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July 2017

Bad Girlz for Life

Approximately four years ago, I went to my very first conference: RWA Atlanta. Nothing like starting with a bang, am I right? I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, dreaming about everything this career could possibly bring. I knew exactly one person—Jeanette, who’d been by my side for many years prior and from that point on became my permanent conference wife.

I was overwhelmed in an amazing way, learning so many new things and meeting so many new people, including the Bad Girlz. Writing can be incredibly solitary. The majority of my work is done at home, by myself, with Twitter or Facebook as my only companions. But to see so many fellow writers all in the same place was extraordinary. Meeting people who not only shared this crazy dream of mine, but were doing everything in their power to actually make that dream come true? It felt like I found my tribe.

The Bad Girlz took me into the fold and laughed with me, danced with me, drank with me. They gave me conferences tips, supported me as I pitched for the very first time, and told me I did not look stupid in that tutu for the Harlequin party. They acted as if we’d been friends for years instead of days, and it made that nerve-racking time a little less so.

As fate would have it, by the time this posts, I’ll be on my way to RWA once again. A lot has changed since that first conference—for me, as well as the rest of the Bad Girlz. We’ve pitched and queried and gotten agents and book deals. We’ve seen those books in the hands of readers and on bookshelves. We’ve made this dream come true.

I’ve been to half a dozen conferences since that first one. I no longer need pitching help or conference tips, and I will rock my annual tutu for the Harlequin party without reservation. I will also squeeze many of the Bad Girlz before laughing and dancing and drinking with them, which will be a fantastic way for us to send this blog off in style.

Bad Girlz Write has been an awesome place to share writing tips, commiserate with the roller coaster ride that is publishing, and to convene with like-minded individuals. But it’s also been a solid foundation for friendships that go far beyond the confines of And I know that even when we close the doors on this blog, those will continue on for many years to come.

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Bad Girlz with a Z

Once upon a time, seven writers decided to give blogging a go. We had no idea what we were doing when it came to writing or blogging, but we thought through the latter, maybe we could help others with the former.

We started the planning and building stages of Bad Girlz Write in the spring of 2012. Back when I still wrote paranormal. My child was two years old. I’d known EMichels for maybe a year, I only barely knew Jeanette, and I didn’t know Laura Trentham at all!

Fast forward five years. I have a boy now, instead of a baby. I’ve changed jobs, I’ve changed sub-genres, I learned how to write, found an agent, wrote 9 books, sold most of them, went from being a casual to a professional fangirl, and I’ve made some of the most awesome friends ever. In 5 years, I’ve considered giving up writing at least twice. Wait…yeah that sounds right. Two times. Maybe three? Anyway, I’ve been elated with writing at least ten times that, and I’m still here. With the Girlz, I’ve talked to the point I’ve lost my voice, laughed so hard I was sore the next day, and cried enough to give myself a headache. I’ve had people insult my writing dream and people in awe of it. I’ve drank my share of wine, traveled across the country, up and down the east coast, fangirled, flailed, danced (seriously, there’s so much dancing. Why are we always dancing?), squeed, limped, laughed, giggled and gawked with my writer tribe.

I could go on and on about all the fun the Bad Girlz had over the years. Even without a blog, there will be tons more to come, but since I love lists, I’ll limit my memories to a Top 5 List:

5. The very first Bad Girlz Retreat at Big Moose Lodge, a year or more before we were even Bad Girlz. This was way back when we actually did workshops and wrote while on retreat. (Heh. That was the first and last time any actual writing work got done when we all get together.) I believe we were preparing for Moonlight and Magnolias – the first conference for all of us.

4. The last Bad Girlz Retreat at Big Moose. No writing occurred, but that was when we decided to start this blog! Jeanette barely knew us, yet agreed to go to a remote, mountain getaway with 6 writer meeting proximity associates. Lucky for her, we weren’t psycho killers (Qu’est-ce que c’est?). To this day, we still laugh about the somewhat uncharacteristic audacity it took for her to go. ‘Twas meant to be, I say.

