Memorial – Terry Irene Blain


single_candleTerry Irene Blain February 16, 1947 – May 21, 2015

On May 21st 2015, we lost romance author, Terry Irene Blain, after a hard-fought battle with cancer. She was best known in romance circles for her knowledge of history, often appearing on RWA Chapter blogs and speaking at workshops and conferences.

But Terry was so much more than that.

Terry was a devoted wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, veteran, and a dear friend to many in the romance community. Over the course of her career as an author, she published three historical and contemporary romances set in the American West. She was always a bright spot at the San Diego RWA Chapter meetings, and was a big supporter of our California Dreamin’ Writers Conference.

When I joined RWA in 2009, I didn’t know anyone. My first RWASD meeting is kind of a blur, but one thing that sticks with me was meeting Terry. She scared me a little with her brusque swagger and big voice when she came up and introduced herself. She told me “If you want to get published, you’ve come to the right place. This is a great group.”

She was right.

She was also a big part of what made our group great.

Whenever we needed volunteers, Terry was the first to offer to help. She and I sold raffle tickets together, filled-in at the check-in table together, and eventually I helped her get her author “page” going on Facebook. Remembering our crazy back and forth email exchanges when I tried to help her figure out if she was on her “profile” or her “page” still make me smile. But she was determined to learn, and that’s exactly what she did.

When Terry wasn’t helping out, she also took the extra time to thank those who volunteered, mailing thank you notes and sending emails. I’m going to miss seeing her posts on social media about soccer and her dogs. And I’m going to miss seeing her at our meetings.

Terry never stopped honing her craft. She was part of a close knit critique group for many years with Jill Limber, Teresa Carpenter, Jackie Allen and Diana Saenger. Her commitment to her craft and to helping her friends reach their goals was inspiring to many. She was passionate about her books and her writing, and she never gave up.

You couldn’t ask for a more courageous writer, woman, and friend.


Terry Irene BlainTerry Irene Blain

A Nook, A Kindle and a Conference by Maria Powers


2015 Book Signing from Above

It’s been a little over a week since the 2015 Conference ended and I am still recovering. Loose ends need to be tied up and we’re looking ahead to 2017. Yes, we do have to start securing dates with the hotel and speakers to make sure that the next conference is even better than this one. Right now I have the distinct pleasure of announcing the winners from the book signing “scavenger hunt” and the volunteer drawing.

First, the book signing “scavenger hunt” invited all attendees and signers to complete a card with contact information on one side and ten authors’ signatures on the other. People could fill out multiple cards and many did. I even had readers ask if they could keep their cards! After the book signing was over, the committee pulled a winner for the Nook first.

Nook&Kindle Pic


Drumroll please…

Elizabeth Brenda Marshall!

Next a card was drawn for the Kindle and the winner was…

Erin Richards!

The conference would not have been possible without an amazing group of volunteers. We had many volunteers for every “event” and all their names were put into the proverbial hat for a free conference fee for the next California Dreamin’ Writers Conference in 2017. All volunteers were included, from the beginning, Thursday evening bag stuffing, to the end, book signing break down. This name couldn’t be drawn until after the conference because we had to make sure all the volunteers were tallied.

And the winner is…

Christine Ashworth!

Congratulations to all our winners. I have to say that anyone who was able to attend the conference was a winner. The workshops, the food, the evening events and the camaraderie of the conference filled my well. I hope it did for each of you, too.

We’ll be sending a link to all attendees for a survey within the next couple of weeks to get your feedback. I hope to see all of you at the next California Dreamin’ Conference in 2017!

Maria Powers

Maria Powers

Maria Powers is the Web Chair and the Book Signing Chair for the 2015 California Dreamin’ Writers Conference. She’s a member of Romance Writers of America® and a member of three of the four chapters sponsoring the conference. She writes Paranormal and Contemporary Romances and is a 2015 Golden Heart® finalist for her Paranormal Romance Coyote Walks. She lives in Southern California surrounded by family and friends and spends most weekends on the freeways driving around Orange and Los Angeles Counties.


Lady Jane’s Salon OC is coming to
the California Dreamin’ Writers Conference!

lady jane

Saturday, March 28, 2015 from 9-11:00pm
at the Brea Embassy Suites
900 East Birch Street, Brea, CA 92821

We’ll have 2 salons going on at the same time in 2 different rooms–Giza and Tut’s. Feel free to bounce back and forth to catch your favorite authors reading from their novels.

This event is open to the public.

