adoption, and written a coming of age story.  Traci has been interviewed on the radio, web tv, and Fox and Friends. She lives in South Florida with her husband and children, reading, researching and writing.
Book 1 in the Mile Post 42 series : Zombyre, My Love
Book 1 in the Queen’s Guard series: The Queen’s Guard: Violet

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Writing Inspirationals ~ June Q & A Panel

Join us on June 23, 2012 for an informative workshop on writing inspirationals. Four inspirational authors will be on hand to answer questions, provide insights, and discuss the genre. Our speakers will be:

Linda Rondeau

A native of Central New York, Linda Wood Rondeau graduated from North Syracuse High School and later Houghton College. She moved to Northern New York where she met and married Steve Rondeau, her best friend in life, and managed a career in human services before tackling professional writing. She has recently relocated to Jacksonville, Florida to start a new adventure…leaving rural America to live in a city of one million.

While writing occupies a great deal of her time, the author takes greater pride in being a wife of one patient man, the mother of three, and the grandmother of nine…not to mention the owner of a very adorable cat.

An award winning author, The Other Side of Darkness is Linda Wood Rondeau’s first published novel.  She is the winner Selah award for best first novel 2012.  She also has a new release July 1st…America II:  The Reformation.  Linda is the founder of an on-line support group for writers called Pentalk.  When not writing, Mrs. Rondeau enjoys golfing, hiking, and Community Theater. 

The author enjoys receiving notes and questions from readers.
Blogs: This Daily Grind, Back in the Daze

 The Other Side of Darkness is available on, Barnes and,,, Pelican Books, and wherever books are sold. It is available in both ebook and softcover format.

Kathryn J Bain

Kathryn J. Bain has been writing for over ten years now. Her first release Breathless came out January 13, 2012. Her novella Game of Hearts was released on March 1, 2012. Her third book Catch Your Breath will be released later this year. She has two daughters, and is the former President of Florida Sisters in Crime. Currently, she is the Public Relations Director and Membership Director for Ancient City Romance Authors. To survive and pay bills, she has been a paralegal for over twenty years and works for an attorney who specializes in elder law. She moved from Idaho to Jacksonville, Florida in 1983 and has lived in the sunshine since.

Visit her at her website at  or on her author facebook page.

Selena Fulton

Selena started writing poetry at the age of nine and never stopped writing. She loves anything to do with the ocean. She enjoys camping and making jewelry. A multi-published, award-winning author, belongs to First Coast Romance Writers, Romance Writers of America, American Christian Fiction Writers, and Ancient City Romance Authors. She won the Golden Acorn Excellence in Writing contest, and has finalled in the Unpublished Beacon and Finally a Bride contests. She also has a couple short stories published. She believes in “paying it forward” by working with fellow authors in her critique groups.

Her first novella, a sensual time travel romance called Never Let Go, came out on June 20 with The Wild Rose Press and is also available on

Come check her out on Facebook or go to her blog at, because it’s all about the journey

Diane Burke

Diane Burke, award winning author, writes inspirational romantic suspense for Love Inspired Books by Harlequin. She lives in Florida and loves everything from the hustle and bustle of theme parks to walking on the beautiful beaches and swimming in the surf. She loves to hear from her readers at:

If you'd like to join us...
Where:  Southeast Regional Library, 10599 Deerwood Park Blvd, Jacksonville, FL 32256
Time:  12:30 to 4:00
(Bring your lunch and eat or socialize from 12:30 to 1:00, Workshop begins at 1:00, Break, then General meeting to follow.)

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Getting The Most From Your Query

by Kathryn J Bain
Membership Coordinator, Ancient City Romance Authors

The query letter. The first way most writers have to make an impression on an agent or publisher. And first impressions do count. It doesn’t matter how wonderful your manuscript is if the publisher never gets to read it.

The main way to get your query noticed is to be professional. You are writing to a business, so act as if you are a business owner when you write your letter.

The following are several steps that make a query noticeable. Since most queries are now sent by e-mail, I have written this based on that fact. A letter sent by postal service would be done similarly, but the contact information at the top, like a business’ letterhead.

