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Mentors and then some...

Whenever anyone asks for writing/career advice, the first thing out of our mouths is, “Are you a member of RWA?” In retrospect, we should probably print that up on business cards because we have said it quite a lot. And while the parent organization is great in many ways, we believe the true stars are the members of our local chapter - Heart of Carolina Romance Writers. Probably everyone feels that way about their own chapter, and we are no different.

We often say that we don’t believe we would be where we are today without ladies and gentlemen of HCRW. Certainly Lydia Dare as an entity wouldn’t exist without this organization, as the two of us live more than an hour away from each other and would never have met without HCRW. But even before we dreamed up the idea of Lydia Dare, we were both struggling, new writers. And the seasoned authors of HCRW inspired, encouraged, and mentored us.

In our newest release IN THE HEAT OF THE BITE, which hits shelves early next month, we dedicated that book to HCRW and in particular three ladies from our chapter who took us under their wings in those early days. In this space, we’d like to give more detailed thanks.

Sabrina Jeffries

Jodie: The very first HCRW meeting I attended, Sabrina was the speaker. Well, she was one of four on a panel. Always having been an avid Regency romance reader, I was well familiar with her work. I was also more than a little intimidated to meet her. But a number of members headed to dinner after the meeting and I ended up talking to her most of the night and I easily forgot that I was talking to a NYT Bestseller. She is kind, genuine, and has always let me pick her brain for advice, still to this day.

Tammy: I think Jodie and I attended the same first meeting, because I remember that panel well. I took home a lot from that panel discussion, and it was the very first time I ever thought I could write a book, sell it, and be like the great writers on that panel! (Not that I’m even close to there yet, but someday!) It was my first meeting, and it was a great deal like finally finding like-minded people for the first time in my life! Truly amazing and I’m so glad I bit the bullet and attended that first meeting. Sabrina and I flew to Romantic Times together two years ago, and I really got to pick her brain about publishing matters. I feel like that conference was a success simply because of the flight and all the knowledge I gained from her!

Deb Marlowe

Jodie: I remember talking with Deb right after I received scores from a contest. Let’s just say I didn’t final. Actually, I was at the lowest point I have ever been as far as my writing is concerned. I was completely demoralized in every way. Deb Marlowe was so gracious. She listened to me. She let me vent and cry and be a huge baby. Then once I had returned to the semi-composed person I usually am, she gave me some useful advice and I’ve been grateful ever since. I can’t say enough nice things about her. And I doubt she knows how much her words meant to me that day and in the years since.

Tammy: I don’t think I’ve ever gone to her crying (Jodie’s the crier in this relationship), but I have gone to her for advice, commiseration, and she’s a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the Regency period. I think she has forgotten much more than I ever knew about it, and I doubt she’s forgotten much! That doesn’t say much for my knowledge, does it? I keep an eye on her posts on facebook just so I can see all the articles and blogs she writes about Regency tidbits like English gardens.

Claudia Dain

Jodie: If you have never had the opportunity to hear Claudia Dain speak, you are truly missing out. She is amazing and that is an understatement. When she speaks about the business of writing, she speaks so pragmatically that everything she says makes sense. Every time I hear her talk, I come away with a new understanding of the publishing world as a whole. Her words and advice have been invaluable to me over the years, and I regularly pass on her words of wisdom to my critique partners. They are quite used to hearing on any given industry-related subject, “Well, Claudia Dain says…”

Tammy: “Publishing is a blood sport.” Oh, yes, it is, and Claudia told me why and how to win at it. And every time I’ve ever had questions about a book contract or an advance or a something new I encountered in publishing, I’d ask her. Even the most mundane topics become news when Claudia talks about them. To top off all the publishing conversations we’ve had, she very graciously takes me shopping to plan “the important stuff” for conferences and events. I’ll never forget time we were at a meeting at HCRW and she sat down across from me and said, “Next time you get your hair done, go a little darker. You look a little washed out.” I didn’t know her well at the time. But she was right. And her counsel on all matters of fashion are now law. When I bring home a shopping bag now, my husband says, “Did Claudia approve that?” “Why, yes, she did, because I talked her into going shopping with me.”

We could sit and name all the people in the Heart of Carolina Romance Writers and all they’ve done to boost our careers, but we’d be here all day. It’s a group full of compassionate men and women in all stages of their career. We have learned from each and everyone one of them, and are honored to call them all friends.

Our next book, IN THE HEAT OF THE BITE, is dedicated to them all. They truly are our inspiration when things go poorly, our cheering section when things go well, and we value them more than we could ever say.


  1. I joined RWA after I became published. Looking back, I now realize that had I joined early on, they would have saved me years of floundering around without direction. Prevented me from making a bunch of mistakes.

    I'm so glad the two of you found these great connections to help you on your journey. Romance authors really are a wonderful bunch of ladies.

  2. I agree. RWA was a big step for me, as was joining the local chapter the same month I moved from NH to NC. My first meeting was held at NYT best seller Liz Carlyle's home! What a great group of successful and working-toward-success men and women. Heart of Carolina is the BEST chapter!

  3. Olivia ~ That is so true. When you're just starting out, there is so much to learn. Being part of an organization that helps you make sense of it all is invaluable. I'm glad you were able to navigate those waters on your own! Kudos to you. :)

    Nancy ~ I'm so glad you've found HCRW to be as helpful as we did. :)


  4. Good morning, Lydia.

    This post meant a lot to me because Sabrina, Deb, and Claudia have been instrumental in my writing career as well. HCRW is an amazing organization and I'm thrilled to be a member.

    Thank you for this great post, and for giving these three women the honor they deserve.

  5. I'm in the boat with Olivia. Didn't join RWA until I'd been published and wish I had sooner. What a great tribute to those who have been such a help to you all!

  6. These are such awesome women. I agree with you wholeheartedly--definitely wonderful women and writers!

  7. You're right, Lydia. I feel exactly the same way about my own chapter...although I have two: Valley of the Sun, and Desert Rose. I guess I'm twice as lucky. :}


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