Salon 1


Salon 2



Mary Leo


Laura Drake


Elizabeth Boyle


Louella Nelson


Kitty Bucholtz


Patricia Rice


Jane Porter


Rebekah Ganiere


Lucienne Diver


April Kihlstrom


Dayle Dermatis


Susan Meier


Susan Squires


Linda O. Johnston


Christine Ashworth


Debbie Decker


Vicky Dreiling


Lisa Kessler


Chrisie Craig


Shirley Wilder


Teresa Carpenter


Anne Cleeland


Louisa Bacio


Maggie Marr

Click Lady Jane Schedule for an easy to print document.

Lady Jane’s Salon® OC was founded by author Beth Yarnall and is Orange County’s first–and only–monthly romance fiction reading series. Guest authors represent the full spectrum of the diverse and ever-evolving romance genre. Lady Jane’s Salon OC meets the second Monday of every month from 7-9pm at the Gypsy Den in Anaheim. Admission is $5 or one gently-used romance novel. Net proceeds from the Salon support an end-of-year donation to an Orange County based women’s charity. For the calendar of future salons and guest authors coming to LJSOC please visit our website at

Preparing for Conference by Debbie Decker

IMG_0588_2Preparing for the California Dreamin’ Conference!

We’re down to the last few days before conference on Friday and the Conference Committee is hard at work trying to make this the best experience for you. So whether this is your first or hundredth conference, we thought we’d give you a heads up on preparing for this wonderful weekend.

To do before you get to conference!

  1. Look at the list of Editors and Agents. If you’ve already signed up for an appointment, your registration packet will contain the name of the Editor/Agent and appointment time. IF you didn’t ask for an appointment, forgot to register for one OR would love a second appointment, there will be an opportunity for you to sign up for the remaining spaces.
  2. Read and make note of the workshops that interest you most. Again…look at the website! Consider how a workshop will help your writing and your career. BUT…be flexible. For a number of reasons, a workshop might be moved so be sure to check for time or room changes or cancellations when you get to conference.
  3. Have business cards printed and be ready to hand them out!
  4. If you have any special dietary needs… the good news is that ALL the rooms at the Embassy Suites have a refrigerator, microwave and coffeemaker. I highly recommend you bring whatever food you need and have it in your room. Please contact Jann Audiss via the contact form if you have any dietary restrictions you need to discuss. There are also numerous restaurants in the surrounding area.
  5. For first-timers…DON’T bring your manuscript, partial or synopsis. The Agents and Editors do not want to see them AT conference. If interested, they’ll tell you where and how to send them after conference.

Once you arrive at Conference!

  1. Check in at the registration desk and receive your packet and goodie bag. Lots of us have pen names however; your registration packet will be under your LEGAL name. Your badge will appear as you’ve requested on your registration form, space permitting.
  2. There will be lots of information in the packets and some free stuff in the bags. Please read the information carefully, especially if you are one of the generous ones who have graciously volunteered your time to help at conference. Volunteer instructions will be in the packets.
  3. Appropriate dress for the conference is business casual. We writers are great at sitting at our computers in sweats, yoga pants, pajamas, etc.… yeah, we all do it. For conferences, it’s tempting to dress up. Don’t. You’ll be sitting in workshops and walking from room to room. Be comfortable BUT professional because you never know who you’ll be sitting next to (think editor/agent here). You may want to impress so they’ll take you seriously.
  4. Workshop etiquette. If you will need to leave before the workshop is over, please sit near the door so you don’t disturb the whole room. AND most of the rooms have no wifi (or extremely limited wifi) so prepare to take notes the old fashioned way…with pen and paper. Please charge your computers, phones and tablets in your room. Wires are a safety hazard in the workshops and hallways. THIS MEANS NO POWER CORDS IN WORKSHOPS.


We all will know a few (or many) friends at conference but this is the time to get to know others who write in your same sub-genre or have experience in an area you’re lacking. This is an amazing place to connect and learn, and there are a number of ways to do it.

  1. volunteer-diverse-handsVOLUNTEER! We need you! AND you’ll get to meet people you wouldn’t have otherwise. We need you to help in a number of places, so take your pick! Registration, at the Editor/Agent area, in the workshops, or on Sunday at the book signing! All are wonderful ways to meet and learn, but the best part is that for every hour you volunteer, your name will be put into a drawing for a free conference fee in 2017! So please, volunteer and reap the rewards.
  2. Hang out in the bar or lobby area! This is the place to meet up or talk to the person in a workshop. Lifelong friendships are formed this way and who doesn’t want more friends?? Our rooms/suites are very comfortable and a great place to retreat when you need to catch your breath. Just don’t hide out there. Don’t miss learning and connecting!
  3. FIRST TIMERS MEETING! I’m such a retiring and quiet person (snort) that they’ve put me in charge of welcoming you and being your “go to” gal. So meet me at 5:20 on Friday evening (for only a half hour) and we’ll talk about how to get the most out of your first time at conference! (also…you’ll have a little flag on your badge. You’ll be surprised at how many people will want to get to know you!)

