Typing With Stuffed Paws: Not at NECRWA Edition

Greetings, foolish mortals. Sebastian Thunderpaws Hart-Bowling here, bringing you all the stuff for the week that was. Writer Chick is a little salty today, for a couple of reasons. First, as this week’s post title will attest, she and Other Writer Chick are not at the New England Romance Writers of America conference. Conferences are Extroverted Writer Christmas, so Writer Chick is not keen on missing one, and certainly not on missing two in a row. It’s the in a row part that makes her extra salty, because this is also the anniversary of Turbo Move 2018, we are still in For-Now Apartment, and Skye is on the other side of Rainbow Bridge.

Missing this fuzzbutt…

I can’t blame her for the saltiness, the above taken into consideration, and the aggravating factors that various humans around here have been feeling less than spiffy (everyone moving in a spiffier direction, so that’s a plus) and because, due to aforementioned less than spiffiness, Writer Chick misplaced the laundry quarters, and has been looking for them for three entire days, while the amount of available clothing dwindled and/or got stinkier. Times like this, I am glad I am stuffed. Also a naturalist, although Writer Chick did, in her search for the quarters, find my badbutt pants/sarong, so that may come back. We’ll see. Anyway, Other Chick took matters into her own hands and got more quarters, so Writer Chick can settle down and do some laundry. Also some reading, because Dude will be at his snazzy new job, and Other Dhick will be visiting Other Chick’s Mom for the whole weekend. Writer Chick plans to clean and read, and there will probably be some writing in there, because Writer Chick is Writer Chick.

Speaking of which, let’s get the compulsories out of the way. Last week, as always, Writer Chcik was at Buried Under Romance, talking about the romance of rereading. If you want to read about that, it’s here. I can’t link the photo from Writer Chick’s file, because she went on a decluttering the hard drive spree, and got a little enthusiastic. Instead, you get her name badge from a previous conference.

That “presenter” ribbon sure is pretty…

Feast your eyes on those, because conference attendees will get to see those badges (or reasonable facsimilies) and the writers wearing them, in person next year. Like these chicks are going to miss a conference when they have a brand new novel out. Pfft. Yeah, They’re talking website stuff and planning on swag, because they want to hit the ground running. At least Writer Chick plans to turn up in red heels, like the ones on the cover. Maybe I can convince Writer Chick to bring me along, since I am an essential part of the team. Try doing that with a poo cat, and you’ll regret it, that’s for darned sure. If the badge wallets are blue again next year, they should set off my orange fur to purr-fection (yeah, I went there.)

In other news, thanks to Other Chick’s work, we now have a pepper plant. I am not sure about him yet. Tudor is getting super tall, no longer exactly climbing the window, but his leaves are looking good, although there are no signs of any more buds as of yet. Lancaster seems to like having his own room (he is in the bedroom now, where he is the only plant, and gets all his sunlight.) He’s still short (may just be a short dude, no shame in that) and no buds to speak of, but it’s early days for this kind of thing.

Subtle product placement, yes?

Notebook-wise, Writer Chick has finally clicked with Li’l Pink, and figured out what she wants to to with the passport sized  Junque Journal, from Yellow Paper House,  that she put in the first string. Yes, that is the cover for Chasing Prince Charming on the back cover of that insert. Writer Chcik is kind of in love with that cover. Now she’s making eyes at the cahier size Junque Journal that she hasn’t broken in yet (except for the cover.) It’s a good thing playing with papers like this gets her idea hamster running (mmmm, hamsters :drools:) She and Other Writer Chick had an especially good Skype session this past week, and are excited about moving forward. The handsome orange poo cat in their book is going to figure prominently in the next couple of chapters. I should warn gentle readers now, there may be graphic descriptions of petting and scritches, and I can’t guarantee that nobody is going to use the Y word. That’s “yowl,” for those who do not speak fluent feline.

Since Writer Chick will not be at NECRWA this weekend, she would like those who are attending to have an extra good time on her behalf, and will be very happy to listen to conference stories, look at pictures, including but not limited to swag pron.If she ends up putting books on her seat at every meal this weekend, well, who can blame her? Some rituals must be observed, even at a distance.

Peace Out,

Post-Conference Recap, Part One

NECRWA 2017 is but a memory now, and I am already pumped for next year’s adventure. Melva and I arrived late on Friday, so we can’t speak to the hors d’oeuvre hour, but the author signing was tremendous fun, and I did get to speak to Alyssa Cole, buy a copy of An Extraordinary Union, as well as discuss diverse historical romance for a few minutes. Still salty I wasn’t able to make her workshop, but not to worry, she and co-presenter, Amara Royce, whose books are also going on my TBR list, will have the PDF available on their websites. I will be watching those like a waiting room full of hunting falcons watched the squashed hamster Joanna Bourne brought to the vet (don’t worry, hamster was okay, but that’s another story.) There’s so much more history besides only the Regency, that when I find kindred spirits on this, I latch on like a barnacle. Hopefully a productive barnacle, because this conference got me inspired to fill some pages and empty some pens/wear down some leads.