1. One is keep your query short. No more than a page. A long letter will only make the agent or publisher roll their eyes.

2.  Does your query look like a third grader wrote it? Proofread it until you are absolutely sure there are no errors in it. Your query is one page long. One error might make an agent assume you didn’t proof your manuscript any better.

3.  Do not call the editor/agent by their first name, even if you’ve met them. If her name is Sean Jones, the salutation should read Dear Ms. Jones, for a man, Dear Mr. Jones. Make sure you know which also. Addressing a letter to a man as Mrs. will not win you any points. I always do a search on the Internet when I’m not sure. I have yet to know find out.

4.  Use the first paragraph or two to give a brief synopsis of the book. Make sure it’s a good hook. If you bore your reader here, they’ll assume you’ll bore them with your book.

5.  In the next paragraph, tell them why you’re writing. “I’m writing in the hopes you would be interested in reading my manuscript ….” Tell them the genre and how many words it is. If you do not know the genre, you’re not ready to submit.

6.  Next, include a small writing resume. Don’t tell me you don’t have one. They’re easy to get. Just volunteer in your local writers’ group. The first job I ever did was to get guests for our local Florida Sisters in Crime meetings. I called myself the Public Relations Director. There was no such position. I made it up. You want a title, tell the head of your group you’d like to bring snacks to all the meetings. Now you’re the Hospitality Director. Put that in the resume section of your letter. This lets an agent or editor know that you are willing to step out and be noticed.

7.  The final paragraph of your letter should thank them for taking their time. These are busy people. Thanking them leaves warm fuzzies in their hearts. 

8. The last step is to sign your letter and include all your contact information, including address, phone and your website, if you have one.

I have gotten several compliments on my query letters for being good and professional. Attached to this blog is a sample of the query for my latest manuscript. Regarding this query, one publisher wrote: “I liked your query [a lot!] It was professional and told me what I needed to know, and I look forward to reading your complete manuscript.” A possible sale because of a simple, yet professional query.

A publisher asking for a complete manuscript puts you closer to a contract than one that never responds. Please feel free to use the following query as a guideline, and let me know how it works. And if you get published, all I ask for is a candy bar (no nuts please) if we ever meet.


Dear ___________:

A name can mean a lot. You expect a Jasper to be the CEO of a company. Name your son Phineas, well, he might get beat up a lot. However if you chose to call your daughter Trúble, you get what you ask for.

Trúble Lawrence makes a habit out of discovering dead bodies. When the police look to her as a suspect, she has no choice but to search for the killer. If that’s not bad enough she has to deal with a grandmother who has visions, a co-worker who makes the Wicked Witch of the West look like Shirley Temple, and a guy who constantly reminds her that celibacy is hard when a hot male's around.

I am writing in the hope you will be interested in reading my completed manuscript, Trúble in Knight and Day. It is a humorous mystery and approximately 65,250 words in length.

My published works include:

- Breathless, an inspirational romantic suspense released January 13, 2012 from White Rose Publishing;
- Game of Hearts, a humorous novella released on e-book March 1, 2012 through Astraea Press; and
- Catch Your Breath, the sequel to Breathless which is due to come out from White Rose Publishing in 2012.

Also, my first release, Breathless, was the winner of the 2010 Royal Palm Literary Award for Inspirational Fiction.

I was the President of Florida Sisters in Crime from January 2010 – December 2011, and am currently the Public Relations Director and Membership Director for Ancient City Romance Authors. I am also a member of National Sisters in Crime, American Christian Fiction Writers, National Romance Writers of America, First Coast Romance Writers, and Florida Writers Association. During my spare time, I work as a paralegal for an elder law attorney.

Thank you for your attention. I look forward to hearing from you.
Sincerely yours,

Kathryn J. Bain
Writing Clean Fiction with an Edge

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

May 26 Workshop ~ Finding Your Author Sweet Spot

Join us on May 26 as Author Maria Geraci presents a workshop on How To Write A Better Book: Finding Your Author Sweet Spot. It's about craft, specifically, honing down what you write best and how to strengthen your writing skills and voice.