I hope this answers a few of the many questions you might have regarding the weekend. The Conference Committee has worked hard to make this an exceptional experience for everyone…speakers and attendees…and we hope you’ll come prepared to have fun!

_DEB0037See you all on Friday!!!

Happy writing,

Debbie Decker

Cal. Dreamin’ Registration Chair





California Hooker Contest by Christine Locksy

Fish Hook - HookingDoes your writing have what it takes to hook the editor? The reader?

Find out when you enter the California Hooker Contest!

Hi, I’m Christine Locksy, and I’ll coordinate the contest entries again this year. The contest opens January 15, 2015, and all entries must be received by midnight (PST) on February 15, 2015.

And, it’s a cinch to enter – you electronically submit your unpublished story’s hook, up to a maximum length of 3 double-spaced pages. We had almost sixty entries in 2013, so let’s beat that number!! The entry fee is only $10 again for 2015, and multiple entries are happily accepted. Give each of your works in progress a chance to win!

Be sure to check the conference website page now for the official rules and guidelines, and mark the page to easily come back on January 15th to submit your entries.

The final round of judges will be editors attending the California Dreamin’ Conference.

We’ll announce the winners at the conference March 27-29, 2015 – you need not be present to win, but we’d love to see you there!

We’re proud of our 2013 contest winners!

10305042_1039239369435692_369798246466905826_n1st Place:  Alexis Lusonne Montgomery, Monk’s Maybe Baby

2nd Place:  Carmen Fox, Divide and Conquer

3rd Place:  Christine Leo, The Sync

Honorable Mention:  Lyn Austin, City of Rocks

California Dreamin’ Workshop Preview by Judy Duarte

SoldierOur guest blogger for this week is Judy Duarte, here to share a sneak peek at our upcoming conference’s workshop sessions. Judy’s latest book, The Soldier’s Holiday Homecoming, will be available November 1st!

The 2015 California Dreamin’ Conference Committee is determined to provide workshops that will appeal to a diverse group of attendees—from the beginning writer to the experienced. And since most authors are interested in a variety of publishing formats, we’ll have that information as well.

So far, we have scheduled 60 different workshops and panels for you to choose from. And that’s not counting the pitch practice session or the chats.

We’ll kick off the conference with the popular Book Camp that begins at noon on Friday, which you can attend even if you don’t register for the conference. This time we’ll be offering April Kihlstrom’s Book in a Week! So be sure to check it out on the website.

The conference will actually begin on Friday evening at 6 pm. If you’d like a sneak peek at what we’ll be offering, here are the tracks and just a sampling of our many workshops and panels:




  • Cop GMC – M.A. Taylor
  • SEAL Team: The Real Deal – Anne Elizabeth & Carl Swepston, Navy SEAL (Ret.)
  • Women’s Role Through the Ages – Terry Irene Blain
  • Writing Romance Novel Tie-ins to TV Series – Nancy Holder


And we’ll be offering a new track this year:


If you haven’t registered for the conference yet, don’t wait too long. We expect to sell out again this year!

JDphotos_004An avid reader who enjoys a happy ending, Judy Duarte couldn’t shake the dream of creating a book of her own. That dream became a reality in 2002, when Harlequin released her first Special Edition. Since then, more than forty of her books have hit the shelves, including two novellas and an online read.  A USA Today bestselling author and a two-time Rita® finalist, Judy has won two Maggies and a National Reader’s Choice Award for her heartwarming stories.

Writing Romantic Suspense by Anne Cleeland

Every Monday, we’ll feature a success story from our last conference, or a post by a conference speaker, editor, agent, etc. This week, we’re featuring speaker Anne Cleeland, whose latest book, Murder In Retribution, is out tomorrow!

Love in the Time of Peril: Writing the Romantic Suspense Story

Are you stuck in a sagging middle act, or struggling with an anemic word count? Despair no more; instead, pick a crisis, and try your hand at romantic suspense.

Because the romance is necessarily intertwined with a suspense plot, the story practically writes itself, and the only difficulty is in finding a pause in the action long enough for the hero and heroine to fall in love.

They say that a mystery is when the reader is trying to figure out what happened, but suspense is when the reader is trying to figure out what will happen. So for romantic suspense stories, there has to be a set-up, and the set-ups usually involve some familiar tropes:

The ticking clock: Time is short! Solve the problem, or terrible things will happen! Extra points if there is a child in peril, or if the world is about to end.

The man (or woman) on the run: Watch out! The bad guys are coming! Extra points if there’s a struggle atop a moving train, or if the chase goes cross-country.

The conspiracy thriller: Nothing is what it seems! Trust no one! Extra points if an ordinary-seeming person is actually a criminal mastermind, or if there’s a double-cross by a trusted friend.