Even though arriving after the foodstuffs meant I didn’t get to attend any of the Friday workshops (though I did get a second shot at hearing Damon Suede on Saturday, and yes, he really is that amazing a presenter) I still got a thrill as soon as I checked in. See that nifty ribbon beneath my nametag? It is official, I have really and truly presented at a regional RWA conference, and there I am in the author directory. That went a long way to make up for not being able to hang out in either the readers’ salon, Hamilton sing-a-long, or even the lobby to gab with conference people. My back insisted on going upstairs to rest after the basket raffle.

Melva dubbed the walk from the elevator to our room “The Blue Mile.” Door at the end of the hallway was not our room, but the stairs. With my back, stairs were not an option. Our room was around the corner from that.  Real Life Romance Hero had suggested I ask the front desk to bring up a banquet chair, in case the desk chair was too soft (it was) so I had a nice, firm chair to park myself for the obligatory swag shot. No, the postcard front and center is not Sleepy Hollow fan art, but goes along with my signed copy of A  Extraordinary Union.  Still super pretty, and I can’t wait to dig into the story.

 

Swag2017

Swag for days…

One of my favorite parts of any conference is getting to connect with other romance writer friends, especially those, like my Last Call Girls (more on them later) whom I only get to see at the annual conference. It’s big, it’s loud, there is a good deal of shouting across tables, and, even when there aren’t any workshops going on, hanging around the hallways or lobby, in small knots, getting current on who’s writing what (Melva and I do indeed have a draft of the Beach Ball, now known as Chasing Prints Charming (sic)) meet new friends and meld social circles by introducing new friends with those we’ve known for basically forever.

I’d like to say I got a good night’s sleep, but a combination of back pain, end-of-book endorphins, and excitement over the day ahead meant I lay in a very lovely bed, my brain whirling with books and stories and writers and workshops and pitch sessions (I had one scheduled, Melva had two) and what on earth we were going to do for breakfast, since we were on our own for that this year. There was a certain amount of little-kid-on-Christmas-Eve feeling, because I was only one sleep (or in my case, lack of sleep) away from my first time co-presenting on a topic I love, with awesome co-presenters whom I also love. One lack of sleep away from my first pitch in the last few years, for the first complete book I’ve ever co-written. One lack of sleep away from brainstorming the next book with that same co-writer, because that was the most natural step after writing “The End” on the first one. Slight twinges of guilt from Hero and Heroine, but an assurance I’d be back to them, after shaking conference hangover, quieted those in due time.

AnnaSelfieFridayThere’s a lot to be said for the work  our brains do when we have nights where we don’t sleep, and when that brain belongs to a writer who has arrived at a conference, there is a lot of that sort of work. Have I done the right writerly things this past year? I’ve written The End on two manuscripts. I am now seven chapters into the second draft of Her Last First Kiss. Chasing Prints Charming has a complete first draft, and already two requests for partials. There’s a presenter ribbon on my name tag, and, somewhere in that same hotel, there were people who had already decided they were going to choose that workshop over all the others offered at the same time. There’s some responsibility with that, because those other workshops were good ones (and yes, I did make a quick peek in the room where a certain other workshop would be presented, on my way to the bathroom immediately prior to showtime.

Not a lot of conference talk in this entry, I know, but it’s all part of the conference experience. Actual workshop and pitch stuff in our next entry. See you Wednesday.

AnnaSelfieComment

 

Nobody Likes a Naked Panelist

Let me qualify that; there probably are some people who would appreciate nude presenters at a conference, but A) I’m not going to  that kind of conference, and B) most of those who will be attending the workshop I’m co-presenting would prefer said nude presenter to have body parts I do not, if nude presenters were a thing, which, to the best of my knowledge, they are not. Plus there’s the problem of chilly conference rooms, so clothing is indeed in order.

The question, then, is what sort of clothing? This year, for the first time, people will be looking specifically at me for the better part of an hour. Thankfully, I have my lovely and talented co-presenters, each with their unique personal style, to share the vision, as it were, so anybody who shows will not be looking, specifically, only at me. That takes some of the pressure off, but the fact remains that dressing for this particular conference is different from years prior. This year, I am going not only as a writer, not only to network with my peers, not only to sit across a small table from a publishing industry professional and convince them why they might like to give me and my writing partner monies for the adventures of our imaginary friends (and, if the “do you have anything else?” question comes into play, my individual imaginary friends as well) but sitting/standing/walking in front of people who have chosen to learn about blogging, over the other workshops that are being presented at the same time.