Maria Geraci was born in Havana, Cuba, and raised on Florida’s Space Coast. Her love of books started with the classic, Little Women (a book she read so often growing up, she could probably quote). She writes contemporary romance and women’s fiction with a happy ending. The Portland Book Review called her novel, The Boyfriend of the Month Club, “immensely sexy, immensely satisfying and humorous.” Her fourth novel, A Girl Like You, will be released August, 2012 by Berkley, Penguin USA. For more information, please visit her website at

ACRA meets on the 4th Saturday of each month at the Southeast Regional Library, 10599 Deerwood Park Blvd, Jacksonville, FL. Phone (904)-996-0325. Bring your lunch and socialize from 12:30-1pm, followed by a workshop.

Click here for a Google Map.

Monday, March 19, 2012

BelleBooks/Bell Bridge Books Interview

On March 10, ACRA's own Vickie King posted an interview with Debra Dixon, President/CEO, and Deborah Smith, VP and Editorial Director of BelleBooks and Bell Bridge Books, on her blog, Heartstrings. This is a reprint of that interview, with Vickie's permission.

Meet these ladies in October at the 2012 Fiction Writers' Bootcamp sponsored by Ancient City Romance Authors. For details, see the At The Event section of this blog site or the web address at the end of the interview.

Interview with BelleBooks/Bell Bridge Books'
- Debra Dixon, President/CEO

- Deborah Smith, Vice President and Editorial Director.

Debra Dixon, President/CEO of BelleBooks/Bell Bridge Books has published with major publishers, written ten books, contributed to twelve anthologies, and served as Vice President of RWA. Her popular GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict workshop spawned a book that has become a how-to-bible for writers.

These days, she's better known as Publisher for BelleBooks and its imprint Bell Bridge Books, which tackles a broad spectrum of genres in both print and ebook formats.  A 2011 company highlight was holding the #1 spot on the full Paid Kindle list for more than two weeks.  Their titles have been picked up in translation and by major New York publishers in subrights deals for mass market paperback, book club, audio and large print.  The company has published work from NYT's bestselling authors:  Anne Bishop, Susan Addison Allen, Deborah Smith, Sharon Sala, Sabrina Jeffries, Sandra Hill, Jill Marie Landis, and Jill Barnett.  As well as USA Today bestseller Kalayna Price. 

Deborah Smith is the New York Times bestselling author (A Place to Call Home, 1997, Bantam Books) of more than 35 romance, fantasy, and women's fiction novels.  Her most recent success is The Crossroads Cafe, a Top 10 Amazon Kindle bestseller in ebook.  She is the winner of numerous awards including a career Achievement Award From Romantic Times Magazine.  A Place to Call Home was named one of the Top 200 Best Romance Novels of the 20th Century by Romantic Times.  More than 3 million copies of her books have been sold, worldwide.
Since 2000, Deborah Smith has been Vice President (and a founding partner of) BelleBooks (now primarily known as Bell Bridge Books.)  Based in Memphis, Tennessee, Bell Bridge Books is a successful small publishing company featuring popular fiction.  More than 25 Bell Bridge titles have been bestsellers in ebook.

1.  What is your bestselling genre right now?
We try not to lock into a "trending" mind-set.  We've seen that just about every genre can do well with the reading public.  So, we focus on finding great authors, who can write amazing books, and worrying about genre later.

2.  Is there something you don't currently have in publication that you would love to acquire?
We'd like to acquire more time in the day!

3.  Do you work with new/unpublished authors or prefer authors with a backlist?
We are primarily a publisher of original fiction.  That is our focus.  We publish original fiction every month.  But, because of the changes in the industry and the number of authors who now control their Big6 backlist, we have developed a large reprint "list."  We have a somewhat different approach to backlist management, which is why so many authors are working with us.  It's not about tossing the books up as fast as possible.  Our focus is on creating the right branding and packaging for the author as well as assessing the content for all the little fixes that might be necessary to freshen an older work.  We generally launch backlist as part of a complete publishing program, which includes originals by the author.

We have established relationships with the various ebook platforms and print distribution that most authors just can't duplicate.  That's not to say that authors can't be successful self-publishing.  This program is a different animal and well-suited to authors who like the collaboration of publishing and need to focus on creation of frontlist titles instead of managing or relaunching backlist themselves.

