Welcome C.A. Szarek!

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday


C.A. (or Chrissy, as I know her, because, you know I got it like that) and I  like to tease each other, but she is loads of fun and I enjoy hanging out with her. I'm happy to have her with us today, sharing her exciting news!
Chrissy and Dawn at the Texas Two Step Conference

  Let's get to know Chrissy! 

First, tell us your great news about your upcoming release.
My first novel, Sword’s Call (Book 1 in theKing’s Riders Series) Will be published by Gypsy Shadow Publishing and will be out April 30,  2013.  They have actually picked up my whole series! :)

 What sources do you use for your inspiration? Books? Movies? Random people at the mall?
I get inspiration from anywhere, I think. I have been writing for so long, since I was about 14. I actually wrote my first book then. (Yes, I still have it. Interesting reading, that one. But I would soooo never show it to anyone).
I have always loved fantasy, and that is my first love as a genre, but I will read anything that looks good and often get inspiration from what I read.

You have done some very original series on your blog. Tells us about your A-Z. Also, you have a serial going on there right now. Tell us about that! 

I see that everyone has hopped on the Alphabet Game train, which is really cool. I did mine from late Jan to late March.

 I have an “established” fantasy world I created for a series I am working on, and I decided to use the letters as a way to have small adventures w/ the main characters from my world as well as introduce some secondary characters. I even made a few up brand new, and in turn got more ideas for future books.

 It was a great exercise that got my creative juices and honestly refocused me to get back to a project (2nd book in my series) that I have been ignoring for quite some time.

The serial that I am doing involves one of those couples that I made up for the Alphabet Game. They are featured in “Y is for Yours” and “Z is for Zethan” and basically they told me they weren’t done w/ me. Getting to know them better and write their love story is fun. I am doing it weekly. Check back every Weds to see how their story is progressing!

What is your favorite part of the writing process? First draft? Revisions?
Not really sure. I am a diehard pantser, so I guess it’s just how the story develops in my head.

 What do you do when you aren't writing? I hear you have quite an interesting job.
I have two jobs, actually. I work with kids at both. During the week I am the Juvenile Case Manager at a Municipal Court, and on the weekends I work at a shelter for teens. 

When I am not being a work-a-holic, and am NOT writing, I watch WAY too much TV and I read. I also love to scrapbook. And I spend way too much time on Facebook and Twitter. 

  What has been the best part of your writing journey?
              Sharing my stories with the world.
        What  has been the best advice you have received along the way? 
              What advice would you give someone   starting out?
 I belong to a great group of writers at NTRWA, so I am not sure I can hammer it down to any certain piece of advice. Everyone is so awesome and would do anything for a writer in need. But, what I can say is that if you want this, this dream of being published NEVER GIVE UP! It will happen if you persevere.
Also, join another group of writers. I personally wish I would have done it years ago. It’s too hard to go it alone. You might love your family and friends, but no one will understand you like another writer. 

 What is next for you?
Continue writing. My characters won’t leave me alone until I write them down. Kinda annoying, but just how it is. ;)

 Where can we connect with you? Facebook? Twitter? Blog

Thank you for visiting with us, Chrissy!
So, what else do you want to know about her?

With a little help from my friends...

Thinking about Thursday

Yes, I know purist appreciate the Beatles version more, but I am 80's kid and this man's voice will forever be linked to the opening of The Wonder Years in my mind.

 This past weekend, I attended the Texas Two Step Conference which was hosted by my RWA chapter. During a workshop on "writer karma",  Candace Havens talked about surrounding yourself with other writers who will "pick you up off the floor" when you need it.

Just a few short years ago, I was a closet writer. A very select few people in my world knew I wrote and none of them were writers. Now, I have an amazing support system.
So, here are some shout outs to the other writers in my life who lift me up and, occasionally, kick me in the butt.

One of my awesome critique partners and Great Expectations Contest Winner~ Genevieve Wilson. 

 The Fabulous Roni Loren and her pretty book, Crash into You. She is giving a workshop on writing sex scenes at DFWCon. I can't wait!

The amazing Lindsay Cummings. This girl is going to be huge. She just announced her sale this week. I am keeping all of the pictures I have of us together so I can say I knew her when. 
Who is going to guest blog for me one day, despite the fact she continually claims to "have nothing to say".

I am blessed and thankful to have these ladies and several more in my life. 