So, clothes. In some aspects, men have it easier. In a word, suits. I’m sure there are gentlemen out there (or some dapper ladies) who can school me on the complexities of suit wearing, but, in broadest terms, suit, shirt, tie, shoes, done. Basic equation, which, at eight days before conference time, has me thinking the guys might have things easier in this regard. The clock is ticking, and writing schedule and other obligations mean that shopping is not going to be a much or an option, which means I’m going to have to work out of my closet, which is, to put things bluntly, in flux.

A few years back, I culled most colors out of my closet, because it felt too jumbly, to look in there and have to think of what went with what. I’m visual. I love color theory.  That wasn’t the issue. What bothered me was that those colors didn’t feel like me, so out they went. Immediately, I felt more settled. Calmer. Me-er. What’s left now is mostly black, gray, and white, a little navy, and occasional shots of red or purple. Almost everything goes with almost everything (do not ask me to mix black and navy, because that is not going to happen.) This should make things easier.

It doesn’t always. Neutrals provide a blank canvas for accessories, which are also in flux at the moment. Most days, I wear at least one piece of jewelry with a skull on it, sometimes more. I don’t know where the skull thing started, but A) I like skulls, and B) we all have one; for me, it’s a symbol of humanity.  I also love heels. Housemate is convinced I walk better in heels, and trip more often when wearing flats. She’s not wrong. I once fell down two fights of stairs when the heel of my flats caught on the edge of a tile. This was back in college, and I landed at the feet of two nursing students, which I thought convenient. (I was fine.) I am going to take a wild guess and suspect that I am not going to want to repeat that experience. So, heels. but which heels will depend upon which actual clothing items come with me, and, as of now, I have no idea.

Writing, domestic duties, and other obligations have meant schedule hopscotch this week, which left no time for going through the closet and making a proper, informed selection. While Housemate is happy to decide what she’s going to pack about five minutes before she has to be out the door, that doesn’t work for me. I’m a planner. I want to know in advance, preferably well in advance, and, preferably, have a backup plan, in case something (like a two-staircase tumble) goes wrong with the original. This makes me itchy. It also lets me know what I need to feel confident, which, as it would turn out, is the most essential thing I can wear to a professional gathering.

At some point, something in my head will click, and I’ll know what’s for Friday day, what’s for Friday night, and what I want to be wearing from very early Saturday to very late Saturday/possibly early Sunday. What I need to keep in mind is that I know this stuff. I have two smart, entertaining, stylish women to share the spotlight, and more people are likely to look at the Power Point presentation than what the presenters are wearing. It’s a workshop, not a fashion show. What’s most important is to be confident and comfortable.

Blogging, I can do. Talking, I can do.  Telling stories, I can do. Talking about stories, I can do. Sitting up half the night in the hotel lobby, talking with other writers about what we’re writing, what we’re reading, and the workshops we’ve attended, or, this year, presented, I can definitely do.  At some point, things will click, and I’ll know what to wear, what to pack, and, in the end, what most people will take away from the presentation is the content, not the appearances of those presenting it. Thinking about it, though? That’s all part of the process.

 

Conference Recap, Part the Second: Saturday

Note to self: take more pictures next year.

view from our room

view from our room

Spring is absolutely on here in the northeast, and perfect atmosphere for day two of NECRWA 2015. Though Friday certainly has its share of workshops, Saturday has always felt like Workshop Day to me, and this year did not disappoint. First, though, allow me to state that conference breakfasts with endless tea are basically Extroverted Morning Person Disneyland. Caffiene! Breakfast food! People who want to talk about what I want to talk about! Free book on my plate! :runs about room, trailing streamers:

breakfast food breakfast food breakfast foooooood

breakfast food breakfast food breakfast foooooood

By this time, the usual suspects had formed an entourage, and most of us ended up at the same table to continue the conversations of the night before, with some new blood injected, business cards handed around and schedules compared. If I’d had a parrot on my shoulder for this weekend, a) that would have been an awesome icebreaker, and b) the first phrase he would have learned would have been “how many seats am I saving?” because traveling to workshops en masse is fun.  I will not mention at which workshop somebody I have hung out with at more than one conference spilled coffee on me, but no staining occured, so all is well in that department.

First workshop of the day was Susan Vaughn‘s presentation on the conflict box, which was a new concept for me, and an intriguing one. Biggest takeaway there was to have hero and heroine’s actions each drive the other’s conflict. :rubs hands together and cackles with glee: I think I can have some fun with that.