4.  What can an author do to impress you and set her/him apart from the rest?
Write a great book, concise query and readable synopsis.  Voice is critically important.  The voice has to be on the page from the opening.  Editors don't have time to "warm up" to an author's work.  The author has to engage us and make us sit up straight in amazement right from page one.

5.   What would you consider the most important advice or tip you could give an author on submitting to BelleBooks or Bell Bridge Books?
Be Patient.  Even though we're a small press, we gets lots of new queries every week.  It's impossible for us to respond to them immediately.  It may be 2-3 months before an author hears from us.

6.  Would you consider adding a genre or a time period that you do not currently work with and why?  (Examples:  Historical Western Romance, Victorian Romance, Colonial times, WW II, Erotic Romance.)
We never say never.  The only thing we don't actually anticipate publishing is erotica.  That has to do with erotica being a very well-served market.  A publisher our size can't be all things to all readers.  We have to pick and choose what we publish very carefully.

7.  What sets BelleBooks and Bell Bridge Books apart from other publishing houses?
Deborah Smith:  The founders and Managing Directors are all authors.  We try very hard to be more author-friendly than the bigger publishers.

Debra Dixon:  To our author-centric philosophy add our long time commitment to discoverability and the long tail.  We have author after author break into the Amazon Top 100 on the full paid list.  We're putting up great numbers for authors and finding readers.  Publishing is about building careers, building readership and we never lose sight of that fact.

8.  Once a book is accepted, how long before publication?
We operate within an 18 month window, which means that publication is usually within the same 12-18 month time frame that Big6 specifies.  Some books might publish a little faster, but most books these days are scheduled quite far out.  Books will have to go through a revision, line edit, copy edit, proofing, etc.

9.  What designates a title being selected for audio, and how many titles are selected per year?
Happily, due to our involvement with, it is now possible for us to submit all of our titles for auditions.  The program works by connecting publishers and producers/narrators.  We sort through their auditions and, after consultation with the author, select a narrator for each book.  That producer/narrator is responsible for every aspect of recording.  The finished audio is sold via Audible, Amazon and iTunes.  As of March 2012, we have about 45 titles in production and about 10 released titles.

10.  How much say does an author have in selecting the audio reader? 
See above.  We send auditions to the authors and let them choose.

11.  What designates a title being published in hardback or large print?
We're always "working" the titles, selling into foreign translation or large print.  There is no pass/fail for whether a title gets the full court press.  We want to create as large a footprint as possible for our titles.  So we go after these types of "subrights" sales for every book.  However, in the case of an exceptionally long book, its chances at a large print deal are diminished due to the cost of producing that in large print.

12.  Do you accept submissions for short stories and anthologies?
These are invitation only, but we occasionally do short story collections.  We have one coming out in May 2012--SWEETER THAN TEA.  Some of the authors were from the open call.

13.   You have published several children's books.  Are you still acquiring?
Children's picture books and middle grade are specialized markets.  We are no longer acquiring in those categories unless we're continuing an existing series such as Bill Allen's "How To" fantasy series or Maureen Hardegree's "Haint" series.

14.  What trends do you see in publishing?
Deborah Smith:  Continuing growth of ebooks and continuing decline of paperbacks.
Debra Dixon:  That's the big story--the rise of ebooks and the change in how readers find books.

16.  On a more personal note, what is your favorite thing to do in your spare time?
Deborah Smith:  Knitting.  Deb Dixon got me hooked last year at a conference.  Now, I'm rabid about it.
Debra Dixon:  I adore knitting and usually have a couple of projects going.  One project is always a pair of socks which is small and great for travel.  There's a waiting list for socks.  But the one thing that I must do regularly for my sanity is quilt.  I'm a rabid quilter.

17.  What is your favorite genre/type of book to read?  (Personal question, not publishing)
Debra Dixon:  Both DebS and I are very eclectic readers.  I tend to like a longer book that I can sink into versus a short breezy book.  Although it all depends on mood!

