Posts Tagged ‘RWA12’

Saturday started with the Ballantine Bantam Dell Publisher Signing. Free books from Random House authors; get ’em while they last!

Publisher Signing room

Here’s the room where we had the Publisher Signing. That table at the left edge of the picture is where I sat. Ruthie Knox was just to my left. I love this carpet and these weird blue light fixtures.

The Publisher Signing was a slightly different experience from the Literacy Signing. At the latter, I was approached mostly by people who’d already read my books and wanted to tell me how they enjoyed them. At the former, I met a few of those, but most people were there to try something new. Some had heard of me; some hadn’t. Two different people told me Amazon had recommended me to them, which I know – thanks to Courtney Milan’s workshop of the previous day – is a very good thing.

I gave away all my books and got to meet lots of interesting people and hear their conference stories (by this time many people had already been through their pitch appointments and had good news to tell).

After the signing I caught the second half of “Self-Publishing for Traditionally Published Authors – A Discussion,” in which the discussers were Courtney Milan, Mia Marlowe, Kristan Higgins, and Liz Maverick. It was a good spectrum of self-publishing involvement. You had people who viewed self-pub as an adjunct to their more advantageous trad-pub career, people who’d gone to self-pub when their publisher folded and they finally got back their rights, and people who’d walked away from trad pub altogether.

(As you’ve probably gathered, there was a lot of talk at this conference about self-publishing, and as far as I saw it was all positive. Surely there’s got to be someone out there who tried self-pub and thought, “Screw this; it’s too hard and I’m not cut out for it.” Maybe those people just don’t have a platform?)

I only went to a few workshops that day, since I needed to pack and to deal with shipping back some books. But one of them, Erin Quinn’s “SOS (Simple Organic Structure) for Writers,” gets my vote for Hidden Gem Workshop of the Entire Conference.

It was one of those “How to Plot, for Pantsers” workshops, and Quinn did a fabulous job of breaking plotting down into manageable, bite-sized, non-terrifying pieces. She starts a first draft by writing the first scene, the last scene, and three key (turning-point) scenes in the middle. And she uses these simple worksheets for each scene, on which she records things like, “What did the POV character want?” and “Did s/he get what s/he wanted?” The answer to that latter question should either be, “Yes, but now things are more complicated because…” or “No, and to make matters worse…”

As someone who’s overwhelmed and intimidated by the idea of plotting out a whole book, I found a lot to like in her system. She’s a believer in a messy first draft, which is difficult for me but theoretically would be more do-able if I knew I was going to come back to it with those worksheets and a methodical plan for tightening things up. Anyway I’m going to try this on my next book and see if I can’t get more efficient.

The last workshop I went to was “Making it Work – Getting Your Novel Down the Runway.” Michelle Marcos, Miranda Neville, Deb Marlowe and Heather Snow talked about, basically, what it’s like to be traditionally published. (How much promo can you expect your publisher to do? How many books do you have to sell to count as successful? What kind of print run should you hope for? etc.)

A lot of this was stuff I already knew; some of it wasn’t, but in truth the whole reason I went to this workshop was to meet Miranda Neville, whom I’d failed to randomly run into at any previous point in the conference.

Miranda Neville is one of my favorite historical-romance authors right now. What she does – writing humorous books that don’t feel feather-light or forgettable – is so difficult and she makes it seem so easy. We talked a bit about her next book, The Importance of Being Wicked, and I won’t say a whole lot about it except that I am now looking forward to it even more than I already was. Can. Not. Wait

That night was the Rita (for published books) and Golden Heart (for unpublished manuscripts) awards ceremony. Big glitzy party; everyone looked glamorous; some books I loved won prizes; people made funny and heart-warming speeches. Many thanked their husbands, with obvious deep-felt gratitude and affection. Not that being in a romantic relationship is necessary to writing a good romance, but I wish there could be a clip reel of all those acknowledgments, to refute the charge that romance fiction is a way for women to fill the relationship-shaped hole in their lives.