I’ve seen Megan Ryder‘s presentation on storyboarding before, and jumped at the chance to see it again. Okay, the use of sticky notes was a big draw. I bought a trifold board for this exact purpose after seeing Megan present this a while back, and was interested to see if there would be any new information this time around. Sillly Anna, of course there was. The mere idea of drawing a permanent chart on the board gives me the heebie-jeebies. I’d rather slap the sticky notes up there willy-nilly and then put them in order as they start to make sense, which, as it turns out, is a perfectly fine way to handle things. Of course I knew that, but it’s always good to have reinforcement. Also, I need to buy more sticky notes, because shapes and colors.

After that, it was time to hear from Jackie Horne, another NECRWA chapter sister, on using the Meyers-Briggs personality typing system to build not only characters, but plot romantic arcs. I love any sort of personality typing, as I’m definitely character-led, so hearing how to use this to enhance the love relationship kept me on the edge of my seat. Breaking down personality types into four different functions, ranked from lead to least got my idea hamster running like crazy on its wheel. How to use each character’s personality to find out what both attracts them to their true love and how their true love drives them crazy? Right up my alley. I’ll be using this a lot.

As the lovely Melva was in high demand and her presence required at another engagement, I was not able to attend Gail Eastwood‘s presentation on author voice, another topic I could talk about endlessly, but, through the magic of networking, my luncheon seatmate happened to be a friend of Gail’s and asked if I’d like her to ask if I could have the notes. Mention angels and one appears – Gail happened by to say hi, we explained things, and she graciously agreed to email me her notes and the handouts. Very much looking forward to those.

All too soon, it was time to go, but, as so often happens, a seed was planted. Melva and I had started talking while waiting for breakfast, and before too long, a novella idea had formed. I haven’t collaborated with another writer in a very long time, but once the ideas started, they kept on coming. Melva and I would both blurt out the same thing at the same time, and that’s how I come to today’s featured picture. My first assignment was to write down all the stuff we’d brainstormed at meals and the car ride back. As the plethora of sticky notes shows, there was quite a bit. Stay tuned for updates.

Now, how long until next year?

Traditional post-conference sundae

Traditional post-conference sundae

Conference Recap, Part the First: Friday

In more ways than one, but we’ll get to that. NECRWA’s annual Let Your Imagination Take Flight conference was this past weekend, and while I’d planned to blog about my experience immediately, life reminded me there is more going on than writing – but it does remind me how much I want it, so that’s all good.

Robin Sparkles, in action

Robin Sparkles, in action

Every conference starts with a road trip. Since my move to NY, this now means two hours with Housemate, en route to MA, where I make the switch to my longtime conference roomie, the lovely Melva Michaelian, who writes on the cozy side of romantic suspense. Two more hours on the road, nattering about works in progress and life in general, and then we get to walk the red carpet (only the literal one, more’s the pity. There was a carpet. It was red. No press, though. It was only a color. :hangs head: We strutted anyway, luggage in tow.)  Technically no traffic jams, and we did not get lost, so this was a successful journey.

Since we had forgotten (whoops) that the workshop with Lauren Dane was actually the master class and had needed to be registered for in advance, Melva and I ensconced ourselves in the bar, where we ran into Laurie Gifford Adams, who writes YA, and is a former chapter sister to both of us. Laurie brought along her critique partner and our new friend, Dorothy Callahan, who writes time travel and paranormal. Melva, Laurie and Dorothy headed off soon after for the first workshop of the afternoon, but I had other plans.

Offices happen anywhere

Offices happen anywhere

One of the reasons I was excited about bringing the new tablet to the conference was exactly this; writing. A scene pounced me, and since writing is kind of the whole point of being a writer, I sat out the workshop and settled into this lovely hot spot to dip into story world for the next hour. I like the office program that came with the tablet, except for one tiny omission. No quotation marks. None. I only found this out when I opened the document. Curious, that. A hotel full of writers is probably the only place where one will hear, “oh, are you writing? Sorry, catch you later,” in a genuinely happy voice. I think I could get used to that.

Bringing Robin Sparkles (yes, I name my electronics, so will be using her name and the word “tablet” interchangeably) to the conference was like bringing a new baby. Lots of coos over how tiny and pink she is, what she can do, how we found each other, etc. Some good advice from more experienced tablet users on life with tablet, and a good deal of trial and error, though I think we did all right for our first time out. The onscreen keyboard is a lot easier to get used to than I thought it would be, but my fingers are still gigantic, and there is probably a stylus in my future. If you hear any salty language from this corner of the world, that’s me trying to get Spotify to load.

