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Monday, June 6, 2011

The Count Down is On

In just 22 days my plane will touch down in New York City and I will find my way (a way yet to be determined) to Marriott Marquis Time Square for the 31st Annual Romance Writers of America Conference. And, I won’t be alone. The conference has been sold out for at least a couple of weeks.

This will be 4th conference and so much has changed since San Francisco. At that first conference I only dreamed of being published and the only critique partners with me that year became the wonderful duo who makes up Lydia Dare (Jodie and Tammy with whom you are all familiar). The following year, more of us were able to attend in Washington, D.C. and Heather even came from Australia. At this conference, I had a book – woo hoo.

So much can change in a year, or even six months. Especially in the publishing business! But, I would not have three books published if it wasn’t for my amazing critique group. I will be the first to insist that no writer can get ahead without others, familiarity with your genre and an eye for details and grammar, reading over every great, and not so great, sentence you add to that baby you call a manuscript or work in progress.

In May, the Historical Romance Critique Group celebrated three years of being together. Some members have come and gone, but a strong core, who were with us from almost the beginning, have remained. At the time we formed, not one of us was published but we all had big dreams of holding a book in our hands with our name (or pen name in some cases) etched across that cover.

I know I posted on a similar topic about this time last year, but I think it bears repeating. And, I love to acknowledge the successes of the ladies I’ve come to love like sisters. Here is what they have done since joining the group (listed in order of when they joined and in their own words)

Jerrica (co-founder): When I co-founded this group with Amy, I had two completed manuscripts (I think…it’s hard to remember now.) Over the next year, while I queried agents/editors, I completed two more to make up the entire Wetherby Brides Series. A writing contest at the end of that year (which Amy forced me to enter) landed me a publishing contract with Second Wind Publishing. After completely rewriting my first book, I handed it over and A Gentleman Never Tells was published in November of 2009. But 2011 seems to be the magic year for me. Second Wind released the second book in the series at the same time I published books 3 and 4, two short stories and a new novella. I’m thrilled to say that all my works are doing incredibly well, and I owe most of my success to this amazing group of ladies. This critique group may be my greatest accomplishment yet.

Jodie: When I started with the critique group, I had completed 2 manuscripts and had my PRO pin. Since then, I have completed 2 more (solo) manuscripts and 8 joint-Lydia Dare books, with 2 more to go on the current contract. Since joining the group, I've placed in several contests and acquired an agent. I am certain I wouldn't be where I am today without my local RWA chapter and this critique group.

Julie: When I joined the group I had written one ms and was working on my second one, which this group helped me to finish. I had finaled in one contest and had one request before joining up with you ladies. Since then, I've finaled in quite a few contest, had a good number of request, landed my agent Scott Eagan, and finished two more books. I started and stopped two more, and am now working on my fourth book which I WILL finish. I also published three contemporary short stories with the Trues.

Samantha: Oh, wow! Has it been 3 years? On one hand, it seems like we've been together forever, and on the other, it seems like only yesterday. When I joined, I had just written my very first manuscript with no experience whatsoever. Nothing but a burning desire in my heart to write a story. I'm sure it showed. I've written a total of 4 1/2 novels, 5 short stories published in True Love Magazine, and attended 2 national conferences. My debut novel The Ruination of a Rake will be released February 1, 2012 and three other stories in the series will follow. And I have a great agent, Nephele Tempest.

Heather: The last two and a half years with this critique group have been fantastic. When I joined November 2008, I had one mss written, one underway via NaNoWriMo and I was terribly ignorant about the publishing world. Today, I’m an epublished and self-published author (5 books total) and I'm obsessed with writing and learning about the regency era. I'm still writing and intend to self-publish future work. I’m already fretting over my suitcase’s contents again for this year’s RWA Convention in New York.

Liz Cole: I found this critique group in 2009, about a year after I made my first fumbling attempts at writing, and realized almost immediately I had stumbled upon a gold mine! The members are a great mix of new, experienced, and published writers, each bringing their own personal experience and expertise and taking the time and effort to give their honest opinion in the most supportive way possible.
Since joining the group I have published a novella and the first book, in my Reluctant Ladies series for Breathless Press Publishing (both fall into the erotic historical romance genre). Both my novella and first full length have received great reviews, and my full length, Persuading Prudence, recently claimed the #1 slot on WebWire.com’s Best Sellers List under Romance E-books, and I made #5 on their Best Selling Romance Author’s list!
I could not have come as far as I have so quickly without this wonderful critique group. Thank you, ladies!

Suzie Grant: 1. I'd written two manuscripts when I first joined and one will never see the light of day again.
2. Since joining I've completed three more manuscripts, one short story, one novella, published two stories, finaled in a contest and will be publishing another novel and a novella by the end of June. Not as much as others but I've done all this in almost two years time. Lots of progress imho.