3. That BGW Weekend at Lake Norman. There were 2 or 3, and I honestly can’t separate them from each other. They’ve blended into one amalgam of seeing Tony Stark’s house, sitting on the porch, swimming in the pool,  going to the lake, eating too much guacamole, going out for “fancy” Mexican, and talking for HOURS. Mainly, I  just remember having so much fun, and that’s what matters.

2. Moonlight & Magnolias…2011? I think the year was 2011. Idek. It was my first writer conference and it was the one in Decatur, Georgia. Someone correct me if I got the date wrong. There’s something magical about your first writer’s conference. Decatur is a perfect little town within the metropolis of Atlanta, the restaurants were all to die for, and you could walk to everything. But it just goes to show, a little magic goes a long way. The hotel was literally closing down around us, they short-changed us on towels and ran out of hotel chicken, but that conference will always hold a special place. Everything was new, we actually participated in the newcomer’s orientation, Eloisa James’ keynote made me cry, Darlene made the best Cosmos, and I pitched a book for the first time ever. I didn’t sell said book, but by gosh, I pitched the hell out of it!

1. RWA San Diego. This conference was amazing! Not only were the writer vibes fabulous, but I can’t say enough good things about the city of San Diego and the hotel that hosted us. And the weather! I still day dream about 0% humidity and having good hair days at the end of July. I’m glad the cost of living is higher in California. It’s a high of 77 and a low of 63. Who lives like that?!?!

Last year’s RWA conference was heads above my first RWA conference, and I think that had a lot to do with where I am in my career. Last year, I was able to attend a few functions and parties, relax a little more, but learn a lot, and enjoy myself while feeling like I was truly participating in a professional industry conference. In short, I wasn’t as clueless as I was 3 years prior. And, I got to eat meals, sea-side, with my friends, while enjoying the gorgeous weather. I was able to spend quality time with people I hold dear, but only see a few times a year. RWA San Diego will be tough to beat, but next week, I go to RWA Orlando. 🙂 I’d love for RWA Orlando to be the best one yet!

Thank you to all of the Bad Girlz Write followers and readers for the last 5 years! Your comments and participation meant everything to us. I hope you picked up some tips and found a few takeaways over the years. That’s why we wanted to blog in the first place. And lastly, thank you to the Bad Girlz. I don’t think I’d be in this #authorlife if it weren’t for you, but I know I wouldn’t be having this much fun.

<3 y’all,


So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye

Over the next month or so, the Bad Girlz will be saying our farewells as we wind down to closing up shop. As time passes, one thing is certain — things change. Careers move in different directions. Our schedules get fuller and fuller. The business itself seems to change daily. But the thing that doesn’t change is the wonderful feeling of support from other authors.

When I was asked to join the Bad Girlz, I was honored. After all, how could it not be fun hanging out with this group of fun, feisty, talented women? Small groups such as this that have something in common that binds them are part of the fuel that keeps writers going. They know the ups and downs of the business; they’re there to support each other; and it’s always extra fun to see each other in person at conferences where there are squeals, laughter and sometimes copious amounts of glitter. And I know from experience that the feeling of camaraderie doesn’t fade even if the common blog goes away. We’ll still always be the Bad Girlz, and I’m sure there will always be squeals, laughter and lots of glitter any time we see each other in the years ahead. I look forward to it.

To the readers of Bad Girlz Write, thanks for being supportive with your comments and joining in the fun.


Tanya Rewind: Big in Germany (but not Big-Headed)

This post discussing different versions of success originally appeared two years ago, and while re-reading it, I had to laugh at the deja vu. My blog post discussed the thrill of being a RITA finalist (which happened to me again this spring–YAY!) and the wrenching disappointment of my publisher closing the line I wrote for (which…happened to me again this spring. BOOOO.) I don’t think success is a destination. I think it’s a see-saw. My career has been a series of ups and downs; thankfully, I’ve been blessed with great friends to see me through both.


Writers talk about how rejection can mess with your mind and self-esteem. (That’s true and a series of blog posts in itself.) Wanna know something weird? Success can also screw with you mentally.