But enough about me. There was, indeed, swag. Pens, bookmarks and postcards abounded, as well as some other creative ideas. I love the small book of sticky notes, and the stress cube is sure to get some use. Letter opener is always useful (for contracts, checks, fan mail, etc, right?) I will never say no to lip gloss, purse-size pack of Band-Aids is essential, but the star of the swag for this year? Flash drive. I’d needed one anyway, and bloop, there it is. Mini size, so it fits in my coin pouch. Perfect. Honorable mention to the pen shaped like a paintbrush, front and center below:

The requisite photo of swag

The requisite photo of swag

Just the books:

TBR

TBR

Megan Frampton gave  a wonderful workshop on the changing rules of the romance covenant. I really wish there were recordings of the workshops available, because there was so much information and discussion that I’d love to be able to go over it again. Does anybody else remember when athlete or rock star heroes were verboten? Now they’re hot. Age gaps, in either direction, characters with histories (or without) and persons of color in various subgenres, and more. An hour really wasn’t enough to cover the topic, but “you can’t do that in romance” can usually be rephrased as “depends how you do it.” If stepsibliing romance can be a thing, I think I’m not that far out there with my historicals (which do not contain romances between stepsiblings, fwiw.) Word is that Victorian settings have now overtaken Regency as the most popular era for historicals. I’d be interested to see the figures on that. Non-19th century historicals are still a harder sell (Challenge accepted!) though there was some discussion of medievals being on the rise. :pets Ravenwood:

Keynote speaker at dinner was the fabulous Sabrina Jeffries. I’m always excited when there’s a historical author as one of the speakers, and was doubly so this year. Her tips on writing through the hard times are a huge part of what kept my head above water when caregiving, grieving and settling relatives’ affairs (not the romantic kind, trust me) threatened to engulf everything else. The woman does know a thing or two about this business, and she has a great attitude. Her talk on creativity and how marvelous it is that we can make up stories and people and worlds all from our own imaginations was a lovely boost of encouragement. I had to give back, and let her know, when I bumped into her at breakfast the next morning, that I actually loved her historical set in Siam, lo those many years back. She said she’s looking to reissue it in ebook form, and I told her I hope she does. I’d love to read it again.

Friday evening wrapped with the second annual fireside gabfest in the lobby. Last year, it was me and Jodi Coburn (that’s us from last year, below,) whom I met over a crowded dinner table when we found out we had the same all time favorite historical romance novel. If that’s not an instant bond, I don’t know what is. This year, we were joined by Melva, Laurie and Dorothy.

photo

There was much chatter about what we were all writing and reading. I drooled over Jodi’s story binder (so stealing her spreadsheet idea) and at one point, we all whipped out our mobile devices to share photos of our furbabies. All too soon, it was time to head to our respective beds, because there was still Saturday ahead of us. Tomorrow, as they say, is another day.

Typing With Wet Claws: Anty’s Conference Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. Anty is even now headed towards the NECRWA Let Your Imagination Take Flight conference, and she did not take her laptop, so I can still post for her while she is gone. She did take her tablet, even though it is much more suited for kitty sized paws, but I think she may have noticed that thing that happened with the keyboard port. All I will say is that these things can be tricky to operate when the operator has paws instead of hands.  Also no thumbs. It is probably a good thing that I am cute.

me and my new computer

me and my new computer

Anty is excited to go to the conference, as she gets to see Anty Melva and a lot of her other writer firends. Being in a whole hotel full of other romance writers is one of Anty’s favorite things, so going to this conference every year makes her very happy. I am not as happy to see her doing going things like packing her suitcase. Some kitties like to go into their humans’ suitcases and want to go with them, but I prefer to stay home. I would prefer if Anty stayed home, but she will be back after only one night away, so that is not too bad. It gives me some Skye and Uncle time, which makes me very happy. I will sit on Uncle’s feet so that he is not lonely. Or cold. My humans said there was snow yesterday, even though it is almost May. I may be a very furry indoor kitty, but that is too much even for me.

But I digress. There are a lot of things Anty likes about conferences. Being around other humans who love the same genre she does and are working toward the same career goals is exciting and encouraging. Making new friends is fun, and also getting current with old friens she hasn’t seen in a while. There are lots of books everywhere; a free one at her plate at every meal, even. I hope she does not try to put books in my dish when she gets back. I prefer cat food. She likes going to workshops and discussions, and then there are all the books, pens, and other toys that she brings home when the conference is over. My favorites are Post-its, because then she will turn them into toys for me.