What about you? Do you have a network of people to keep you on track? Do you prefer the sweet, nurturing or the tough love approach? Lucky for me, I have a good mix of both!

Happy Release day to RONI LOREN!

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday
Crash Into You
Go ahead and stare at the cover a little longer. I'll wait.

*Throws confetti*

Happy Release day to my friend,

Roni is just awesome. I have truly enjoyed getting to know her through NTRWA and have been waiting anxiously to be able to throw her a release day virtual party.
Also, you should check out her blog because, well, she puts really hot guys on there! 
Roni has visited us a few times most recently with this post about the craziness of self-promotion.
But, she also weighed in on my struggle with writing sexy scenes. You can check out her advice here

So, celebrate with me! 

Grab some confetti and a virtual glass for the toast.  
Congratulate Roni or hop over to her blog and leave her some love. 

Five simple goals

Thinking about Thursday

Technically, it's the end of another year. As a teacher, I tend to measure years from August to July, rather January to December, but that's just me.

Last year, I came up with three basic goals for the year:

1. Find a critique group/ partner.
    I have to let someone with objectivity read my work. It is just time. (Achieved. I have two AWESOME, WONDERFUL, FABULOUS, critique partners. Teri Anne Stanley and Genevieve Wilson. Thank you both for all your support this year.)

2. Attend a writing conference.
    I am aiming for DFWCON in February.  (Achieved and it was great! You can check out the experience here. Cannot wait to go this year. Check out the website! http://dfwwritersconference.org/

3. Query.
    Even if it is just one email. Just to prove I can. (Um, yeah... Look how good I did on the other two!) 

This year, I am expanding to five goals:

1. Become RWA PRO. This will force me to meet left over goal #3 up there.

2. Attend more writing conferences.  I actually have THREE on the agenda for this year. First, Texas Two Step Conference (put on by my local RWA chapter) in late April You should really come join me! Then DFWCon in late May.  All building up to RWA in July! I cannot describe how excited and, maybe a tad bit terrified, I am about that.

3. Pitch to an agent. That is the one thing I did not take advantage of at DFWCon last year. I have to do this year. I mean, I am going to all these conferences. Surely, I can manage to sit down and make words come out of my mouth for 10 minutes, right? Give me a minute,  I'm feeling woozy.

4. Edit, edit, edit. I have several (and by several, I mean, more than three.) completed manuscripts begging to be edited and polished. My husband brought me pretty pens and clean flash drives for Christmas. All I need to do is hit print and start hacking. Yeah, it's that easy. (not).

5. Keep up this blog. The friends I have made through this blog in the past year have been amazing. Thank you for reading. Thank you for commenting and Thank you for being a part of my world.

I wish you all a successful 2012. 

Do you have goals for this year? How'd you do on the ones you set for last year?

NTRWA President Marsha West

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday


North Texas RWA 
             Marsha is a former elementary school administrator who presides over our RWA chapter meetings with grace, poise and, as is essential for our group, a sense of humor.  She joins us on the blog today to talk about parenting and writing. 

     Thanks, for inviting me, Dawn. I decided to start with an issue that’s important to me. Good parenting. However, not so much in the delightful way Regina Richards speaks of it in her Bad Mommies Blog. (You really should check that out; it’s so funny.)
      All of my adult life, I’ve been involved in schools as a secondary teacher, parent, volunteer, school board member (In Texas this is a volunteer, non-partisan elected position.), an elementary school assistant principal, and principal. I’ve seen first-hand what a difference good early parenting makes in a child’s life, for his/her teacher, class and school. The ripples extend far.
     Most of us model what our parents did, be it good or bad. (I’m pretty certain mine didn’t have training.) All parents do the best they can, but sometimes even though we’re trying to help, we hinder. For instance, probably the worst thing we can do for our kids is rescue them. I’m raising my hand as a major offender. If one daughter forgot her lunch, I’d dash down to school with it. If the other daughter waited until the last minute to tell me about a project and needed the poster board, I’d head out to the grocery store for the supplies. I really wanted to be a good mom. Experts tells us rescuing teaches the child they are not capable and can do real harm to their self-esteem.  Rescuing is worse than neglect. In that situation, somehow the kid concludes, "My parents think I can handle this." Talk about counter-intuitive.
      I serve on the Advisory Board of Texas Parents as Teachers, giving them time, advocacy, and money. Your school district or child-care facility may have access to this program. I’d love to tell you more about TPAT and how trained parent educators work with parents of children from birth through four, using an evidence based curriculum. The crucial early years are most important for how successful a child is at school and in life. 
      Education is powerful. 
 We can change anything with the knowledge and the will to do so. 
 (Bolded by Dawn)
That’s my soapbox, and now I’ll answer a few of Dawn’s questions.