Sometimes success goes to people’s heads, making them obnoxious, entitled caricatures of themselves. Paradoxically, it can overwhelm a person with self-doubt or even shame. (Why did I get this? There are other talented writers. Maybe they deserved it more.) Other times, there’s just a strange disconnect between the success you fantasized about and the reality of how it happens.

Early in our marriage, J and I talked about how we’d celebrate when I sold my first book. There’s a tower hotel in downtown Atlanta with a revolving restaurant at the top. We were going to eat there, order massive amounts of champagne, then stay in one of the suites. (I now know that such an extravagant night would have cost the entire advance check I received for my first book.) I did not envision getting The Call two weeks after an emergency C-section. I’d had a particularly rough night with the baby, hadn’t slept in thirty hours and when the editor began speaking into the answering machine, I legit thought it was a sleep-deprived hallucination.

Needless to say, J and I did not run out for a fancy dinner. Still, I’D SOLD A BOOK. The joy of that is mine to keep forever. I had arrived!

Once I’d caught up on sleep and done revisions, I pitched my editor a second book. She apologetically turned it down. I pitched her a third idea, which she thought showed promise, so I wrote a proposal…that she turned down. Thank God she loved my proposal for the fourth idea! But her boss turned it down. By the time I sold another book I was pregnant again. (Okay, I had my kids pretty close together. But still.) My arrival into the publishing world was less a definitive YOU HAVE ARRIVED and more like the scene at the end of “Airplane” when the out-of-control jet hits the ground and airport speakers are announcing “Now arriving at gate 1…no, 2…3, 4? …35, 36, 37…”

After a book comes out, authors are paid royalties a few times a year, assuming the author has sold enough copies. The walk to the mailbox is like Budgeting Roulette—will I get fifty bucks or five hundred? I once got a check for, no joke, sixty-one cents.

A few years ago, I wrote a women’s fiction novel that I think nineteen people read in the U.S. My editor told me the book was also being published in Germany, so I hoped to double the number to thirty-eight. Picture a spring day: Tanya steps outside in mismatched clothes she threw on to avoid encountering neighbors in her writing PJs, she pulls an envelope from Penguin Random House out of the mailbox and, with typical impatience, tears it open before she ever reaches the house.

It had been a tough year, and I was desperately praying for a check that was at least a few hundred dollars to help with medical expenses. The check inside was well over ten-thousand dollars. Apparently, Germany LOVED my tearjerker novel about two sisters. My extremely professional reaction was to sit in the driveway and cry. (Afterward, we went to Disney World.)

photo (1)

Alas, my one-hit wonder bestsellerdom did not blossom into fame and fortune. One day I’m dazed in the driveway wondering if we’re going to be rich; the next September, I find myself looting my State Quarter Collection to give the kids lunch money.

Of course, there are other ways to measure success than financial gain. For romance writers, there’s a prestigious award called the RITA. In March of 2004, while cleaning up dog vomit and begging my baby daughter to stop crying, I got a call telling me I was a finalist in the Best First Book category. Me, a RITA finalist? I was ecstatic to the point of giddiness. For about ten minutes. Then I plummeted into despair-filled certainty that it was a fluke. Possibly a mathematical error on someone’s part. Honestly, I don’t think that self-doubt started to fade until a year later, when I got a RITA call letting me know I’d finaled in another category. As of this spring, I’m a six-time finalist. I no longer think it’s a fluke. On the other hand, because I am fortunate enough to have a track record in this area, I feel palpable expectation from my editors, as if the years when I’m not a finalist are a disappointment to them. (I realize this neurosis is completely self-absorbed and makes me sound like “Oh, poor me, someone nominated me for an award, my life is so tough!” Boo-hoo, Tanya. Shut up.)

But as you can see, a writing career comes with psychological highs and lows. I cope with the lows by leaning on amazing friends and my supportive husband. To cope with success, I advise the following:

1. Don’t buy into the hype. A spot on a bestseller list is awesome, but it doesn’t make you better than anyone else. If you’re blessed with some fame, enjoy it but don’t count on it to last forever (especially if you alienate readers, bloggers, booksellers or other writers with diva behavior.)