18.  Name three things you cannot live without.
Deborah Smith:  Husband Hank, our critters (two dogs, six cats, numerous goldfish) and Deb Dixon.  Seriously, we've informally adopted each other.
Deb Dixon:  She's taken my answer!  I'm very attached to my husband and son and Deb Smith.

19.  Since you are both writers, what advice can you give, one writer to another?
Deborah Smith:  Don't do it for the money.  You have to love writing and be happy doing it no matter how it pays off financially.  Publishing is a tough business.  Writers who love the craft and stick with it generally tend to achieve success.  Warning:  Writing is never going to be a get-rich-quick business, despite the "overnight success" stories that titillate writers occasionally.
Debra Dixon:  This is an amazing time to be a writer.  Success is created by "butt in chair."  Get better.  Write more.  Decide what success looks like, and spend the time to understand the business.  Writers have options, but not all options are created equal.  Getting published quickly isn't always the smart move.  Self-publishing isn't for everyone.  Big6 isn't for everyone or every book.  The "mid-major" publishers are different than small, boutique publishers.  Choices mean the author has to do some business planning and soul-searching about how to pursue this dream.

Thank you ladies for the great answers and advice.  Looking forward to meeting you both in October at the 2012 Fiction Writers' BootCamp.
 If you are interested in reading more about BelleBooks and Bell Bridge Books, please click on the following link to visit the website.  BelleBooks

If you are interested in meeting these awesome ladies, they will be the guest speakers and the editors for ACRA's 2012 Fiction Writers' Bootcamp.  This years' theme - "Mardi Gras on the Beach" held in St. Augustine, Florida, October 5 & 6, 2012.  Yes, it's Mardi Gras in October.   Please click on the Ancient City Romance Authors' website link for more information.  

Don't miss this awesome opportunity to meet two of the founding members of BelleBooks/Bell Bridge Books.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

March 24th Workshop Speaker ~ Barbara Cameron

March 24th workshop speaker and topic: Barbara Cameron, author of the Quilts of Lancaster County series, who will speak to us on "How Not to Shoot Yourself in the Foot on the Way to Publication."

Barbara is the author of more than 30 books – fiction and non-fiction. Her Restless Heart, book 1 of the new Amish series Stitches in Time, will be released in March, 2012 by Abingdon Press. It’s the second series by Abingdon – the third book of her popular Quilts of Lancaster County series (A Time for Peace) was published this past summer).

A third series, Amish Roads, follows the Stitches series, in 2013. An Amish Christmas, Expanded Edition (Beth Wiseman, Kathleen Fuller, Barbara Cameron, and Kelly Long) and An Amish Gathering (Wiseman, Fuller, Cameron) were published by Thomas Nelson and landed on the Christian bestseller lists. 

She is the winner of various romance inspirational awards and is the first winner of the Golden Heart Award of the Romance Writers of America. She’s a member of the local Volusia County RWA chapter that meets at the Lake Helen Library. Some of her titles include the Everything Weddings on a Budget Book and the Everything Roberts Rules of Order. She’s a former newspaper reporter. 

Check out her website at and her blog on AmishHearts.

ACRA meets on the 4th Saturday of each month at the Southeast Regional Library, 10599 Deerwood Park Blvd, Jacksonville, FL. Phone (904)-996-0325. Bring your lunch and socialize from 12:30-1pm, followed by a workshop.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

February Workshop ~ Empowering Your Muse

We had such a great workshop with author Kelly L.Stone! On Saturday, February 25, Kelly, author of the Time To Write series, showed us ways to "empower our muse," and get the most from the creativity in all of us. Her presentation was clear and energizing, and filled with tips on engaging our "positive" thoughts as opposed to negative ones.

Kelly finished up her workshop with an exercise in relaxation and allowing our muse to come through. The lights in the room were lowered, and Kelly coached us through relaxing from the ground up. When everyone was very relaxed and tuned in to her voice, she led us to focus on our creative side and see if any breakthroughs or brilliant ideas showed up.

We knew the exercise was successful when member Tracy Stephens exclaimed, "I just solved a plot point!" and grabbed her pen and notebook! Powerful stuff, this.

Please visit Kelly L Stone's website for more information on her, her books, and her workshops. And join us for our March meeting in Jacksonville, Florida!