Anty will share pictures and talk about the conference when she gets back. For now, she would like to remind everybody that she had a new post at Heroes and Heartbreakers this week. She got to read Anna Campbell’s new book before it went on sale, and she liked it a lot. The post is here and it looks like this:

1234

Anty usually has a lot to say when she comes back from a conference, so she will not be at a lack for blog topics when she gets back. If you are at the conference, Anty hopes that you will say hello. If you do not, she will probably find you, especially in the morning, when she has had a lot of caffiene. Breakfasts are her favorite meal of the whole conference, because they are what she calls Extroverted Morning Person Christmas. Room full of people, endless cups of tea and free books at every plate. Does it get any better than that? Anty says that depends on who her seatmates are. I am pretty sure none of them are cats.

Until next week...

Until next week…

Typing With Wet Claws: Under the Bed Edition (With Notebooks)

Hello all, Skye here for another Feline Friday. This week’s entry is later than usual, because Anty is taking a half day to rest. Also because I am under the bed. No, I do not want to say why, but I am pretty sure that loud thing that goes by our house in the morning is a cat zamboni, and I want to make sure it does not get me. Sometimes, when it gets especially loud, I think it might be stuck on a tabby, and I am one, so I will stay under the bed for now.

Yesterday, Anty got three blog entries written, two of them posted (one of those in two different places) and looked over notes from the new critique group she visited the night before. She says it was super cold walking to the library against the wind, and she did spend a whole hour waiting in the wrong meeting room (but does not mind too much, because she wrote and writing time is always good) but she likes the group and will go back. As she expected, her pages were everybody’s first introduction to historical romance. She thinks that is kind of special. There were no kitties in anybody’s story, which I find disappointing, but that’s how life goes sometimes.

i1035 FW1.1i1035 FW1.1

Anty and Mama ran a couple of errands after dropping Uncle off at work today, and Anty came home with the notebook in the top picture, above. She already had the one in the bottom picture, and it is almost full. She did not need a new notebook, especially not one to to with this particular topic (it is on its 2nd and a half notebook already) and she prefers for all notebooks on one subject to go together, but the looks of the two books agreed (she even checked them against each other because the store still had copies of the spiral notebook) and the bond was strong, so the new one came home. Also, she likes the words on the cover, and those suggested what she can do with the new book.

This goes along with Anty being in the magpie stage. Things will have connections to her, and she will need to put them together, in different combinations, until they become something cohesive and new. These notebooks go with the first notebook she started on this subject, and the one that I peed on (and that she fixed) and also with some other things. Lists of songs that suggest a certain kind of story, images of different things (some of which she will print out on the new printer when the new computer arrives -I will probably go under the bed again when that happens, because I am pretty sure there is going to be noise involved. Also furniture moving around and there may be boxes. I am pretty sure there will be boxes.)

Now that spring is here, Anty is getting ready to go to the Let Your Imagination Take Flight conference next month. It is put on by NECRWA, the chapter Anty is gone all day long when she has a meeting, and she will be gone overnight. That makes me sad, but I will have some special time with Uncle. I can probably convince him to give me some extra treat to make up for how sad I am. Then I will not be sad. Well, not about not having enough treat. I will still miss Anty until she comes home. She will have new things with her when she does get back; free books and bookmarks and pens and other interesting things, especially things that crinkle. I like things that crinkle. If she brings home any sticky notes, she will crumple some and let me play with them. If you are going to be there, too, Anty would love to say hello and chat for a bit.

Along with writing and blogging and trying the new group, Anty had a new post go up at Heroes and Heartbreakers. She got to read The Warlord’s Wife by Sandra Lake before it went on sale. That is pretty special. You can read what she thought about it here.

Anty says it is getting late and she wants the computer so she can play Sims, so that will be it for this week. There is food in my bowl, so I will probably come out sooner rather than later so I can eat it. I want to make really really sure the cat zamboni is gone first.

Until next week...

Until next week…

Until next week, I remain very truly yours,

Skye O’Malley Hart-Bowling
(the kitty, not the book)

Almost Like Being There

Time for me to add the “Not at RT” tag to my entries, because it’s that time of year again, Romantic Times Book Reviews’ annual conference.  When I first started this post, I began to blog about not being at RWA Nationals, but then remembered that’s in July, so I was missing out on something else entirely.  I am going to take this as a sign that my head is in the books, and thus other things are going to slip out through the cracks.