2. Any time you have a victory, celebrate the hell out of it. You deserve it. There will be plenty of bad stuff along the way. Savor the good.

3. Understand that with success comes pressure and surround yourself with people who help prevent you from panicking. Whether it’s “Yay, I sold my first book…will I ever sell a second?” or “Hallelujah, I hit the NYT list…oh, God, what if I never do it again?” success can create expectations. You got where you are with talent and perseverance, and they will continue to serve you well as you journey forward. One step at a time.

Sometimes success is subtle. A rejection letter feels like failure, but if it says something like “I loved your voice. What else do you have?” then you are making progress. Keep at it!! I’ve written for multiple lines that got cancelled. Because of that, by the time my books came out, sometimes stores had already stopped them. Dismal sales and not even being able to find my work on shelves always felt like failure.

But sales are only one kind of success. In 2005, I released a foodie rom-com for a Harlequin line that was dropped just as the book was being released. Spicing it Up was a first-person book different than anything else I’d written. I’d worked hard on it, and I was devastated at its grim (that is to say, nonexistent) reception. Months later, I heard from a reader who’d lost her home in Hurricane Katrina. A copy of Spicing It Up was in a bag of donations she received, and she said reading it was the first time she remembered laughing out loud since the hurricane. If I made her laugh, I succeeded, even if she’d been the only person in the world to ever read that book.

Whether you’re a writer or you’re pursuing other dreams and goals, I wish you success. The bad news is, it rarely arrives when you hope. The good news is, it can often be weirder and more wonderful than you ever imagined.

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Blast From the Past: My Guilty Pleasure by Sally Effing Kilpatrick

As we wind things down at Bad Girlz, we have been tasked with finding a “best of” blog post. Not only was this one my favorite to write, but it also has the most comments. Also? Still cussing.


Oh, this post came at a most opportune time.

I have a book coming out in about a month, and it’s an odd hodgepodge of, well, me. You see, there’s the Sally that grew up in a small town and made very good grades and behaved very well after the age of five. (Ask my mom—she’ll tell you!) She went to a little white church and learned all of the hymns. Then she went to college and even kept going to church there. She doesn’t smoke, hasn’t done drugs, and didn’t drink until she was 21.

And then there’s the Sally who cusses like a sailor. No. There are times when sailors would probably plug their ears to escape the vitriol. I cuss when I’m happy or sad or mad. I would cuss in a box. I would cuss with a fox. Or in a boat or with a goat. . .

I think you get the picture.

This puts me in a pretty pickle because The Happy Hour Choir has some decidedly inspirational moments. And then there’s the cussing. Even worse? Bittersweet Creek is about my country farmers. They cuss even more. the happy hour choir

I know I shouldn’t do it. It’s not ladylike for one thing. It’s not what nice people do. I’m supposedly showing how deficient I am in vocabulary. *cough* Bullshit *cough* I doubt very seriously that my blue streaks make my parents or husband proud, and it’s not really a habit I want to pass on to my children.

So, I asked myself, “Self, why do you cuss so damn much?” And my self came up with the following reasons:

5. There was that boyfriend who once remarked how much he liked the fact I didn’t cuss a lot. Yeah. About that. I may or may not have exerted my freedom from him in a litany of four-letter words. Huh. I would’ve thought that would’ve worn off by now.

4. As a student of the English language, I am mystified by how creative we are in our cursing. Take any curse word, and I bet you can shoehorn it into just about any part of speech. That’s a flexibility not every language enjoys. We owe it to ourselves to explore our native language’s fluidity, don’t you think?

3. It’s fun. Phrases like “shit fire and save the matches” amuse me. Add “bitches” to the end of just about anything, and it’s hilarious. See Bitches, Teacups! Also, don’t you really want to end your yoga classes with “Namaste, bitches!” You know you do.

2. It’s cathartic. Somehow “Dadblame it!” doesn’t really help me when I stub my toe. On the other hand, a long and drawn out “Son of a bitch” really helps me manage my pain. I swear it’s true. They should do scientific studies. I volunteer as tribute.