  What made you decide to write? What did you do before becoming a writer?
I’ve answered the second question already. But as to the first, when my mother was ill a number of years ago, I buried my worries in romances. (After a hiatus of probably 20 years when I only read educational related material.) Visiting with one of my husband’s friends, I said, “I think I could write one of these if I knew what to write about.” He said, ”Write about the huge scandal in the school district we’ve just been discussing.” (The scandal started after I left the board.) Thus the kernel for my first book was born. 
Tell us about being President of NTRWA. What has that been like? What have you loved? What has been a challenge?
I like to think being president of an organization is one of the things I do well, though not perfectly by any means. I love to see problem solving by group members, and I’ve actually experienced chill bumps when it’s really going well. It’s almost magical. (A little weird, I know.) J The biggest challenge has been my inability to juggle the time commitment to allow for writing. On the other hand (people who know me will tell you, I can almost always come up with an “on the other hand.”), when times got really tough with writing this year, and I gave serious thoughts to quitting, my involvement in NT and friends I’ve met there kept me going.

  Do you have a writing routine? What does it look like? Where do you usually write?
When I was writing new books (I’ve been editing all this year.), after sending my husband off to work, I’d sit in front of the computer in our study and quickly check emails. Then I’d read over whatever I wrote the day before, making some edits, basically getting back into the world. I’d write all day until time to fix supper with breaks to see why the puppies were barking. For approximately three-and-a-half-years, I averaged 20 pages a week, cranking out 2nd-5th books. Our critique group met weekly, and we almost always had our new pages. Knowing the others depended on us kept our rear in the seat and fingers on the keys. (Both of those talented people will be published soon. The first of Jeanne Guzman’s Dragon Hunters series, Dragon Lover comes out momentarily, and Jerrie Alexander’s The Green Eyed Doll makes its appearance in 2012.)

   Do you have any special time management tricks for working in writing time and living a normal life?
The short answer is “Not really.” However, from my theatre background, I’m used to having a date when something has to be ready and backing up from that date to see when I have to begin. That translates to deadlines for contests, and hopefully, someday to sending edits back to an editor. If someone doesn’t give me a deadline, I have to create one, or I don’t get anything done.

 What is the best advice you have received about this journey?
That it is a journey, and there are many paths to publication. The only person who can defeat us is ourselves—if we give up.(Amen!)

 What advice do you wish someone would have given you when you were starting out?
“Don’t query until you’re certain sure the ms is in as perfect a condition as possible.” I queried much too early before I learned basics of the craft and self-editing strategies. “On the other hand,” that allowed me to become an RWA PRO, and I’ve learned a great deal form that group and our local NT PRO loop.

What kind of scenes do you have a hard time writing?
The first one. J Seriously, I have the dickens of the time finding where to start a book. I usually cut 2-3 chapters. Even now, when I get that the story needs to start in the middle of the action, I don’t write it that way.

   Do you ever write material based on your close relationships, such as a best friend, and how do you balance that material with the need to tell an interesting story?
I based the first book more than any other on real people, fictionalized of course. (To my knowledge, sex and murders weren’t connected to the school scandal mentioned in question 1.) In other books, I’ve borrowed characteristics or a name I’ve modified. More than people, I borrow situations and places. Bottom line, it’s fiction. People, places and situations provide the inspiration, and then my imagination takes over.

What do you do when you aren’t writing?
Family—three grands, who I enjoy babysitting, two “puppies” (12 and 13 years old), and wonderful trips with my husband. I take Pilates a couple times a week at my younger daughter’s studio. This year lots of NT related work. Emails and blogs. I feel sorry for authors if not many folks have taken time to respond, so I do. Unfortunately, as you’ve noticed, I’m not brief. I don’t write in sound bites. Need to work on that. LOL

  Tell us a bit about your work in progress.
I’m doing the last edits on my 5th book with Renee, my new in person critique partner, and Denyse, a new on-line CP.
    In Truth Be Told, a 95,000 Single Title Romantic Suspense, Meg, an Atlanta SWAT team member visiting her family in Fort Worth at Christmas wants to stop whoever is blackmailing her father. Meg pursues a resistant Scott, who struggles to accept his new physical limitations, which he received saving the life of Meg’s brother. The disability prevents Scott from returning to the force, and in his mind makes him unacceptable to Meg. In uncovering the pieces of the puzzle, they learn the truth, which threatens to ruin her father’s career as mayor and destroy Meg’s family. She and Scott discover real love will require sacrifices on both their parts.

