Wednesday, July 18, 2007

I survived RWA!

(Which, as Dayle pointed out in a comment, is really Romance Writers of America. I know that, or at least I would have remembered that if I bothered to double-check--but considering we seem to have a decent number of members from other countries, I think my name makes more sense. So there.)

Anyway, the conference was great. I roomed with Dayle and her friends Phaedra Weldon (author of the new urban fantasy Wraith, which looks pretty damn amazing based on the little I've had time to read) and Christine Ashworth, and got to spend time hanging out with my friend Janet as well. Great, crazy, smart women and I soooo needed that! Much laughter, much wine and chocolate, occasional cat ears.

Getting to Dallas was an adventure of the bad sort. I'll spare you the long rant I wrote while stuck at the Philadelphia airport for so long I was convinced that by the time we arrived in Dallas, the group of middle-school students who were stuck with me would all be able to buy beers to celebrate. Thunderstorms. Argh. I wasn't alone--about a quarter of the conference attendees I talked to had transportation nightmares--but it's hard to keep that perspective when you're trapped in an airport, the A/C isn't working well, and you're surrounded by exhausted, homesick, grouchy twelve-year-olds.

And then there were the 36 hours or so I was in Dallas and my luggage wasn't. I felt like I needed a sign that said, "I'm not a candidate for What Not to Wear. My luggage is missing!" Thank goodness that one of my roommates (thanks, Christine) was roughly my size--and that Dayle and I had made Sophie Mouette promo shirts and sent them directly to the hotel. That gave me something to wear for the literacy signing.

Which was another little snafu. Okay, a big snafu. Our books, and when I say our, I mean those for all the Virgin authors, never arrived. We were not alone in our misery. Several other publishers had shipments go astray. Some ended up in the goody room as giveaways. Others, including the Virgin shipment, were apparently partying with my suitcase in whatever alternate dimension missing packages and stray suitcases enter. I hope they all had fun, wherever they were. We certainly missed them.

This could have been a real blow to our spirits, and there was a moment when Dayle and I were almost ready to cry. It was our first literacy signing. This is a huge deal--hundreds of authors, thousands of rabidly eager book buyers, since it's open to fans as well as conference attendees. And it was in Texas, which is just a huge romance market. We were so excited...and then no books.

Then we pulled ourselves together and decided that if we couldn't sign our books, we would have fun, dammit! Passionate Ink, the RWA chapter for erotica and erotic romance writers, was having a raffle where you needed to collect author signatures, so we decided we'd do that as a way to meet our fellow erotic romance writers (and potentially win an iPod, although we didn't.) Somewhere along the line, we collected the lovely Anne Tourney, another Virgin Books author. Anne is soft-spoken and quite shy, a seeming contrast to her kinky books and her fascinatingly creepy photography. But the line, "I'm not shy--I'm stalking my prey" comes to mind, and Anne, I mean that as a compliment! I only bought a couple of books, but we talked to a lot of people and our t-shirts garnered a lot of attention.

One very cool thing is that we had a chance to talk with Emma Holly. I somehow managed to avoid doing a complete Fangirl Gush (while, I think, getting across that I'd like to.) Dayle, who is less tongue-tied than I tend to be, managed to suggest we sit with her at the PI lunch and she agreed. Emma, it turns out, is not just a very talented and hot author, she's also a sweet person. (We did sit with her at the luncheon, although it turned out not to be the best atmosphere for much chatting since there was a pretty full program of speakers and it was one of those hotel function rooms with odd acoustics; you could hear the people in the back of the room better than the people next to you.)

The signing, by the way? Pretty surreal. I was on line for about 20 minutes to pay for my books. The line for Nora Roberts snaked around and around the room. Sherrilyn Kenyon was wearing this insane and very fun Victorian-Goth outfit, fangs, sparkly face paint, and a fabulous hat in the shape of a black swan. People had wheely suitcases to haul away their purchases. And in the end, we raised over $55,000 for literacy charities. (Grumble...would have probably hit $60,000 if everyone's books had arrived!)

Most of the workshops I attended involved either plotting/structuring your story or sparking creativity and overcoming blocks, because I freely admit these are areas where I've been struggling. Got some great insights in the structuring and plotting workshops. The sparking creativity stuff was more reminding me of tricks I already know but tend to forget when things are going badly. One interesting thing was that during the interactive part of the workshop, I was hitting a theme about rest and reenergizing. At the end, we had a chance to pull an inspirational card--I got one with a lovely picture of a woman napping and a message about giving yourself time to recharge. Hrrm, might be that my subconscious is on to something here! Sometimes I push and push and push until there's just nothing left and then wonder why it's no fun anymore and the writing feels about as vital and exciting as a term paper.

I also attended a workshop on world-building and that was...curious. They were stressing that you really have to know your world, but you need to share just enough details with the reader so they know what's different--that you have to keep descriptions light and to the point. That makes sense, I guess, but I'd be concerned about showing too little and having a white-room effect. I've read a couple of books by one of the authors who gave the workshop and realize that while I enjoyed the stories and the characters (she's great at clever banter), I couldn't visualize the settings well. On the other hand, it didn't bother me a great deal while I was reading; the action was moving along at a fast clip and I didn't have time to worry about the lack of imagery until I thought about it later.

Hrrm, something to think about.

Dayle and I got to spend a couple of evenings with our Black Lace editor, Adam Nevill, and some of the other Virgin Books authors, including the aforementioned Anne Tourney and Kate Pearce, whom I'd met last yea. Adam is a fascinating man and I'm delighted we had a chance to hang out with him. In fact, I have a confession to make: We blew off the RITAs (the major romance industry awards) in favor of spending our last night in Dallas in the hotel bar with Adam and fellow authors Mandy Roth, Michelle Pillow and Deanna Ashford (I'm not sure I should reveal her real name?). I'm mildly sorry I missed the post-RITA dessert buffet, because this hotel did sugar well, but talking about horror movies and 80s music and writing and book marketing and what makes a story sexy in great company was more fun than even the best awards ceremony.

I suspect I'll be filling in more details later, but I must dash and get ready for the Dreaded Day Job.


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