1. Here’s the real reason: some of my favorite people in this entire world curse. My Aunt Dot tried her darnedest not to cuss in front of me with some hilarious permutations like “Bullcorn.” I was supposed to be sleeping one night when her friend Dennis was talking about almost getting into a traffic accident and made the story more hilarious while repeating, “F*ck a duck!” over and over again. (I sometimes make this one “Fornicate with aquatic fowl” in an attempt to make it a bit more Twitter friendly. In related news, I’m also a fan of “defecate adobe.”) And, finally, a shout out to my father who has always enjoyed adding a blue word here and there to elicit a giggle. One day—as an adult, mind you—I said a certain word, and he responded with “You’ve got stuff in your mouth that I wouldn’t hold in my hand. Where’d you learn such things?” I narrowly avoided going all 80s PSA on him and shouting, “I learned it from listening to you, Dad!”

At any rate, if all of those people are cursing, I don’t think cursers go to hell. I could call out some closet cursers, but I won’t. I’ll just say that little pitchers may have big ears, but they also have big eyes. If I’ve been emulating Aunt Dot and Dennis and Daddy, it’s not really because they cuss. No, it’s because I like the way they treat other people and that shouldn’t be forgotten just because they have a colorful vocabulary.

So, cuss all you want, bitches!*

Work Bitch


*As the pragmatic feminist I am, I understand that the word “bitch” can be problematic. Personally, I feel as though I am reclaiming it. Already I don’t feel the sting when it’s hurled at me as an insult. And if I don’t feel the sting, then your insult hasn’t succeeded.

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Revisiting…Debut Anxiety

As we wrap up the blog, each of us is revising an old post. I picked this one purely based on data (can’t shake the engineer in me completely:) It got the most comments. So without further ado…


I almost named this Performance Anxiety (heehee), but I digress…

It seems like a good time to reflect on my last twelve months…one word comes to mind cRaZy. I will never have another year like 2015. Last January, I had one book on preorder. Now have eight(!) books listed on Amazon and by the end of the month will have five books released into the wild. Looking in, I’m sure it seems like I’m ‘livin’ the dream.’

And I am! Being a published author *is* a dream come true. I just didn’t realize how stressful the dream is. As in I cracked a tooth this year stressful. As in I’ve put on 10-15 lbs stressful. I haven’t written a post on this before or really talked about outside of trusted author loops, because I don’t want to come off whiney or ungrateful.

Believe me, I’m neither. (Not that some of you who are still in the trenches won’t want to punch my cracked tooth out anyway. Lol:) When I was receiving rejection after rejection during the submission process of my first manuscript, I remember reading a quote from a big-time author (whose name I can’t recall to give credit too, unfortunately).

She said, “Getting published isn’t the hard part. The hard part is *staying* published.” I scoffed. I harrumphed. I might have even flipped a virtual bird. Because there’s no two ways about it, getting published is damn hard!!

Here’s the rub: SHE WAS RIGHT. I apologize profusely to this wise woman for the virtual bird flipping.

At the beginning, it’s all exciting, fun times. Signing the contract. Getting your first advance check (if you’re lucky). Seeing your cover for the first time. Finding your book on pre-order at Amazon. You think, I’ll never come off the high. The warm fuzzies can’t be controlled!!

For me, the anxiety started when my book went out to reviewers. I knew it went out to reviewers because I was stalking my Goodreads page and noticed a bunch of bloggy-type readers were adding my book. The nail-biting commenced. The first review rolled in. A five-star. Yay! I was riding high again. The second one came soon after…a three-star. I plummeted. It wasn’t a bad review. She liked the book even. But, why didn’t she *love* it? It made me sick to my stomach. Now my obsessive checking of Goodreads filled me with anxiety instead of excitement. The crazy thing is I generally received great reviews. It didn’t seem to matter to my psyche.

From the time my book went on review, I had a difficult time writing. Which was very bad considering I was under contract to write four full length books in eleven months. To make matters worse, somewhere between the reviews and release day, I realized that there were Expectations—with a giant E.