The conference hangover is still strong from NECRWA, and my tea is from my lovely gift basket, its gorgeous peacock themed box now in its place of honor in my office. I’m working on two historicals at the moment, and some only-for-fun writing that serves no purpose but to make me happy on the side. Today, I have the apartment to myself, and am taking advantage of some excellent advice from the very talented K.A. Mitchell. In her presentation to CRRWA a few months back, she gave two gems: open the file, and change your seat. Maybe not in that particular order, but they work. I’m not stuck today, but got the urge to change my seat anyway, so am now seated at the kitchen counter. I don’t write at the counter much, but it’s a beautifully overcast day, the window that gives me a view of our neighbor’s window is open enough to catch a breeze and I’ll have a front row seat to the rain if we get any. There’s a thirty percent chance.

I’d love to be at RT, but this wasn’t my year. Some other year will be, and it will be the right one. I’m not feeling deprived this year, or that I’m missing out, which is new, but again, still have conference hangover, drinking conference tea, talking to conference friends, and my real life hero and I spent the weekend at the local Tulip Festival, so my people-meter is pleasantly full. Being around big groups of people, especially those who love what I love, energizes me and gives me a boost. That’s two boosts in two weekends, so time to spend some of that energy by writing.

I won’t be at RWA’s national conference, either. This year, Bertrice Small is getting a lifetime achievement award there, and, since she’s the reason I became a romance writer in the first place, if i could only attend one National conference in my life, that would be the one I’d pick. I knew, under my parents’ guest room brass bed, with my flashlight and my stolen-from-Mom’s-nightstand copy of The Kadin, that I’d found what I wanted to read and write for the rest of my life, so of course I’d love to be there to cheer with all the other fans, and witness a retrospective of a stellar career. I would love to see her son, Tom, accept the award on her behalf, charming, articulate and full of pride and love for his mother. I’d love to hang out with other Small fans and jabber about their favorite books of hers, un-favorite books of hers, and her influence on individual careers and the industry as a whole.

Thanks to the internet, I can peep along and read others’ experiences, see what they see, and if I want to talk favorite books or authors, there’s no end to the opportunities for that, either singly or in groups. For lovers of all forms of historical romance, I’ll slip in a plug for my own Facebook group, The Lion and Thistle. Thanks to all the people who live in my head, there are stories yet to write, to keep me plenty busy while the conference and the rest of life are going on, so that, no, I do not feel deprived at all this year. That’s new, and I think I like it.

 

NECRWA Recap, Part Two: The Workshops

This year, I attended six and a half workshops, moderated two, have a batch of handouts to preserve in binders and lots of useful tools to add to my writerly toolbox. 

Friday

Though Melva and I arrived at the conference mere minutes too late to attend Katy Regnery‘s workshop on boutique and small publishing, we were right on time for T.L. Costa’s “An Agent Wants to See Pages, Now What?”  Ms. Costa’s infectious energy whisked us through the essentials of polishing manuscripts, use of active voice and making white space our friend. She put us to work with a Cards Against Humanity-like exercise, randomly pairing unique characters and settings. to come up with openings to hook agents, editors and readers. My assignment was “seventy-six year old man with a broken hip” and “p*rn convention.”  My exercise may have included the phrase “lifetime achievement award.” 

Next up was my first ever time moderating a workshop in person (I’d been online workshop chair during my tenure at Charter Oak Romance Writers) I’d already heard Leigh Duncan’s Book It, Dan-O on a recording of last year’s national conference, and found it extremely helpful. I’m still a paper gal at  heart, so learning how to use a good old fashioned binder to organize my research and plotting was right up my alley. Leigh couldn’t have been more gracious, or put me more at ease. To access Leigh’s handouts at her website, click link above. I’m going to have to try some of these for my own notebooks. My only disappointment was that Leigh’s workshop was opposite Cathryn Parry‘s Rediscovering the Joys Of Writing, which I also heard on last year’s National recording. I have handwritten notes aplenty from my multiple listenings, and would love to catch Cathryn present it in person in the future. 

Saturday

Another favorite workshop started off the day, Patricia Grasso’s Plotting With Panache. I always get something new out of this workshop, which applies the estimable Ms. Grasso’s plotting techniques to two classic movies: Jaws and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Bonus points for handwritten handouts, including a blank plotting chart to try out this method on our own. I was thrilled to moderate this one, as Ms. Grasso has long been a favorite, and her workshops are not to be missed. Definitely need to get current on her backlist, as this workshop reminded me how much I enjoy her voice. 

My half workshop was the Ann DeFee half of “From Monty Python to Michelangelo,” by Linda Cardillo and Ann DeFee, but Melva proved her friendship by snagging me handouts for the whole thing. Though my pitch session didn’t allow me to hear Linda Cardillo’s approach, Ms. DeFee’s voice came through loud and clear as she gave helpful pointers for keeping comedy true to the authorial voice. Bonus points to both presenters for dressing as a team, in gorgeous jackets, identical in design and complementary in color. Now that’s commitment to team teaching. 