The treasure hunt: Where is this very-important thing? We must get to it first! Extra points if the thing is ancient, with mythological powers, or if the thing must be destroyed to save the world (or both!).

The bewildering sequence of events: Otherwise known as what the heck is going on, here? This trope is my personal favorite—the ordinary heroine is swept up in extraordinary events, and the reader must find out alongside her why she’s at the center of it all. Extra points if the hero might be the enemy, or if it’s all a case of mistaken identity, and no one will believe the heroine.

Romantic suspense stories are particularly suited to writers like me, who don’t plot ahead of time—a cliffhanger at the end of every chapter only serves to inspire the next round of action. Because there are two intertwined plots, romantic suspense tends to be plot-driven as opposed to character-driven, but the best romantic suspense stories have memorable characters, too—after all, there’s only so many ex-navy seals with a drinking problem that we can handle without turning to the bottle, ourselves. So—try to put a fresh coat of paint on the plucky heroine, the mysterious/troubled hero, the staunch supporter, and the villainous villain.

Once you’ve got your trope and your characters, make sure to keep the pace moving; chapter one should open with something slightly ominous going on, and a heroine who is hoping against hope that things aren’t as ominous as they seem. We know better, of course; things are about to get even more ominous, and then outright scary, and then dire. Time to run!

author photo 1Murder In Retribution coverAnne Cleeland belongs to the OCCRWA. She is the author of an historical fiction Regency series, and a contemporary Scotland Yard series. Murder in Retribution, the second book in the mystery series, is available in bookstores and on Amazon starting July 29.

You can find Anne at her website and on twitter.

Pitch Appointments and Critique Sessions? Sign Me Up!

pitchingOne of the most important elements of any writers’ conference is the opportunity to meet and pitch to editors and agents. We are very excited about the incredible editors and agents who will be at the conference in March. You can find out more about them here.

A pitch appointment is included in the conference price for those attendees with a finished manuscript who request an appointment. If you’re new to pitching and need some incentive, check out some of the success stories in this blog like this recent story from Diane Benefiel.

For an additional $25 fee, attendees of the conference will also have the opportunity to participate in one small group critique session with an attending editor or agent. Each critique group will be made up of five writers and the editor/agent. Participants will submit the first ten pages of their manuscripts ahead of time for the agent/editor, and the pages will be provided to the other writers in the critique group for discussion and feedback.

Pitch appointments and critique session signups will be available on the website beginning August 15, 2014. Until then, you can find out more details here.


Pitching the Right Publisher by Diane Benefiel

DianeBenefielI attended my very first romance writers’ conference, the California Dreamin’ conference, in March 2013 with great anticipation. All of the sessions and extras looked like so much fun.

There was a bit of anxiety, however, about pitching my just-completed novel. I’d never pitched before but knew if I wanted to publish I had to do it.

I attended the evening session where I could practice my pitch on an experienced author and this helped a lot. The next morning I was there, bright and early, ready to meet the agent and two editors I was scheduled for. Each was a different experience, but all asked to see at least a partial.

I sent thirty pages to the editor, who sent back a very positive rejection letter. I say positive because while she didn’t want to represent me she was very encouraging and had some good suggestions.

Next, I sent my manuscript to the editor who had requested the whole thing, didn’t hear a peep for two months, sent a follow up email, waited, sent another and still nothing, a-need-to-protect-highres-nologonot even an acknowledgment of having received my submission.

I informed that editor I was going to submit elsewhere and then sent it to the second editor who represented Decadent Publishing. Within a day, I had received confirmation they had received my submission. Within a month, they asked to see the whole thing.

By October, I had gotten that wonderful email saying they loved A Need to Protect, my romantic suspense, and would like to offer me a contract. Throughout the entire process, the Decadent staff has been amazing. They respond promptly (even on weekends!), are full of helpful suggestions, and have been amazingly friendly.

A Need to Protect was released on March 14, 2014, just one short year after the conference. I can’t wait to see what the 2015 conference will bring!

Diane Benefiel


Publishing Success by Alanna Lucas

AlannaLucasauthor-picOnce-Upon-a-Montana-Christmas-cover-213x300Our registrations are rolling in and if you haven’t reserved your spot for March just yet, we’re here to tempt you with another success story from Alanna Lucas!

It was at the California Dreamin’ Conference that I learned about the ‘What’s in a Name’ contest being hosted by Boroughs Publishing Group.

After meeting Michelle Klayman, CEO of Boroughs Publishing Group, at the conference, I was inspired to enter–even though I did not have a completed (or started) novella.

Not only did I manage to finish the manuscript, I won the contest! 

And by the end of 2013… Here it is!

Boroughs Publishing Group will be with us again in 2015. Watch our blog for future posts about what the editors will be looking for in March…and don’t forget to register soon!