Erin: Well, I found the group a year ago in March (I think), and consider myself extremely lucky to have stumbled into such an amazing group. I had just finished my first MS and was rather clueless as to where to go from there. The group gently guided me away from passive voice, head hopping, etc. Within a few months of joining, I finaled in my first contest. Since then, I have finaled in several contests (a total of 4 I think), including the Golden Heart. I would be nowhere near where I am now without the critiques, support, and camaraderie offered by this group of women. In January I signed with my agent, Deidre Knight, and have been working my tail off in revisions ever since :) Next stop—Publication!!

Sarah: I think it's fantastic that this crit group is in existence. When I first joined, it was a year ago--so this is my 1 year anniversary. I know because everyone was talking about Nationals back then, too.
1. When I joined I was a published non-fic author but had never tried fiction. My first attempt was horrible but everyone here was so nice about it--and tactfully pointed out the head-hopping, passive voice, etc.
2. In the course of the year, I finished my first manuscript, signed with an agent, Mary Sue Seymour, and sold my first manuscript to Love Inspired Historical.
3. From here I am supposed to be writing my second novel for Love Inspired, but with my daughter home this summer, we'll see how successful I am. LOL
Thanks to everyone on this group for their help & support—

Louisa: Let me see. I joined the group in February of this year. I had finished three manuscripts and started a fourth. I am working on revising the third manuscript for my agent, Kim Lionetti of Bookends. Since I joined the group my third manuscript - The Price of a Gentleman – won in the Write Stuff, the Great Beginnings and the Duel on the Delta. My fourth manuscript has finaled in the Royal Ascot and the Daphne du Maurier. And trust me, none of those finals could have happened without this group!
Where am I now? Trying my DAMNEDEST to finish these revisions before Nationals! I need to move on to the next book!

Aileen: I’m so new I haven’t finished my first historical novella yet to report on success. But I am in awe of the contracts and wins received by my fellow CPs. I know they’ll bring out the best in my stories.

Lauren: "I am new to this wonderful group of writers. I was fortunate to have come across them while reading a Lydia Dare novel and found the idea of an online critique group to be fantastic. The collection of talented writers who are supportive and helpful has become a lifeline for me as a writer who is wanting to break out into the "published writer" world. The wealth of knowledge that these lovely ladies have on writing, the publishing industry and history itself is just spectacular. I am blessed to become part of this group and can't wait to see where everything leads!"

Christina: I've been writing for almost ten years. It wasn't however, until I began working with the the Historical Romance Critique Goup that (cliche coming!) I was able to take my writing to the next level! The group is made up of such talented, dedicated, and helpful writers who have only improved my craft!
I have received several requests for a submission of an entire/partial manuscript from two major publishing houses and several literary agencies.

Marie Higgins: When I joined this group nearly a year ago, I had been writing and publishing under a different pen name - a name that wasn't getting me anywhere. Amy and Sarah inspired me (whether they know it or not) to try my hand at writing Inspirationals. At the time, I was just finishing a sensual pirate story. Since that time, I have revised my pirate story and made him sweet instead of sensual, I have written one full length Christian romance novel, and revised four more of my sensual stories and made them Christian or sweet. Not only that, but I've published three Christian romances (and I'm working on getting book #4 published by August), and I've signed with an agent.
I had to take a break for a while with this critique group when my life started spiraling out of control, but now that things are back on track, I'm back to critiquing some wonderful stories from very talented authors who I'm thrilled to call my friends! I don't even want to think of where I'd be if I hadn't found this group!

Well, there you have it. I am amazed what what these women have accomplished and I continue to learn from them every day.

Do you belong to a critique group? How have they been a benefit to you?


  1. Heavens, Lauren! I had no idea you found this group due to one of my and Tammy's Lydia Dare books. (It must have been TALL, DARK, and WOLFISH since we dedicated that book to this group.)

    How cool is that? You just made my day. :)

  2. Wow! What an awesome group! You all have done amazingly well. Congrats.

  3. Yeah Jodie, I think I messaged you and Tammy via facebook not too long ago while I was waiting to hear back on whether I made this group! I just finished "It Happened One Bite" and am eagerly awaiting the next book in the series that comes out in July! This group has made my day for taking me on!! Thanks for the wonderful blog post Amy!

  4. LOL. That was me, but I didn't realize you were waiting for THIS group. That is funny.

  5. It is so fun to read about all of our accomplishments :) How far we've all come! I'm looking forward to even more great news in the group as we continue to shoot for the skies :)

  6. Oh my gosh, what a wonderful post and it just brings home how far we've all come. I'm ecstatic to see so much talent. Cheers ladies, here's to never giving up and having wonderful friends to help make the road so much smoother. *tips hat* You ladies have made the last couple of years wonderful for me.

  7. Marion JBrowning-BakerAugust 8, 2011 at 8:05 PM

    I've writen one regency romance and have almost completed my second. I've not been able to find a critique group in my genre. I spend most of my time explaining terms etc.