Terri Brisbin taught us how to be happy hookers…in the writing sense, that is. Standing room only for this one, though I did snag a seat when another attendee left for a pitch session, and Terri promised to send pdf files of all handouts to any who didn’t get the paper version. Along with Terri’s handouts on different plotting techniques and how to hook readers, she also gave us Deborah Hale’s adaptation of The Hero’s Journey to romance specific writing, titled The Lover’s Journey. There’s another workshop I’d love to attend, if Ms. Hale were to present it. I have a few Brisbins moving up the ladder on my TBR pile as well. 

Barbara Wallace spoke on Busting Through Writer’s Block, detailing different sorts of blocks, brainstorming ways around them, and would you believe there’s even a case for neuroscience having a hand in this? Surprisingly (or not,) there is. No easy cures, alas, but this workshop offers some useful tools in getting back in the writing groove, whether the cause is medical, situational or creative. 

Final workshop of the weekend had my ears perked, as former Harlequin Presents powerhouse Sandra Marton spoke on her transition to self-publishing and presented (pun unintended) the pros, cons and cautions of  taking the independent route, as well as some blunt talk about money along the way. In short, with great power comes great responsibility, but oh how sweet freedom can taste. Short-short version, self publishing isn’t for sissies, but can be a viable route for those willing to work hard. 

I wasn’t able to attend all the workshops, alas, so am still looking forward to Devon Ellington‘s workshop on building a series, Madeline Hunter‘s workshop on books that write themselves (wouldn’t that be handy?) and the other intriguing offerings at future events. 

 

 

 

 

NECRWA Recap, Part One

Back home now from NECRWA 2014, bags unpacked, laundry done, swag photographed (pictures to follow as I find a way to convince my camera and laptop to talk to each other) and mostly sorted, and I am full of tales to tell. Let’s start with the personal experience.

The ride to the conference, with dear friend and traveling buddy,Melva, went  smoothly, without our traditional getting-lost-when-almost there, and the funny feeling of not being encumbered by too many bags proved to be only that I have finally learned how to dress and pack for a conference. Room was comfy, buffet style meals meant that I was able to eat, even with my allergies, and the swag was plentiful.

This was my first year volunteering, and I ended up moderating two workshops, Leigh Duncan‘s Book It, Dan-O, which covers organization and plotting, and Plotting With Panache, by Patricia Grasso. I also had the chance to help set up before breakfast on Saturday, dropping books on chairs, which actually turned out to be fun, and with three of us working at the same time, went fast.

My pitch appointment was with Louise Fury of the Bent Agency. Though she said very lovely things about the sample pages I’d sent in, of my postapocalyptic medieval romance, Ravenwood, she did not ask to see the full ms. She did, however ask if I had anything else, and when I mentioned I am working on a Regency, she asked me to send that when it’s complete. That, I most certainly can do, and Louise was gracious enough to suggest some alternative routes for getting Ravenwood to readers, adding that is is a story she would totally read for pleasure.  So, while it wasn’t the outcome I’d hoped for with that ms, still very encouraging, and we even got to talk makeup for a bit.

Not bad at all, even if my slip did fall off on my way out of the room. Since I was due to moderate Patricia Grasso’s workshop, I picked up my undergarment, stuffed it in my bag and forged ahead. This was not my only mishap of the weekend, as I tore a nail down to the quick when I forgot to let go of the handle when opening my traveling companion’s hatchback as we loaded our luggage on Saturday afternoon. No permanent damage done, but I don’t want to repeat the experience, either.

The conference as a whole, though? Oh yes,  must do this again, and I’m already making plans with friends both old and new for next year. That’s one of the best parts of a conference; people I didn’t know existed on Thursday, by Monday, are now dear friends I couldn’t imagine living without. There’s the chance to introduce friends from my old life in CT to friends from my new life in NY, and finding they mix beautifully. There’s the excited squealing that only comes when two until-then strangers find they have the same all time favorite book and then stay up late into the night, excitedly chattering about the same. There’s checking up on those with whom one shared a pitch session waiting room, and bonding over both getting the same “medievals aren’t selling” line – and vowing to find a home for those books of our  hearts anyway.

Almost forgot (okay, I did, I’m adding this after I hit “publish”) getting the most definitive answer possible to “is Scrivener really for me?” – I won a copy in a basket raffle, courtesy of Jennifer Ackerman Kettell, complete with a copy of her Scrivener Absolute Beginner’s Guide, and an offer of personal tech support. Plus it came in a peacock themed box, with a peacock mug, which alone would have thrilled me, as I am very fond of peacocks.

Next up: the workshops.