OK, this is getting really long and I need to wrap it up. So let me paste on two conclusions to which I came during the course of this conference:

1) Having read her books, chatted with her online, and now met her, I’m about ready to declare that Ruthie Knox is the future of romance. She’s not the first romance author to specialize in wonky, outside-the-box characters or stories, but I think she does it in a way that will appeal to readers who weren’t consciously seeking wonky, outside-the-box reads. Plus she’s making a lot of what strike me as smart career choices. It’ll be interesting, over the next year or so, to watch where she goes.

2) This was the first conference at which I met people who’d read things I’d written. And it clarified something I’d already vaguely known, which is that, for me, writing books is primarily about connecting with people. When someone says, “I loved your book; I’ve always wanted to see a scene where the heroine was unimpressed by the hero’s naked body;” that establishes a baseline accord from which we can progress to talking about really interesting things, like what they’re writing, or what other books they’ve liked that it turns out I’ve liked too. Telling stories is gratifying, and getting paid to tell them is an incredible privilege, but connecting with people that way is still the real thrill for me.

That’s it! Please enjoy this picture of the Long Beach airport, from which I departed:

Long Beach Airport

This might be the smallest airport I’ve ever flown into & out of. Glad I avoided LAX, which I imagine is relatively overwhelming.


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Anaheim, Day 3

Really great day. Excellent workshops. Coffee with Molly O’Keefe & Ruthie Knox. Lunch with my editor. Publisher party; interesting conversations with Megan Frampton, Alexandra Machinist, Laurel of Wicked Lil Pixie. Hallway encounter with Golden Heart finalist Eileen Emerson, who’s having a great conference; already has multiple MS requests even before her actual pitch appts.  Hallway encounter w/Megan Mulry. Drinks with Kimberly Kincaid, Tracy Brogan, Jen McQuiston, Alyssa Alexander – critique partners who obviously think the world of each other (it’s so fun to watch them talk abt each other’s books).

Also, Joanna Bourne scooted past me and sat in my row during the workshop on 18th & 19th-century medicine. Before I left I told her how much I loved her books, and she looked as though she hadn’t heard that a hundred times from other people before. I promptly made it my goal to learn to emulate that level of graciousness.

Oh, Leigh Greenwood was in that workshop too! Now he will think I’m stalking him for sure.

Argh, I took some pictures today but it’s late and I don’t have the energy to load them on here and stick them in the blog. Maybe tomorrow.

Tomorrow I’m buckling down to not one but two two-hour workshops led by Michael Hauge. Also something by Courtney Milan about self-pub. And lunch, if everything works out, with Janine and Alyson of Dear Author, and Bettie Sharpe! Then dinner with Rose Lerner, which is hilarious because we live in the same city but it takes us both coming to Nationals for me to get my act together and hang out with her.

Edited to add: Pictures, as promised.

The Ballantine-Bantam-Dell publisher party was held in “Downtown Disney.” “Downtown Disney” was too far to walk, so I took the special Disney Shuttle. I don’t like cabs – I get a sense of accomplishment out of finding my way around a place by public (or not-public in this case) transit.

Shuttle to Disney

Nobody but me finds this interesting, right? Oh, well. Note palm trees in the background, and also the hotel at right, which is the Hilton in which I stayed. The Marriott, which hosted the conference, is to the left of this photoscape.

Outside the hotel was a ticket machine; I bought a roundtrip ticket. And after the party, some people were sharing a cab back to the hotel but I declined to join them because I didn’t want the other half of my roundtrip ticket to go to waste. Which is fallacious reasoning, as A Gentleman Undone‘s heroine Lydia would no doubt tell me, but there it is.

Heres’s the place at which the publisher party was held: Catal Wine Bar:

Catal Wine Bar

I may have had a pomegranate martini or two before taking this picture. Holding camera straight is hard.