I’m ambitious. I have goals. Even when I was seeking an agent or on submission, I put expectations on myself. But this felt different. Before, if I fell short, it was only me who was disappointed. Now I had an agent and editor who had taken a chance on me. And a publishing house that wanted to make money.

The expectations weren’t explicit, but the reality is that this is a business. If your book doesn’t perform…well, they aren’t going to give you another contract because they like you. Release day rolled around. I got a lovely email from my editor. My agent spread the word. Yet…I was not filled with joy. People congratulated me, and I grimaced out something resembling a smile. I drank copious amounts of wine while obsessively checking Amazon. My book spiked low and then after a week drifted higher and higher in the rankings. Higher is not good.

I read happy, joyous tweets or Facebook posts from other authors releasing books and wondered what the hell was wrong with me? Why wasn’t my first book release the greatest time of my life??

Anxiety stole my words.

At this point, you’re probably waiting for me to drop some words of wisdom. I wish I had some. After an author on one of my loops confessed her anxiety, a floodgate opened and *so many* authors chimed in with their own struggles. Most of us suffered through the same roller-coaster of emotions with our first release. If you can relax and enjoy the ride, then good for you!

If you can’t, I can tell you this from my experience…Bad reviews still have the power to sting me but have stopped paralyzing me. (And, yes, I know I shouldn’t read them, but I do and nothing seems to be able to stop me!) Approaching my fifth release, I can also tell you that I still do not enjoy release days. I’m not sure I ever will. But they don’t turn into week-long sessions of me curling up in the corner in a ball refreshing Amazon either. (And, yes, I know I should stay off Amazon too, but…yadda, yadda, yadda).

After all the release day anxiety/excitement fades, I hope every single one of you remembers why you started that very first manuscript years ago…for the love of storytelling. So that’s what you do. You sit back down and write another book. Maybe a better book. *That’s* where the joy is. In the work, not the release. Published or unpublished, debut or fiftieth release. The work will carry you through the insanity to the other side.

And if that doesn’t work, there’s always alcohol…

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Revisiting the ABCs of RWA

This cycle, we’re revisiting our favorite posts from the last five years. With the 2017 RWA conference coming up soon, I thought it’d be fun to go back to my preparation list from a few years ago. Enjoy, and I hope I get to see you in Orlando!

The ABCs of Preparing for RWA

A is for Alcohol: You’ve heard it before. One of the most popular activities at a big conference is drinking. The hotel bar and a bunch of the watering holes around it will all be prime networking locations. But if you’re one who prefers to drink a little more than a little in order to get past her social inhibitions, I highly recommend stashing a bottle in your luggage. Because let me tell you, the drinks at those places will not be cheap. You’ll have to buy one in order to have something in your hands all night, but avoid some of the worst of the bill by nipping a bit of liquid courage in your room with your buddies before you go.

B is for Batteries: All conference long, you’ll be live-tweeting and messaging back and forth with your friends trying to figure out where’s the best place to meet up. Heck, RWA even has an app this year. All those messages and tweets and schedules take up precious battery space, though. If your phone runs out of juice fast, make sure to bring a supplemental battery to keep you running, outlet or no.


D is for Drama: There’s always some sort of drama surrounding the annual general meeting. Things change. Decisions about membership and the future of the organization get made. Either inform yourself about the issues and participate, or decide to focus on your writing and ignore it. But either way, don’t let it keep you from having a great conference.

E is for Earplugs: Even the best roommates sometimes snore. Even the best hotels sometimes stick you next to the elevators. Even the thickest walls allow the sounds of partiers and night owls in. Better safe than sorry. Earplugs are your friends.

F is for Fabulous Shoes: Put a couple thousand primarily female conference-goers in one spot, and what do you get? One hell of a shoe parade apparently. Bring some comfortable kicks, but remember that this is a place to see and be seen, and there’s no easier conversation starter at this particular party than fantastic footwear.

G is for Granola Bars: The conference is only providing one lunch this year, and there’s not always time to grab a real meal between meetings and workshops. Stash a couple snacks in your bag to tide you over, just in case. (more…)

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