2020 DARA Board

President: Chessela Helm

After brainstorming lots of stories with secret passages in elementary school, Chessela Helm went through a terrible poetry-writing phase in high school and finished penning her first novel in college. Over the next few years she started writing mythological urban fantasy and independently published her first book in 2013. In 2016 she decided to try her hand at a paranormal erotica, and published The Runaround: Finding the Faerie in August that year. Having only read a handful of romance authors, in 2017 she began reading paranormal, contemporary, and historical romance heavily. She’s published one chick lit and four romances under the name Chessela Helm, has completed eleven novels, started numerous others, and has around 2.9 million words of fiction written. A member of DARA since 2017, Chessela became the Membership Director and only left that role to seek new challenges on the board.


President-Elect: Mary Karlik

Mary Karlik has always been a dreamer. She loves visiting Scotland where she is currently earning a degree in Gaelic Language Studies at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in Skye—part of the University of Highlands and Islands system. Mary also earned her MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, has a B.S. degree from Texas A&M University, and is a Registered Nurse. She is an active member of Romance Writers of America and serves on a national committee of RWA, formerly served on the board of the Young Adult Romance Writers of America, and is an active member of the Dallas Area Romance Authors.


Secretary: Amy Tasukada

Amy found her niche in the LGBT genre writing Japanese influenced gay fiction. Though her works span a wide range — from gritty mafia thrillers to fluffy, contemporary romance, Amy uses her deadly, but delicate writing style to weave exciting tales of suspense, love, and gore, all under the supervision of her amazing editor (and calico cat), O’Hara.


Treasurer: Sabine Watts

Sabine Watts (w/a Legne Hardt) is a Californian transplant to Texas who brought along her hippie-vibe and a love for quilting. She has been writing since she was a teenager, and telling stories since kindergarten. Her particular interest is Georgian England. She is the author of five self-published romances with a good dollop of spice. In her past lives she has been a bookkeeper, pizza-delivery gal(via bicycle), and motorcycle enthusiast. She now lives in a little suburban castle with her husband and three dachshunds, while her grown children are out conquering the world.


Programs: Elizabeth Essex

Elizabeth Essex is the award-winning author of critically acclaimed historical romance, including Reckless Brides and her new Highland Brides series. Long before she ever set pen to paper, Elizabeth graduated from Hollins College with a BA in Classics and Art History, and then earned her MA in Nautical Archaeology from Texas A&M University. While she loved the life of an underwater archaeologist, she has found her true calling writing lush, lyrical historical romance full of passion, daring and adventure. She lives in Texas with her husband, the indispensable Mr. Essex, and her active and exuberant family in an old house filled to the brim with books.