March 24th workshop speaker and topic: Barbara Cameron, author of the Quilts of Lancaster County series, who will speak to us on "How Not to Shoot Yourself in the Foot on the Way to Publication."

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Mardi Gras in October!

Mark your calendar NOW, for the Ancient City Romance Authors Fiction Writers’ Mardi Gras Boot Camp on the Beach on October 5 and 6, 2012 at the Hampton Inn (St. Augustine Beach hotel) St. Augustine, FL.

Complete with masks, beads galore, and a traditional Mardi Gras King Cake,
which will yield a valuable prize to the finder of the treasure hidden inside! Seriously...very valuable!

Guest Speakers:
Debra Dixon, bestselling author and President/C.E.O of BelleBooks
who will do workshops all day on Saturday.

Deborah Smith, NYT bestselling author and Vice President and Editorial Director of Bell Bridge Books
who will be taking editor appointments on Saturday.

There will also be Friday workshops…speakers to be announced.

On Friday afternoon, we’ve arranged for a romance writer’s dream tour of the Whetstone Chocolate Factory. The tour will be $6.00 extra, but soooo worth it.  Romance writers and chocolate.  What could be better?

For more information about the conference, email: Elizabeth Sinclair or Kathy Bain or register at The ACRA Website (click on Boot Camp.)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

ACRA Meeting: February 25, 2012

Southeast Regional Library, 10599 Deerwood Park Blvd, Jacksonville, FL 32256 (Rm A)
12:30 pm to 4:00 pm - Bring your lunch

Empower Your Muse by Kelly L. Stone

Empower Your Muse is about building a writer's mind set, using visualization techniques to meet writing goals both short and long term, creating a Vision of Writing Success, and other ways to use the power of the subconscious mind to achieve writing success.

Kelly L. Stone ( is a licensed mental health counselor and writer. Her women's fiction novel, GRAVE SECRET (Mundania Press, September 2007) was called “powerful” and "well written" by RT Book Reviews. She is also the author of the TIME TO WRITE series of craft books for writers, including TIME WRITE: No Excuses, No Distractions, No More Blank Pages; THINKING WRITE: The Secret to Freeing Your Creative Mind; and the latest in the series is LIVING WRITE: The Secret to Bringing Your Craft Into Your Daily Life (Adams Media, September 2010).

Monday, January 23, 2012

Meeting ~ January 28 ~ Village Bread Cafe'

In January (and January only) we will move our meeting to:

The Village Bread Cafe, 10111 San Jose Blvd, Jacksonville, FL 32257.  Phone is 904-262-0740. (This is NOT the Village Inn Restaurant, also on San Jose.)

Lunch 12:00-1:00
Workshop 1:00-2:30

We're looking forward to a great workshop! Authors Elizabeth Sinclair, Dolores J Wilson, and Vickie King will present:


As part of the workshop, we'd like to invite you to submit the first 3 pages of your work for us to critique.  Before you submit, make sure:

1.) You are ready to hear what we have to say about your baby.
2.) You have no objections to us discussing your work in front of the attendees which may include outside guests.  Your name will not be revealed unless you wish to let them know it is yours.
3.) There is no guarantee we will get to all submissions.

Send the first three pages of your work to:

Write CRITIQUE in the subject line.

We need a few days to go over the submissions, so please send them as soon as possible. (Note: at this late date there may not be time for late-arriving critiques.)

Directions to The Village Bread Cafe':
From the South: If you are going south on 295, take the first exit after you cross the Buckman.  This is San Jose Blvd.  Turn left back under the overpass and go approximately one mile.  When you see the Hess Station on the right, it is the shopping center on the right just after the Hess.  The cafe is midway down the shopping center between Tropical Smoothie and Honey Baked Ham.

From the North: If you are traveling north on 295, take the first San Jose Exit and turn onto San Jose Blvd.  From there, go approximately one mile, and follow the same directions above.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Breathless! New Release from ACRA Member Kathy Bain!

Please join ACRA in congratulating member Kathryn J Bain on her very first release, Breathless, a Christian romance.