  What is next for you?
Book 6, a single title romance with no title. The log line: When a member of the board of a non-profit arts agency in Fort Worth turns up dead, a homicide detective looks at everyone involved in the organization, including the Executive Director.
This time last year, I did a lot of planning for this book. With NT’s retreat coming up next weekend, I expect to spend the time writing like a fiend. I’ll continue to take on-line classes and attend conferences/retreats, enter and judge contests, critique, and query. There’s always more to learn.
 How can we find out more about you? Blogs? Facebook? Twitter?
I don’t have my own blog. (That’s probably all I’d ever do if I had one.) I’m super pleased to be able to post on Dawn’s however. 
My web site is marsharwest.com 
and I FB a bit as Marsha Riegert West.
Thanks for having me, Dawn. 
 Thank you for stopping by.  It was a pleasure getting to know you better.
I’ve loved your questions. 

   I’m going to throw one back to our readers. What do you wish you’d known before becoming a writer? For those of you who are parents, what’s the best advice you’ve received from anyone on how to be a better parent?

Name Dropping

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday

Name Dropping

The above picture is from the book signing I attended on Saturday. I think  going to signings should be my new hobby. 
They are fun and this one even had cake! 
These beautiful, talented ladies are members of my local RWA chapter, 
(You should check out the home page just for the picture of the cowboy!)  
So, let me introduce you to them! 
From left to right.

Nikki Duncan  was signing 
the second book in her 
Sensory Ops Series:

who was featured on 
in February, was signing her latest release

had several books available.
I went with one of her Blaze romances.

also had several available. 
Following Roni Loren's recommedation, I chose

As you can see, I am building my "To-Be-Read" list for the summer. Tell Me Your Story. 
Do you like book signings? Have any great stories about meeting fabulous authors? 
What are you reading? Know any new authors I should pick up while I am creating a small mountain beside my bed? 

Help me prep for DFW CON

Thinking about Thursday

Yes! This IS the world's ugliest snow man!

THANK YOU DFWCON and JEFF POSEY for writing a blog in response to my blog and answering all my questions in depth! You ROCK! I can't wait for the conference!


Unless by some chance you have been hibernating in a cave or lucky enough to be on a tropical vacation, you have heard that most of us in Texas are buried in ice. And that is thing, for those in the North laughing at us because we can't deal with "a few inches snow", this isn't snow it is ICE. You can't drive on it, you can't walk on it, you can't even make snowmen from it. My friend above is from February 2010.    Anyway, I am trying not to think about the ice today or the fact we are still going to be going to school in July if it doesn't all melt soon! 

Today, I am thinking about:

  Registration was my Christmas present from my husband. (LOVE HIM!). I wanted to attend the Texas Two Step Conference last year  *shout out to my local chapter NTRWA*. But, honestly, I was a chicken. I wasn't involved with the chapter yet. I was unprepared and, although I am far from a shy person,  I didn't want to go alone. 

That brings me to today and DFWCON. Excited doesn't begin to cover it. I am counting down the days like it is the last weeks of school! I am a firm believer that preparation is the enemy of anxiety. I know that writers are a friendly, accepting group, but they are a culture and all cultures have rules.

So, I am asking for help with the preparation. I have never been to a writing conference before:
What do I need to know 
I don't mean like, "Don't slip your manuscript under the bathroom door". I have been a mom long enough to appreciate the opportunity to "do you business" in private and I really don't want an agent associating my work with bodily functions. I mean more brass tacks type information.

What should I wear? Bring a  spiral notebook or a laptop? Do I take my camera? Should I introduce myself with my real last name or my pen name? Do I need business cards? What should I wear? Oops, did I already ask that?

So, can you help me? What do I need to know that I don't even to know to ask? What is your experience with writing conferences? What do you wish you knew before you first one?