We had a whole upstairs outdoor deck to ourselves. Beautiful evening; everyone in their fancy clothes. There were glasses of wine, pomegranate martinis (way better than they sound), and waiters coming around with trays of tiny things to eat. I mostly went for the little toasted slices of baguette with some creamy substance on them, which I now do not remember the exact nature of. Not goat cheese; I know that. If it comes back to me I’ll re-edit to provide that detail.

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This was the day I’d planned to wear my $3 thrift-store shirt with $32 worth of camisoles underneath, but when I went to iron the shirt (for some reason I packed all woven garments, and they all emerged in need of ironing), I neglected to take a good look at the iron first. Turned out it had some dark-colored GUNK on it, and next thing I knew there was dark-colored GUNK on my blouse!

Iron with gunk on it

Dirty iron! Not okay!

So I wore something else entirely. And I will never again use an iron without inspecting its surface first.

The conference proper starts tomorrow, and today was the Beau Monde (Regency chapter of RWA) miniconference.  I went to some excellent workshops on Regency-era periodicals, fashion accessories, and “how clothing worked.” The latter was taught by Isobel Carr, who’s fiercely knowledgeable and fiercely passionate about historical clothing, and I was a little bit worried that she might have me thrown out because of that line in A Gentleman Undone where Will thinks about women having secrets “like silk underthings worn against the skin.”

(For anyone who didn’t already know, underthings were never made of silk in the Regency era because silk was too hard to launder and you wouldn’t want it getting sweaty and all. I knew this, but put the line in there anyway because I’m a slave to the pretty turn of phrase.)

But! Not only did she not kick me out, she made me this awesome book-cover pin!

Pin of A Gentleman Undone cover

My accessorizing worries are over!

From 5:00 to 8:00 we had the “Readers for Life” Literacy Signing. This was my first time participating in the signing, and it was really fabulous. I’ve said elsewhere that I believe a book isn’t really complete until it’s been read, and “made real,” by someone, and to get to talk to some of those readers was just a great closing of the circle. They made the books real, and, in talking to them, I got to witness the made-realness.

I’m not expressing that well. It’s been a long busy day (the Disneyland fireworks are going off overhead as I speak) and I need to wrap this up and iron all the rest of my clothes with the replacement iron Housekeeping dropped off.

One last thing: Am I the only one who didn’t know Leigh Greenwood was a guy?

Leigh Greenwood

It took me about five tries to get this picture, because people kept walking in front of him. I bet he thinks I’m a stalker. “Mr. Greenwood, I want you to know I’m your NUMBER ONE FAN.”

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I promised myself I’d do a post for every day of Conference. But it’s nearing 11pm and I just lost a post I’d already put some time into, so this is going to be a minimal effort. Apologies in advance.

I flew on an off-brand subsidiary of Alaska Air. The plane was small; 20 rows of 2 seats on either side of the aisle, and we actually went outside and climbed a ramp to get in it! Like how they got on planes in old-time movies, or that time the Brady Bunch went to Hawaii, or how the President gets off Air Force One. It was a bit freaky but kind of cool too.

I took a picture when we landed in Long Beach.

Picture of the plane I took to RWA Nationals

Maybe not quite as grand as Air Force One. But interesting!

Here’s another picture, this time of people standing around on the tarmac waiting for their luggage. Because we were only allowed to take one “carry-on” onto the plane; the other got put on a cart at the bottom of the ramp and presumably stowed in the plane’s belly.

Picture of people waiting outside the plane for their luggage

I wonder where all these people are going. Not to the Romance Writers of America conference, I’m guessing.

I was going to post a picture of my hotel room, but it turns out to be not very interesting to look at. I’m not in the conference hotel, but in a slightly more budget-friendly option across the street. I have sliding doors opening onto a patio where the pool is, and so far the pool has been pretty noisy.

I was also going to post a picture of what I’m planning to wear tomorrow, but I need to iron everything first (it got wrinkly in the packing cubes) and I don’t have the energy for that right now.

On the docket for tomorrow: the Beau Monde (Regency-focused subchapter of RWA) miniconference; the “Readers for Life” Literacy Signing, and I guess some ironing.

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