In addition to all Kathy does for ACRA--she is Public Relations Director and Membership Chair--she also serves as president of Florida Sisters in Crime. Visit her website to find out more about Breathless and also about Kathy herself.

Lydia Frederickson is afraid to answer her telephone. Widowed and alone, she only wants to get through another anniversary of her husband’s death without falling to pieces, but a stalker isn’t making that goal easy. The disturbing calls are becoming increasingly personal and threatening, and everyone who knows her is suspect. The only person she knows isn’t making the calls is her new ponytailed, tattooed—and breathtakingly handsome— minister, Matthew Winters.

Former-narcotics-agent-turned-minister Matthew Winters knows he’s not what the town expected in their new pastor, but he’s up for the challenge. What he doesn’t expect is the sudden attraction he feels for parishioner Lydia Frederickson. When he discovers she’s the victim of a stalker, he feels God’s intervention has led him—both a cop and a preacher—to her. Matthew knows he’s falling for the beautiful widow, but a secret from his past may undermine their future.

News from Member Marianne LaCroix

Member Marianne LaCroix recently sold a book to Sizzler Editions: Who's Afraid of the Bid Bad Wolf? It is an erotic romantic comedy/paranormal fantasy.

She also sold a short, Tie Me Up and Spank Me, to Sizzler Editions for their Bound for Love anthology coming out on February 1st.

Who's Afraid of the Bid Bad Wolf? will probably release soon as well. (It was previously published.)

She is also going to be doing some cover art for Sizzler, and organizing an anthology as a guest editor for Sizzler.

Summer Rose! New Release from ACRA Member Elizabeth Sinclair

Fans of Sinclair will love Summer Rose, the sequel to Hawks Mountain.

Can their love survive a secret he never suspected?

A tragedy transformed Rose Hamilton from a surrogate mother for her beloved foster sister into a single mom expecting twins.  But when she walks into Dr. Hunter Mackenzie’s West Virginia wildlife rehab clinic—all he sees is a gorgeous, likeable woman applying for a job.

Rose doesn’t want a romance with the handsome veterinarian, who doesn’t suspect that she’s expecting, and who’s already got plenty of trouble, thanks to a mayor who wants to rid his town of Hunter’s lion cubs and injured wolves.

But will her heart give her that option?  Besides, why would a man who obviously loves the wild life want to fall in love with a ready-made family?

Amazon | B&Nnook | Bell Bridge Books | Visit Elizabeth Sinclair's website

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

ACRA Announces: Congrats to Sharon Drane!

Congratulations to member Sharon Drane, finalist in the Linda Howard Award of Excellence for Unpublished Writers, sponsored by RWA Southern Magic, Birmingham, AL.

The contest is sponsored by the Southern Magic chapter of RWA in Birmingham, Al.  The name of the contest is The Linda Howard Award of Excellence for Unpublished Writers.

ACRA is keeping fingers crossed for Sharon! We should have more information in a couple of months. In the meantime, here's more about Sharon's Regency novel...
Touch The Sky

The last person Celeste wanted to see stood before her.  Colonel Sheridan St. John smiled at her as if nothing amiss had happened.  Rage overtook her as she noted he was still muscled and blond with those hypnotic dark blue eyes.  His deeds did not show on his face.  She could not forgive him for what he had done.  She could not forgive herself for loving him still.

His accusations killed Baron Hargreaves, her father.

Now three years after the execution St. John found Celeste and her younger siblings.  The proclamation he carried from the Prince-Regent affirmed Baron Hargreaves to be innocent of all charges.  The true traitor confessed.  Celeste, her brother, and sister were declared the wards of Sheridan’s father, the powerful Duke of Richmond.  Their titles were restored. Reparations would be made to the Hargreaves family. 

Sheridan sought to win Celeste’s love once more.  If he could not, he vowed to protect her and her family from the conspirators who had plotted the death of their father.  The evidence against the Baron was cleverly conceived. Though held in custody, the confessed traitor was murdered, his reasons for targeting Baron Hargreaves unknown.  Someone highly placed wanted him silenced. 

It would be a hard battle to win Celeste’s trust, much less her love.  A seasoned veteran of many battles, Sheridan would conduct the campaign as he had no other.  It was the most important of his life.